Written by Sherry
Sunday, 20 December 2009 18:56
This is the last Sunday in Advent and that means it is the anniversary of my entrance in the Church. Mark Shea called a few minutes ago to say "Happy Anniversary" since he entered the Church with me in Seattle on the last Sunday of Advent. I blogged the story of our reception - or rather the story within the story a couple years ago but it is a really good, hopeful Christmas story - and it has the added merit of being true - and worth repeating this far into Advent.
I think of that December as the "Advent of the Three Miracles". One was the miracle of getting in - into the Church, that is, without finishing RCIA and on 10 days notice and at Christmas time.
Another was the miracle of Anna . . .
The word going around the regional trauma center where I was working as a temp that week, that there was an eighteen month old baby girl in the burn unit, dying from third degree burns over 90% of her body. She had been immersed in scalding water from the neck on down. Since no one was clear how it had happened, Child Protective Services had been called in and her family was not allowed to have contact.
It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I knew that death was not God's will for this little girl - and I couldn't tell you why I knew. But Mark and I scattered around town spreading the word and because we were on the cusp between the Protestant and Catholic worlds, we soon had hundreds of people praying for her. Something about Anna's (not her real name) story moved everyone.
Because of my job, I was the only one who had access to her, so every day I would enter her room for a brief visit. I was intimidated by the nurse always at her side, so I didn't have the nerve to obviously pray for her. I would just rubbed her forehead for a couple seconds with my finger as a representative of all who were praying for her. It was as though I was the little finger of the wider Body of Christ. The Church was praying. I was the witness.
On my last day on the job and two days before I entered the Church, I went up to visit her and her bed was empty. My first thought was "She's dead". But I had to find out what had happened. So I found the nurse and asked what had happened. Her response?
"Oh, she's off her morphine and IV's and she's downstairs playing."
Wow, I thought. What do I say now? "That's great! When do her skin grafts begin? "
"Oh, she won't need any skin grafts." replied the nurse.
"Not even on her legs?" I questioned - because her legs had been really bad.
"Not even on her legs." she responded firmly.
I thought frantically. Third degree burns, by definition, do not heal. The skin has been destroyed and must be replaced by grafts. No skin grafts meant that either she had been misdiagnosed originally or her skin had somehow regenerated. I thought I put my next question with considerable delicacy under the circumstances
"Isn't this a little unusual?"
"Oh yes, we're surprised", the nurse said. "Of course, we could have misdiagnosed her, but, boy, she looked charred when she came in".
I went downstairs to the department where I had been working and told my supervisor what they had told me upstairs. She was a lapsed Catholic who knew the story of this little girl and that we had been praying for her and that I was entering the Church that weekend.
She listened carefully and then said "I think we know that more than mere medicine has been at work here." Then she added wryly "Maybe we should just hire you and let you wander the halls."
She thought - and I hoped - that this was a sign that I had been given the charism of healing. I now know (after considerable discernment) that is not the case. I do believe that I was given the immense privilege of being a witness to what God will do when his people together, offer themselves and their charisms on the behalf of God's redeeming purposes for a specific person or situation. I got to witness the power of corporate intercession.
Two days later, on the 4th Sunday of Advent, I become Catholic.
Today, Anna is 21 years old. I often think of her and pray for her. Where is she? Does she still suffer physically or psychologically from her ordeal? Who raised her? Does she know how God intervened in her life? What is his purpose for her life? I presume that I will never know the answer to those questions in this life - but it is enough that God knows.
You will understand why I felt a glowing sense of almost giddy joy and exultation that Christmas. Nothing comes closer to expressing how I felt on that Advent Sunday 20 years ago than the inspired scene from the 1951 Alastair Sims Christmas Carol when Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning. "
I'm as light as a feather, I'm as happy as an angel, I'm as merry as a school boy, I'm as giddy as a drunken man."
A tiny foretaste of the happiness for we have all been created.
FYI: The whole saga is available here.