CATHOLIC HERALD STAFF
Start a website.
That was the message Katie McGaver kept hearing loud and clear last fall through her prayer.
“I told my husband, and he said, ‘Do you even know how to start a website?’” said McGaver, laughing. “And I was like … no?”
But over the last few years, McGaver has come to learn that once we understand what it is that God desires from us, we don’t need to worry so much about the how and the why; he takes care of that in due time. So she engaged with the website-building content and blogging tutorials that mysteriously started appearing on her social media news feeds and, within three days, she had created BeTheLightOfChrist.org.
At first, the site was private, and she didn’t share it with anyone. But slowly it became apparent that God was asking her to use this site as a means to share, as she puts it, “the story of radiant hope.”
Radiant hope is something that God has poured out in abundance on McGaver in the last four-and-a-half years. But before he could do it, he had to, in her words, “bring me to my knees.”
Life seemed to be going perfectly for McGaver in 2015; she was married to Rob, her teenage sweetheart from the days of Catholic Memorial High School, and the couple lived in Waukesha and had two sons. She enjoyed a deeply fulfilling career as a physician’s assistant and “had the whole next chapter of our lives planned out.”
But in September of that year, McGaver contracted viral meningitis. Though she would eventually make a full recovery, it would take years before the debilitating physical effects of the illness would subside — and in the process, she said, she was “stripped slowly of every single identity I had built for myself.” She had to leave her job. She lost friends. She couldn’t care for her children. She began to be absorbed by the identity of her illness.
It was, in her words, “the darkest, darkest dark.”
But it also happened to be the Year of Mercy — and through various events related to that Extraordinary Jubilee Year, God “met me at my Cross,” she said. Her family took her to the Holy Door at St. Charles in Hartland. She began to learn about Divine Mercy and St. Faustina. She returned to the sacraments and to Eucharistic adoration. And she discovered that, even when she was so weak that she could not lift herself from the couch, she could snuggle her children close and pray a rosary with them.
“I never thought my relationship with God could be that,” she said. “He just set my heart on fire with love.”
Her spiritual renewal was centered on the concept of God’s mercy, “the radiant love light of his mercy that just brings me to my knees.” Old wounds were healed, old patterns of sin confronted. It was a revolution in her soul that couldn’t be contained, and eventually transformed both her marriage and her family life.
So when God called her to create this website, she knew she could not refuse. And in the intervening months, BeTheLightOfChrist.org — that “crazy act of radical trust” — has become her ongoing testimony to God’s healing in her life.
“It’s a love letter to him with my life — with our family life, using the day-to-day joys and struggles,” she said.
A constant point of encounter with God and his light has been her children, and so themes of motherhood are plentiful in her posts. She, Rob and their kids, who are all parishioners at St. Anthony on the Lake in Pewaukee, have been hosting a daily Facebook Live Divine Mercy chaplet since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of their videos have upwards of 400 views.
“You’ll see us squiggling and squirming — the kids get up and bump the camera. It’s real life,” she said. “But they are able to witness, and I am able to witness to them, the power of prayer they can do even in our own home. We can be mercy to the world.”
From March 14 through mid-April, she authored a series on the blog entitled “Spreading a Pandemic of Love” that offered daily acts, prayers and works of mercy that can spread the light of Christ even in the darkness of a pandemic.
In a sense, she feels that her years of illness are a gift to her in light of what is currently happening throughout the world. For so long, fear, uncertainty, darkness and isolation — the hallmarks of the age of coronavirus — were her constant companions.
“The Lord broke into my darkness and brought about brilliant, radiant light,” she said. “I have this overwhelming sense that, if he can do that with me, he can do that with every single hospital room, every home in isolation and every heart in this world.”