I’ve just checked through my archives and cannot believe I didn’t write a piece on the Lenten Mission from 2010. In my blog, Spiritual Growth- The God Path June 15, 2011, I told the story of my first experience of Fr. Jim Curtin. Although I tried to get him to come and give a Lenten Mission at our church in the period of Lent 2009, we already had someone booked for that year, so I had to be patient and wait to invite him the following year. He finally came to our church during Lent of 2010 and gave a Healing Prayer Mission which truly rocked our parish. Out of that experience a fledgling Healing Prayer Ministry was established and I guess God realized that we needed a little more help along the path and by some miraculous divine intervention, Fr. Jim was invited once more to present a second Healing Prayer Mission in Lent of this year.
This time around, the Mission was probably even more powerful than the previous year. Fr. Jim brought four of his parishioners with him, two men and two women, all Healing Prayer Ministers. Much of the content was similar to the previous year and yet, somehow, it all seemed new. The first evening was focused on physical healing and Fr. Jim reminded us that Jesus himself invites us to continue his work on earth – and some. “Those who follow Me will do not only the works I do but greater works.” (John 14:12-14). He also pointed out that Jesus’ work was about touching and praying over and healing the sick and even raising the dead.
His subsequent exhortations to his apostles and disciples, his mandate to them if you will, was to do the same and more. In fact the work of the early church was just that: telling the story of Jesus, healing the sick, raising the dead, and forgiving people’s sins – also mandated by Jesus. Somehow, over the centuries the church has moved away from this simple mandate of Jesus. Man-made rules and regulations were established and the church became very “powerful” and political. It is only in recent times, partly because of the changes brought about by Vatican II in the 60’s and partly because of the upsurge of the charismatic movement, that there has been a desire to return to “doing the work of Jesus”.
The second evening of the Mission focused on the the Holy Spirit and how important it was to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. On the third and final evening we heard about healing on the spiritual level. After the presentation each evening, prayer teams would be stationed in the area surrounding the altar and parishioners were invited to come up and ask for healing. It was truly a remarkable experience to watch people go up, be prayed over, and then be “struck” by the Holy Spirit. Many people were so overcome by the Spirit that they “went down” to the floor and lay “resting in the Spirit” for some time.
The fact that people came back to each evening of the Mission was testament itself to their hunger for an experience of the Spirit as well as an indication of the success of the Mission. People from many other churches attended this Mission because they had heard through friends what an impact it had made on their lives the previous year. The church was full all three evenings. My husband had an extremely powerful experience as he requested Baptism in the Holy Spirit. I cannot reveal the details here because that is his story to tell. Suffice to say that it changed him dramatically.
A friend, who I felt inspired to invite to the third night of the Mission, had her own very powerful and personal experience. She was not of our denomination and I remember her saying that never would she have imagined having anything like that experience in a Catholic church. She likened it more to a “revival” than a “mission”. But whatever label she gave it, her experience led her to make a personal decision that she had been hovering over for some time. She has since set up in her own business – a life-long dream.
Since the Mission, Richard and I have felt compelled to become part of the Healing Prayer Ministry. It is growing and blossoming into a fruitful work of the Lord, and we feel blessed and privileged to be a part of this group and to offer this service to our fellow parishioners. As I look back to that conference in 2008 and the growth which has come from that, I am so grateful that I remain ever open to the beckoning of the Spirit.
Christmas and the New Year is always a time when I find myself digging through “old stuff”. This is partly because, as I acquire various gifts for people throughout the year, I put them in “special places” which I then forget about. Therefore I have to search high and low for them, which leads me to look in places that I don’t check into normally. And so top shelves and boxes and bottom drawers yield a treasure trove of gifts, new gems, words that I have squirrelled away that now come to light to be shared with others. Enjoy!
“When working with others, leave the results to God.” (Anonymous)
“What makes us special is the signature of God on our lives.” (Max Lucado)
“To expect life to be tailored to our specifications is to invite frustration.” (Anonymous)
“Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.” (Erica Jong)
“Fatherly and motherly hearts often beat wise and warm in the breasts of bachelor uncles and maiden aunts; and it is my private opinion that these worthy
creatures are a beautiful provision of nature for the cherishing of other people’s children.” (Louisa Mae Alcott)
“Contentment is the philosopher’s stone, which turns all it touches into gold; the poor man is rich with it, the rich man poor without it.” (Proverb)
“Life is like a blanket too short. You pull it up and your toes rebel, you yank it down and shivers meander about your shoulders; but cheerful folks manage
to draw their knees up and pass a very comfortable night.” (Marion Howard)
“The longer I live the more I am convinced that the one thing worth living for and dying for is the privilege of making someone more happy and more
useful. No man who ever does anything to lift his fellows ever makes a sacrifice.” (Booker T. Washington)
“Grant to me that I may be made beautiful in my soul within, and that all external possessions be in harmony with my inner man. May I consider the wise man
rich, and may I have such wealth as only the self-restrained man can bear or endure.” (Prayer of Socrates)
“I’ve learned to hold everything loosely because it hurts when God pries my fingers from it.” (Corrie ten Boom)
“The burden of suffering seems to be a tombstone hung around our necks. Yet in reality it is simply the weight necessary to hold the diver down while
he is searching for pearls.” (Julius Richter)
And this last one is truly one to ponder on:
“Never underestimate yourself or what God can do in your life because remember, professionals built the Titanic, but amateurs built the ark!”
