When the world seems to be a giant simmering pot of hatred and violence, I am able to cling to the hope for peace, because of an amazing experience I had many years ago.
I was at my first Charismatic Conference at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana. Though ostensibly Catholic, there were Charismatics (Pentecostals) from many mainline protestant denominations. This particular year there were 20,000 of us gathered for Worship in the football stadium. At one point during the sermon the worshippers responded by singing in the Spirit. Singing in the Spirit is when each person sings whatever the Spirit gives them. For some it may just be terms of praise in the believer’s own language, but to an unknown melody given them by the Spirit, for many the words are in a language unknown to the singer and at the same time to an unknown melody. The words, languages, and melodies are all different
For a few moments, I hesitated, since I had never experienced this and I found myself distracted by the differences I heard close to me. But suddenly my own song came bubbling up from deep inside and as more and more voices joined together singing completely different words and melodies, the awesome harmony brought tears of joy.
I cannot normally sing anything without following the lead of a strong voice next to me. But when singing in the Spirit, my own surprisingly high notes stay true to me, yet blend with the whole. That many people singing different melodies in different languages simultaneously in beautiful harmony simply lifts you out of yourself. Somehow, the God within each of us, that is the God of the Universe, bring us together as one body.
I may seriously doubt that any person could teach the world to sing in perfect harmony, but I know first hand that the Spirit can.
And that keeps me praying and seeking and listening and learning to love, even when no country and no person, not even children, are safe from violence.
Long ago in my thirties, I was in a Catholic Charismatic (Pentecostal) prayer group that was led by several Sisters of Mercy at their convent.
I, along with Pat, another woman member, were registered to attend the annual Charismatic Renewal Conference at Notre Dame University. At the prayer meeting two days before the conference, a young woman in her early twenties asked if she could go with us. We had spoken about a priest that led a small group of sisters and nurses in a healing ministry, and Dorothy had curvature of the spine with one leg shorter than the other. This caused her to have to wear an ugly built up shoe, it also sometimes caused her pain, and she feared that when she married and became pregnant it would cause more problems. It was too late to register her and probably too late to get her a room in the dorms, but we told her to bring a sleeping bag and stay in our room. So, Dorothy set off with us. We were running a little late and I was worried that we would miss the first large session in the gymnasium, which was the presentation on healing. A couple of weird time changes later we arrived just as it was beginning, but had to sit almost at the very top of the gymnasium. We were supposed to wait until it cleared at the end to find Pat’s sister, who was coming from Pittsburg. As the gym emptied, I prayed nervously about whether to take Dorothy down to the group with the healing ministry. I finally said, “God, if you want them to pray for Dorothy, please bring them up our aisle, and I’ll ask them to pray for her.” The gym was almost empty, but we had not spotted Pat’s sister, so we were still sitting almost at the top on an aisle. Just then, the priest and the others with the healing ministry started up our exact aisle on their way out. As they came near us, I spoke hesitantly, “Father, would you pray for Dorothy here. She has one leg shorter than the other.” He stopped his group and said, “Of course. Let Dorothy sit in your chair here on the aisle.” So, Dorothy moved into my seat and the several prayer members and Pat and I put our hands on her shoulders and held her hands, while the priest led us in a gentle quiet prayer asking God for healing in Jesus name. No frills, no dramatics. Then he stopped abruptly and asked Dorothy, “Did you feel that? I think your leg jumped.” Dorothy with tears flowing, agreed that it had. He then led us in prayers of thanksgiving, smiled, and continued on up the stairs.
As we sat stunned into silence, Pat’s sister appeared next to us. Following her out of the gym, we excitedly recounted our experience with a mixture of laughter and tears of joy. Dorothy suddenly stopped and said in amazement, “I’m limping. My built up shoe is making me lopsided.” So, she took off her shoes and continued on, literally ‘leaping and dancing and praising God.’
After we got to our dorm room, my inner Twin to Thomas kicked in. It ‘just so happened’ that Pat was a physical therapist. For the next hour, I kept making Pat measure Dorothy’s legs over and over. Pat kept reassuring me that they truly matched. No doubt about it. But there was still some visible curvature of her spine. When, in the wee hours of the morning, we began to tire, Pat went to the communal dorm bathroom to brush her teeth. There she met an older woman and told her of our experience, ending with the curious fact that Dorothy’s spine was still curved. The woman reassured her by telling her that her own husband’s leg, which had been a whole inch shorter than his other one, had been healed the year before at this conference. She said that the leg grew immediately, but it took six months for the atrophied muscles to develop fully back to normal.
We finally all went to sleep exhausted, wonderous, thankful, and at peace.
Funnily, since Dorothy now had no shoes to wear, two days of June’s hot sidewalks left her with some blisters on the bottoms of her feet. Maybe we should have prayed some preventative prayers also 🙂
Over the next several months I, of little faith, looked each time our prayer group met to assure myself that Dorothy was indeed happily wearing sandals, flip flops, or tennis shoes.
And almost ten years later, now married and the mother of two children, Dorothy came to our parish to tell her story to our women’s group.
Yes, she was still happily and painlessly wearing sandals.