“I saw God in the sky and his crown was all golden,” she began her story, “and I felt tingling in my hand.” She then lifted up her left hand and showed us the scar where her flesh had been ravished by an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection that had landed her in the hospital. “You could see my bone,” was how she described her condition. “But I was healed,” she said. “The next day it was all cleared up.”
I made the appropriate response. “Wow, that’s amazing.”
“It was a miracle,” she corrected me. And I know, that, yes, it was indeed a miracle.
I first met B about four years ago. It was only my second time attending Mass at this church and I wanted to get to know some people, so I went downstairs for coffee and pastries afterward to mingle. I did not see any familiar faces in the room, so I walked to the nearest table with only one person sitting there and asked if I could join her. “Yeah,” B said, motioning to an empty chair. I sat down and introduced myself. I didn’t have to say anymore as B began to tell me her story. She’s probably in her late 50s, but looks older. She has one eye that does not want to stay focused and she talks soft and fast, running her words together. As she jumped from topic to topic, I only got bits and pieces of what she was saying. But she didn’t seem to notice that I had trouble following her monologue. Here’s a little of what I do recall from our first encounter.
“I used to go to Saint John’s with my brother. I went to communion all the time. Jesus told me to go. One time someone said I couldn’t go to communion ‘cause I wasn’t Catholic. I told them Jesus told me to.” Here I agreed with her. I figured that if Jesus was going to say anything to anyone about who could and could not receive his body and blood he would surely tell B she was welcomed. And I don’t think he’d check her credentials beforehand either. B said she did become a Catholic after that. She continued to talk about Jesus and miracles and prayers and Father R, the pastor. She also told me that she lived alone in a senior citizen’s apartment a few blocks away and she had a sister who lived nearby also.
B lives on her monthly check. She goes to daily mass and never misses on Sunday. “I love the music,” she says. And B lives the gospel.
We, myself and another volunteer for a Catholic outreach service, recently visited B to give assistance to her friend who is homeless and sleeping on B’s couch. We sat and talked to the two ladies and gave them vouchers for groceries and clothing. B talked about how she prayed for years for her daughter, whom we had just visited. “She was a mess. She was on drugs and livin out there in California. I didn’t know if she was dead or what. She’s clean now. Thank God. She came back all messed up. Her feet were black, cause she went around without shoes. Some guy out there was usin her up.” Here B got choked up, before continuing. “But Jesus saved her. I went to the healing mass and they told me she was in heaven. But they don’t know that. You know sometimes the devil can even get into them too.” I’m not sure what she meant, but I think maybe she thinks that these prayer warriors who believe they are giving you comfort or a word from God, may be actually channeling the devil. And here’s where she lost me.
But what I know is that B’s faith is simple and she lives the gospel, much more than I do; offering a bed to a homeless friend, sharing from what little she has and praying for others. And she does know Jesus personally. He talks to her and she experiences miracles every day.