We smiled on finding Father Ralph in his outdoor confessional and walked over to where he sat between two trees to exchange stories as usual.
“Father Ralph, a friend of ours in Brownsville is battling cancer; so we’re here to pray for her,” I said.
“Let’s wait till after Mass. We’ll take care of it then,” Father said reassuringly before leaving the picnic table to welcome newcomers.
After Mass, Father Ralph stepped outside the tiny church to bless and encourage those departing for home. Yet more than half the pews were filled with those of us anticipating something. But what?
I distracted myself by taking photos as I listened for a cue to start my audio recorder.
What followed was simply amazing: Father Ralph held an impromptu healing service that lasted almost an hour and twenty minutes. Wow!
Father Ralph’s intro
“I see that you all stayed for another church service,” Father quipped on his return. “What if this old man couldn’t make it?”
Jesus, healer of the sick
“I was glad when I heard you say, ‘Let us come into the house of the Lord.’
“Yes. We’re always glad to come into your house. You are our Father. Just like a little kid returning home after school, eager to see what mother would give us— a cookie, a glass of milk, that popsicle, or something nice— or, if we got hurt along the way, to wipe our tears, tend to our owies, and make everything well.
“Yeah, we are your children. We come as children, expecting your acceptance, your love, your help, and your mercy.
“We truly love you, Jesus; and we remember several things you said on the shores of Galilee. As you said it along those shores, ears pricked up. Faith developed the minds. Hearts were moved. Lives were changed, and miracle after miracle happened.
“Jesus said on one occasion, ‘Be it done unto you according to your faith’ [Mt. 9:29]. And the Bible says, ‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing, by the word of the Lord’ [Rom. 10:17]. The more I know the Word of Jesus, the more I have within me. I have the mind of Christ. I have the anointing of Christ. ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me” [Phil. 4:13]. And to encourage us also, he said, ‘I am the God that heals you. I will take sickness out of the midst of you’ [Ps. 91:15-16].
“Oh, yeah? Yeah. That’s what he promised.
“There are all kinds of natural therapeutics. Who’s the author of all that?
“Not the devil, who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, never to make you well again.”
Jesus, miracle worker
“Jesus heals supernaturally, sovereignly, and miraculously. He still does it today contrary to the belief of some of our separated brethren that preach and believe that the miracle ceased when the last apostle died. How sad. I’ve even read their King James Bible. I’d like to take them into it. I have one. I know what it says. It says he’s the same yesterday, today, and forever. That’s right. If he worked miracles then, he can still do it today.
“The Bible says these signs will follow those who believe. I believe! They would pray with the sick, and people would be healed.
“As they heard these things, they developed faith. They came with him and to him and received miracle after miracle of every possible kind. The blind saw, the deaf heard, lepers were healed, demons were taken away. As people heard and saw these miracles, their faith grew; and they got faith also for their loved ones who weren’t there.”
Jesus and the paraplegic
“Then we have the story of the young people. Oh, my goodness. I thought young people are always in trouble. No, they’re not.
“These young people had heard about Jesus, and they went and got their friend who was a paraplegic— hopeless, hopeless, hopeless— lying on his back and not able to do anything. Their faith was enough to convince him to allow them to take him to Jesus; but, when they got there, did they get a front seat and everything went fine? Oh, no! There was no room in the place, the Bible says, or outside the house either. There were too many people there.
“The devil always sets problems in front of you, so you can’t get to the Lord. You can’t go to that service. The car has a flat. Whatever. That’s how he operates, or doubt begins to work in your mind. Why are you going to some stupid service? What makes you think God will heal you with your past? See? That’s the devil, isn’t it? That’s our friend sometimes interfering in our lives.
“Anyway, so they went; and they didn’t let that difficulty deter them. They probably prayed very hard. Then they got the idea: Remove part of the roof.
“I’ve been there to Israel. I’ve been to what they think is a house. It was a frame with palm branches on the top. That was the roof. Give me a break! It was easy to remove, so they put their friend up and lowered him down in the presence of Jesus and all the doubters, skeptics, disbelievers, and a few that really wanted help.
“‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ Jesus told him.