I managed to drag myself out of bed at 5.45am today. I am not an easy morning person. Once I am up and get going then I am okay. It’s the clawing my way up out of sleep and letting go of the sheer wonderfulness of being snuggled up that I find hard. But I really want to create a routine for Thursday mornings; going to 8am Mass followed by a special Rosary with a small group.
When I walked into the church the first thing I saw was a closed coffin in the center aisle in front of the altar. We had a funeral Mass set for 11am. I am part of the Ministry of Consolation and knew of this, but hadn’t expected the coffin to be there already. Then as I took my place I realized I had sat behind Jim. So between the coffin and Jim I was thrown into the reservoir of my memory.
You see, another area in which I volunteer is with an agency called Community Hospice of North East Florida. I had been introduced to this agency by a new friend just a few months after arriving here in January 2004. My mother had been cared for by Hospice in London, UK during the period between her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer (12 February 1996) and her passing (9May 1996). So I determined that I would become a volunteer with the organization here in gratitude for those wonderful nurses.
I underwent training in July of 2004 and was assigned to my first patient in August. The main thrust of Community Hospice’s work is to be there in full support for the patient and family, offering compassionate care, and to help lend dignity and meaning to the patient’s end stages of life. My role as a volunteer is to offer respite to the main care-giver as often as possible, allowing them some time to run errands or have some personal breathing space without having to worry about their loved one. It is a small mercy that I feel I can give to someone in such circumstances.
Over the intervening years I have also trained as a Peds Volunteer, a Complementary Care Volunteer, a Spiritual Care Volunteer, and an Ambassador (volunteering on behalf of Community Hospice at Health Fairs and speaking to small groups about the services the agency offers). But back to Jim.
I met Jim almost two and a half years ago when I was assigned as a volunteer to his wife, Cindy. I will never forget walking into their living room and seeing the look of total fascination on Cindy’s face. She could not take her eyes off of my hair. My hair is somewhat noticeable – it is purple! As Jim and I talked I would look over at Cindy from time to time to include her in our conversation even though it soon became obvious that she did not speak, and always her eyes were on my hair. So I got up and went over to her and asked her if she wanted to touch it, just to check out that it was real. She did so, rubbing it gently between her fingers as though she were touching a piece of fabric. And so our relationship was cemented.
Cindy was diagnosed with Frontal Lobe Syndrome (I don’t remember what the correct medical term is), a disease that slowly robs a person of their emotions, their ability to speak, then takes away their strength as the brain shuts down pixel by pixel. When I first started visiting with Cindy, even though she could no longer initiate or maintain a conversation, she still was able to communicate in her own way. When I asked if she wanted something she would either just look at me with no real expression or reaction, indicating no, or she would take a deep breath in, raise her eyebrows, and sigh her breath out, indicating yes.
In the early months of our visits when she was still mobile, even though she couldn’t talk, Cindy had a mind of her own. We would be sitting watching TV and suddenly she would be up out of her chair and headed for the stairs or the front door. I would have to be quick off the mark to catch up with her and gently but firmly bring her back to her chair. If it wasn’t too swampy-Florida hot, then we would go for a walk in the neighborhood and I would be hard pressed to keep up with her! Often we would spend time in the garden on the swinging chair watching the birds and the squirrels.
It was on one of these rushes to the front door that she suddenly stopped beside a small cabinet just inside the door. There were a couple of objects laid out on top of the cabinet along with two Rosaries. Her hand reached out to touch these and I asked her if she would like to say a Rosary. Deep breath, eyebrows raised, great sigh out. So we each carried a Rosary back to our chairs and I began the prayers. Imagine my surprise as I realized she was whispering the second half of the Hail Mary. And so began a ritual that would take place almost every time I visited.
Cindy loved receiving hand and foot massages and when I arrived she would always check out if I had my purple tote with me. That was where I carried my creams and a towel. Sometimes I would bring paperwork that I needed to do and would immerse myself in that after making sure she was comfortable and didn’t need anything. But I would soon become aware of movement coming from her direction. Looking up I would see that she was leaning forward and her eyes were fixed on my tote. As soon as I touched the bag she would lift her hands, deep breath in, raise her eyebrows, sigh out.
It was during one of these massages that I was given the gift of the “presence” of Cindy. I happened to look up at her face as I was gently rubbing the cream into her hand and I saw a tear roll down her cheek. Initially I was concerned that perhaps inadvertently I had hurt her, and I let go of her hand, came close to her face and put my hand on her cheek and asked what was wrong. She just looked at me with those beautiful deep eyes of hers and lifted her hand to me as if to say “just keep on massaging”.
Another way that I shared time with Cindy was to watch DVD’s. Her all-time favorite was Disney’s Anastasia. I had never watched that movie before. I guess it became popular after my daughter had become a teenager and was beyond Disney. I think I could recite it word for word, song for song now. There was only one other video that competed with Anastasia for Cindy’s attention – Shrek, and I know that one pretty much inside out too!
The seventeen months that I spent with Cindy were a true gift, a joy. Being able to give her friendship and care was an honor and a privilege. But another gift that I received during this time was given to me by Jim. He allowed me to experience the true marriage commitment of “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. His love, dedication to, and care of Cindy right up to her last breath were deeply moving and nothing short of spectacular. I feel truly blessed to have been a part of their lives.