September 9, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Miracles come in all sizes, large and small

Reading in the Old Testament, I’m always struck by the extremely personal relationship God had with his chosen people. The Jews talked to him out loud, they berated him for their hard times and, humanly, they sometimes forgot to thank him when times were good.

Since no one we know has come down from the mountain with stone tablets lately, or even heard the voice of God in a burning bush, we may wonder if God is truly present to us nowadays. We still speak to God in prayer and listen for a reply, certainly, but sometimes we may wonder, “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

Which brings us to miracles. Do miracles still happen? Even when we’re so sophisticated that we no longer feel the need for miraculous proofs of God’s existence and influence in our lives, we must admit it would be comforting to experience a miracle. Just one, maybe, just a little one.

Finding God obviously working in our lives was featured recently in the excellent Hallmark Television Channel ­program on the life of Pope John Paul II, titled “Karol: A Man Who Became Pope.” Although the word “miracle” was never used, the implication was that the pope experienced God’s hand directly on several occasions.

The first time concerned a woman who was once the youthful Karol Wojtyla’s girlfriend, but was now married to their mutual friend and living in the United States. Unknown to her, after the birth of her second child, doctors told the husband that his wife had a terminal cancer, with only months to live.

The distraught man wrote to their friend Karol, now Father Wojtyla, asking for prayers. Within a year, the woman’s cancerous tumor disappeared and her X-rays were clear. The husband joyously embraced his surprised wife, while back in Poland Father Wojtyla thanked God for her healing.

Another miraculous story told of a young Communist who was assigned to pose as a student in order to spy on Father Wojtyla, who was teaching at a Polish university. He tried to catch the priest making treasonous remarks about the Communist state so that the authorities could arrest him. The fellow used an innocent Catholic student as a cover, eventually causing her to fall in love with him.

For years, the young man heard nothing but love and the dignity of every human person being taught by Father Wojtyla. He resisted this teaching and the girl’s affection until, finally, he had to give in to the power of love. He renounced his Communist ties, confessed tearfully to the priest, and admitted that he loved the girl. The priest forgave him joyfully, calling him “a chosen one” who’d come to understand God’s message.

A third “miracle” occurred when now-Bishop Wojtyla encountered the Jewish boyhood friend he thought had died during the Nazi occupation of Poland. As the television biography makes clear, this relationship led to the many insights about ecumenism and religious tolerance that the future pope presented during Vatican Council II.

Indeed, miracles still happen. I’ve experienced some myself, as have others I know. Sometimes they’re worthy of Lourdes, and sometimes they’re just a realization that our hearts have changed. God is with us.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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