“Religious scholars sitting there thought differently. ‘He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins.’
“But Jesus said, ‘So that you can believe that the son of God has the power to forgive sins, pick up your mat, walk, and go home.’
“And that’s exactly what he did. The miracle was there.”
Peter’s first miracle
“A beggar wanted gold, silver, food. He couldn’t work. He couldn’t move. He was paralyzed there on the sidewalk.
“Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I have not, but what I do have I give unto you. Take up your mat! Walk! And go home.’
“That’s exactly what he did, and the miracles have lasted even to this day.”
“Now I’m going to tell you about a few miracles that I know about. I didn’t heal these individuals. If I could perform miracles, I would’ve healed my own cancer, don’t you think?
“I think so, Father. You would have,” Father Ralph answered himself.
“I was healed by other methods. Prayers and natural medicine healed me in combination. I’m now cancer-free. Praise God!”
The little girl
“I’ll tell you about the most recent miracle.
“Two weeks ago in this very chapel, right here kneeling was a little Hispanic girl, four-and-a-half years of age. Her diagnosis, confirmed by medical science, was a tumor of the brain. She had an appointment at M. D. Anderson for doctors to further evaluate her and figure out what they could and couldn’t do with this horrible thing that was upon that cute little girl.
“She was with her mother and her grandmother. They came all this way, about three hundred miles up here.
“I administered the sacrament of the sick, which is healing itself. The Church has it. It’s in the Book of James. I blessed her with St. Peregrine’s relic— first-class part of his body— and his oil, and I prayed over her.
“We were about ready to dismiss when something checked me.
Go to the tabernacle. Take me out of the tabernacle. Bring me to her. Let me bless her.
“And so I took the monstrance. I’ve done this with groups of people. I did it at the charismatic renewal at Most Precious Blood Church. Everyone was blessed by Jesus, so, okay, fine.
“I blessed this little girl. Rather, I let Jesus bless this little girl. I made the cross over her and put him back. Then, goodbye. The little girl left.
“The next day, which was Thursday— that was a week ago this Thursday— she had an eight o’clock appointment at M. D. Anderson. I came here to the chapel to say Mass at seven; and the few who were here prayed for her, too. We joined our prayer together; and, about two o’clock in the afternoon, the grandmother called me from the car.
“She was in orbit.
“‘Father! When the doctors examined her, there was no tumor at all! There was just scar tissue where the tumor had been!’
“The doctors said, ‘We have no explanation for this.’
“And she said, ‘We do. Several have been praying for this little girl.’”
“Let’s go back and see.
“I gave out prayer handkerchiefs. They’re from the Bible, the Acts of the Apostles [19:12]. Not everyone could get to St. Paul, and he couldn’t get to everybody either. That was impossible, so he blessed the prayer handkerchiefs and sent them to people.
“There was no magic in those handkerchiefs that I gave out. They can’t heal anyone. They’re good for blowing your nose maybe, but that’s it. Still, that’s all I could do; but they were a point of contact for releasing faith. The practice was started by a holy man of God, a saint.
“Just like the woman who said, ‘If I touch the garment, I will be healed,’ I know of two miracles that have happened from handkerchiefs that have left this chapel.”
“One was a marine general who was bitten by a viper. They’re deadly, more deadly than a rattlesnake. He not only lived to get treatment, but he didn’t die and had no swelling. His wife was pregnant with twins, but they were going to lose one or both of them. The handkerchief was put on her stomach, and both twins are healthy and the cutest little kids you’d ever want to see. They’re eighteen months old.”
Remembering to give thanks
“People come from the Rio Grande Valley on little pilgrimages. They have simple, direct, and loving faith. I have a lot to copy from them. A few weeks ago three women returned. They had a young couple with them that had a baby, cute little kid.
“After seven o’clock Mass, we had an hour of Adoration. Then I had a healing service for them and gave them the whole meal deal. They were ready to leave; but during my talk, I said, ‘You know what’s sad? Jesus healed ten lepers. Only one was thankful. Only one came back to thank him and acknowledge what he did. Yet, all were healed. I find that in my priesthood. The majority of those healed never calls to let me know, but enough do that I know God is healing them. It’s not my imagination. It really is true.’
