Today in Mass, the theme was Doubting Thomas. You know (or maybe you don’t) Doubting Thomas was the guy who didn’t believe Jesus came back from the dead and bragged to all his disciple buds that he was going to stick his finger in the holes in Jesus’ hands and sides. Then Jesus, who wasn’t around when he said that, came back and was like “here’s my hands and my sides. Go ahead.” But Tom backed down, probably a bit freaked out over the fact that Jesus hadn’t been around but had still known he said that. And for all you millennials, this was a time before Facebook, Twitter and all other ways of mass communications. So, him knowing was a much bigger deal then.
Father Checkered Past (the priest at my church who is pretty amazing always talks about sinners and says he has a total checkered past. It’s a great way at relating to his flock.) gave an amazing homily today about not believing. It started really sad as he spoke of a very young woman with two very young children who he gave Last Rites to on Friday. By the time he gave his homily at 10am on Sunday, she had likely passed on. (Cancer, you awful, awful fiend, you got another one!) Father CP spoke about how the family of that young woman were likely crying out to God “Where are you?!” And it’s easy to ask: Where is God in misery?
This got me to thinking about how I thought that when I was ten. That’s when I had my first major back surgery and in the middle of it, my grandpa died. I didn’t know for about a week. It was a vision of my grandpa telling me how strong and brave I was that led me to the discovery that he had passed. That was a hard time. How can a kid handle all of that and figure it out? It was easier for my baby brain to just accept that there was no God. I still went to private school throughout my entire elementary and high school educations. But, I just kind of tuned out the God stuff. I learned facts in religion classes for the sake of getting good grades so I wouldn’t get grounded to my parents. God was not real. My parents grounding me for bad grades was very, very real.
Cut to August 2013. That’s when I underwent the surgery that left me paralyzed. When I registered at the hospital, I said Catholic, because I was baptized as such. And I had been kind of toying with the idea of going back to the church right before. I went to Mass at a different church that Father CP’s a couple times. But I still wasn’t sold. I did it more because I became the Godmother of my niece and I figured if I was going to guide her and be responsible for her eternal soul, I should probably start going back to church every now and then. And throughout my twenties I went a few times with my sister because I enjoy hanging out with her and she was into it. I mouthed the word “watermelon” during all the spoken parts so people wouldn’t judge me for not knowing the words now. (Sidenote: I openly read from the missalette now.)
I don’t remember this part of the story, but as the hubs says, when I was in ICU, a nurse asked me what religion I was and I, even in my pain and medication-induced stupor, said “Catholic”. It was a really bad time. I do remember being in so much pain that I could never describe it. And I was so loopy that I didn’t know what was going on. But, I will never forget when Father John came in. It was instant calm and peace. Today Father CP said that when he was contemplating becoming a priest, he asked God for a sign. (He then proceeded to say that “It’s never a good idea to ask God for a sign” which got a big laugh from the congregation.) He said as he was walking down the street sometime later, he saw Jesus next to him. Well, not really saw, but knew he was there because he instantly felt so much peace. It was “a sense of peace beyond imagination.” That was his sign. I hadn’t asked God for a sign because I wasn’t really interested in pursuing my faith more than I already was. But when Father John came to see me that first time, it was the same sense of Peace Father CP described. I know that Jesus was present that day with Father John.
And I know he was present every other time Father John came to see me. The doctors tried to put me on medications and anti-depressants which I consistently turned down. I just needed to be able to talk and vent to Father John and I was good. The funny thing is, I never asked why. I said “this sucks” plenty of times. But, I never asked why. I just kind of accepted it and decided to make the most of it. And I firmly credit Father John for helping me be at that point. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t met him or if I had accepted the medications. I firmly believe that Father John was sent to me to help me in that immense time of need to see that I could recover fully.
And today, as I sat in Mass with the hubs and the Little Mister, listening to Father CP’s great homily, I thought about how thankful I was that God sent Father John, because if He hadn’t, would I be as positive and successful in my recovery? And would I have been in the place to have created Little Mister? That’s why I am honored that Father John will be traveling the two hours to our city to do the Baptism for the Little Mister in a couple months. The hubs and I love our parish and love Father CP, but if it weren’t for Father John (who funnily enough went to seminary with Father CP) would I be where and who I am today?
That’s a lot of deep thought for a Sunday.