December 22, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Part 2: ‘Hark the Harold’ story for the holidays

Shirley Vogler MeisterLast week, I promised to share the rest of the story about Harold, the “day worker” for a moving company who suffered severe physical symptoms after collapsing on a hot summer day in Belleville, Ill., my hometown.

I had been visiting there at a time when my sister Beverley’s son, Jim, and his wife were moving. After Harold’s collapse, Bev and I did what we could to relieve his suffering. Jim went to a neighbor’s apartment to phone for help.

Last week’s column explained how the neighbor, Carolyn, ministered to Harold in a unique and prayerful way. Bev and I took care of his physical needs as best we could before an ambulance arrived, but what we witnessed through her was something none of us had seen before.

With her arms around Harold’s torso and a hand on his head, she fervently and repeatedly prayed. This was more than a stress-easing technique.

Before following the ambulance to the hospital, we praised Carolyn’s gentle action. She said humbly, “I take no credit. It was God … God’s power through me … I was doing the best I could with God’s help. I’m no healer.”

At the hospital, Bev and I discussed what we observed as we waited for a doctor to talk with us. When she entered the waiting room, the doctor asked for Harold’s family. She was surprised when our two blond heads bobbed up because Harold is black.

The doctor ushered Bev and me into the emergency room cubicle where Harold was attached to a heart monitor, oxygen and an IV. We talked and promised to call his family.

Still wadded in my hand was the roll of bills that one of the other movers had given me as payment for Harold’s work. I slipped the money into his icy cold hand. It wasn’t even enough to pay the ambulance bill. He shivered and his muscles twitched uncontrollably, but the doctor promised us that would stop.

In a soft voice, Harold thanked everyone for coming to his rescue. He recovered through the cooperative efforts of amateurs, professionals and “a believer.”

This happened in the summer of 1990. The first time I shared this experience in print was in that October’s issue of America, published by the Jesuits.

Since that time, my appreciation for the power of prayer has increased a hundredfold. It also taught me how the touch of a hand during prayer can be a powerful tool for those who are ill.

I share this experience to encourage people to renew their efforts to help others through tangible prayer.

Christ’s birth, ministry and death—experienced through the Eucharist—epitomizes divine love: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son …” (Jn 3:16).

Divine love transforms Christmas into the sacred and beautiful.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.) †

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