“Oh, I’ve met people going out the door at HEB on Leopard Street who ask, ‘Father, do you remember me?’
“Of course, I don’t,” Father Ralph whispered to us teasingly.
“’You prayed for my husband,’ the woman said. ‘Do you remember? He had lung cancer’— or whatever it was— ‘but he’s well now.’
“Or, I was at Fruit King. I used to go there every Saturday to buy things for our college. This woman kept looking at me. Finally, she said, ‘I know who you are. You’re Father Ralph. You prayed for my nephew who had cancer. He’s totally healed.’”
The man’s tonsillectomy
“So the three women and the couple with the baby were ready to leave, and one of the women came back to talk to me.
“’I was here before I had a prayer handkerchief, so a friend lent it to me. My husband had a tonsillectomy.’
“Now, most people in their ignorance think that’s a simple operation— it is— but don’t realize people die from that every year. They bleed to death in their sleep or in their crib like a little baby, and they’re gone.
“So the woman’s husband got home from the tonsillectomy, and everything was fine for about four or five hours. I don’t know what the time was. Then he coughed up some blood, and blood began to flow from his mouth. He was hemorrhaging to death.
“The woman started praying, believing in Jesus; but nothing happened. She called 911 and was desperately waiting for the ambulance to arrive when she remembered the handkerchief.
“I don’t know why she placed it on the back of the man’s neck, but that’s where she put it. She said, ‘Father, the bleeding instantly dried. Then I thought, I don’t need the paramedics after all; but they were already there.’
“She told the paramedics what’d happened; and they said, ‘To be safe, we’d better take him to the ER and have the doctor check him.’
“As soon as they got to the hospital, the man started bleeding again. Do you see the miracle? The prayer handkerchief stopped the bleeding till God got him to the medical solution he had waiting for him.”
“Oh, okay. That’s good. You’re always welcome.’
“About a week later, the man called me. ‘Father, we have a problem.’
“’What is it?’
“’We have a grandson who can’t walk. He’s twenty-one months old, and doctors don’t know why he can’t walk.’
“I said, ‘Hold the phone with one hand, bend down, and touch your ankles. Let us pray. ‘Pray one for another that you might be healed. Affected with fervent prayer, the righteous availeth much.’ And he did!
“Several weeks later the grandfather called me. He was in orbit also. ’Hello, Father. Do you remember me?’”
“’Yeah, yeah, yeah.’
“’I was at a family gathering, and Little Cooper was there running all over the place. No one could catch him,’ the grandfather said.
“I’ll tell you a couple more stories. I’m not going to keep you long, but do you see what I’m doing? I’m quoting the word of God. I’m showing you how Jesus uses the word of God. He is the word of God.
“People said they didn’t believe until they got healed. Now I’m telling you about real cases I’ve interacted with, not that I could heal a flea. I can’t, but that convinces me even more about the reality of God. Jesus still heals, and Grandpa Doug isn’t so old and senile that he can’t remember or help any of us.”
Father Ralph was momentarily pensive. “Well, let’s see. I have so many stories.”
The man and the little boy
“In my memory bank, this one is still a miracle to me,” Father said emotionally. “I’ll never forget this one.
“A Hispanic man came to our chapel in the interest of weeds that he called grass. It was no more grass than seaweed. Anyway, he wanted to volunteer to work for us day and night; so he did a lot of yard work and landscaping in the process.
“One day he came with a statue of the Child Jesus, a beautiful, expensive thing. I didn’t want to accept it; but I know that if you don’t accept from the Spanish, you offend them. I learned that the hard way, so I accepted the statue.
“The man told me he had a lot of devotion to the Child Jesus; and, because he did, all year long he collected toys, clothes, candy— anything of value— for kids. He usually got enough to rent a huge U-Haul van and pack it full. This little Hispanic man with a big heart would go all the way to Laredo, TX; and there, about a week before Christmas, he’d give it all away to all the kids.
“Well, one day he quit. I was sorry to see him go, but he’d done a marvelous job while he was working with us.
“Several months went by. I’d finished noon Mass at the big adoration chapel in Corpus when I saw the man with his wife on one side and his son on the other. He could no longer walk without help. He could not talk any longer. He could not swallow anymore. He had a hole in his stomach through which he was fed. He’d come prepared. I gave him the Sacrament of the Sick, prayed over him with St. Peregrine’s oil— the whole meal deal.
“The man started coming to the Monday night novenas to St. Peregrine. After about two months, I noticed that he didn’t need anyone to help him walk. That’s all I saw.
“Then he started coming every Sunday evening. As I was praying over people, he came up, too. I raised my hands to him like this,” Father Ralph said, extending his hands to show us. “I don’t touch people. I want God’s grace to touch them, his power to touch them. Then this came out of my mouth: ‘The day will come, mijo. You’ll eat tacos and burritos again.’
“From my own mouth!” Father Ralph chuckled. Then, after I said it, I thought, If that’s not God, you’re in deep doo-doo, Father. Get ready.
“So the man kept coming. Then one Sunday he was way back in the chapel, so I thought, Did I give him false hope or what? Was that God or was that you, Father, in your wishful thinking? I honestly did not know, so I continued praying over people.
“The woman in the front pew looked like my mother to me. Maybe she was. She looked that old, and she had this little boy with her who was about seven years of age. She interrupted me, ‘Father! Father!’
“’This boy likes to pray for the sick.’
“In my mind— I hate to have to confess this— I looked at the boy and thought, You’re the priest. You’re the child. You’re ordained. You’re not.
“All these prideful, egotistical thoughts ran through my head, and then God checked me. ‘That man has a devotion to me as a child. That man sacrifices for kids every year. Maybe I’ll use this little boy to give him his miracle.’
“I thought, This little kid, what can he do? But I’ll ask him anyway. I’ll satisfy his mother. So I asked the boy, ‘Son, would you like to pray for someone?’
“’Yeah!’ he said, whipped up like he was a professional.
“Oh, my goodness! He followed me all the way to the back of the chapel to where this Hispanic man was kneeling. I didn’t tell him anything, so the boy knew nothing about that man. He put his hands on his head. Remember, he’d had a stroke. It hits the brain with the nervous system going down. Then he put his hands to the man’s throat— remember, he couldn’t swallow or speak— then to the man’s stomach.
“As the child was doing this, I was going, Oh, Holy Spirit! Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! You’re really moving through this little kid!
“The man got his miracle.”
Prayer from Favorite Patron Saints (The Leaflet Missal Company, n. d., p. 25)
Dearest Mother Mary, Mother of Sorrows, behold me, your child, in prayer at your feet. I have come to plead for this special favor through the intercession of your faithful servant, St. Peregrine…
Sorrowful Mother, I beg you to present my petition to your divine son. If you will pray for me, I cannot be refused. I know, dearest Mother, that you want me to seek God’s will in all things. Therefore, with childlike trust, I abandon myself to God’s holy will concerning my request. If what I ask… should not be granted, pray that I may receive that which will be of greater benefit to my soul.
Sweet Mother of Sorrows, I love you! I put all my confidence in you because your prayers before God are most powerful. For the greater glory of God and for the sake of Jesus through the intercession of St. Peregrine whom you have led to sainthood, hear and grant my prayer. Amen.
Links of interest… Do we wish to be healed… Intercessory prayer… Miracle prayer (Fr. Peter Mary Rookey; YouTube)… Pray with Fr. Bob (audio novena)… Saints: novenas (188) / prayer… St. Peregrine: about / articles (prayer cards) / biography / “cancer saint” / chaplet / feast / friends of / healing intercessor & friend / healing power / May 1st / novena / prayers (requests) / shrine / story… Stella Maris: anniversary / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker…
WP posts… Bearing one’s crosses… Capuchin church stations… Finding St. Rita… God’s master plan… Holy relics… Memorable as ever… Mercy and justice… Powerful intercessor… Prayers and blessings… Saintly connections… Solano, Solanus, Solani… St. Bonaventure Church… St. Felix… St. Jude Shrine… St. Peregrine relic… Revisiting St. Simon… Stella Maris… Stella Maris moments… Today’s Beatitudes