Last year Steven and I drove to Goose Island for Palm Sunday Mass at Stella Maris, and Father Ralph was overjoyed to see us.
“I was hoping you two would show up! I’ve got great news! Follow me so we can talk,” Father said, leading us to the slightly bigger than standing room only space behind the altar.
Without being asked Joe, attentive sacristan and devoted friend, opened a folding chair for Father to sit as he shared his latest stories with us.
“I’m healed!” Father gushed and then proceeded to fill in all the glorious details as Steven bent down to listen and I looked up intently, almost breathlessly, from where I sat on the old wood floor.
We couldn’t get enough! After all the trips to M.D. Anderson and more, Father Ralph’s news was the answer to our collective prayers. We were so grateful for Father’s reprieve from his medical roller coaster ride that we couldn’t stop smiling. Again and again we thanked and praised God for his merciful kindness.
Father Ralph was on fire. He was a walking-talking miracle whose homily, in part, focused on a familiar story from the Bible.
Or take the woman who had obviously heard Jesus preach. She might even have seen some of the miracles. She’d gone to doctors for twelve years. She had a hemorrhage. Only women can appreciate the misery of all that, day in and day out. No cure. And she’d spent all her money.
’If I could just touch the hem of his garment,’ she thought, ‘I would be healed.’
That’s a position of faith, isn’t it? She wanted a point of contact, so she could release her faith. And the power of God would come flowing through her body.
Did she find it easy to get to Jesus? Oh, it was easy to see him. ‘Yes, there he is over there. Uh-huh. I see the prayer shawl. Oh, my goodness. There are so many people around him!’
She didn’t let the press interfere with the possibility of cure. She didn’t let the devil talk her out of it. She pushed and shoved— did whatever she had to do— until, finally, she got behind him. She touched his garment, the hem of his prayer shawl.
Jewish men wear the tallit in Israel to this day when they pray at the Wailing Wall. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it. I have one that I use. At the base of it are all these tassels that represent the Commandments of God, the promises of God.
What the woman was thinking was, ‘If I touch the one that keeps all the Commandments and if I touch the one for healing, I will be made whole.’
The woman released her faith when she touched it, and Jesus said, ‘Virtue has come out. Who has touched me?’
’I did,’ the woman replied.
’Your faith has made you whole,’ Jesus told her.
So it’s always an impediment to get to Jesus, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s our own doubt. Most of the time, it’s the devil.
‘Oh, but you don’t deserve to have a miracle. Remember what you did when you were a young man? Or a young woman? Just forget that, and just keep going. You can’t change, and God can’t forgive you. You’ll never have a miracle.’
Oh, my goodness. The devil is the father of lies, isn’t he?
Although Father’s homily wasn’t perfectly geared for Palm Sunday, it certainly touched on the faith— the “confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1)— that Jesus embodies for us to witness during Holy Week.
Through Father Ralph God refreshed us with yet another of his extraordinary lessons. Believing requires stoutheartedness, courage, and patience. Believing is trusting that God knows best. “Your will be done,” not mine (Matthew 26:42).
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34).
After Mass Father Ralph insisted that Steven and I accompany him to the back yard. With scissors in hand he snipped at his prized rosebush; created a lovely, fragrant, lavender-pink cluster; and jubilantly presented me with the unexpected bouquet.
Thoughtful? Yes. Then again, healthy or unwell, that’s Father Ralph.
On the drive home, in the days that followed, and especially now that Father Ralph’s health has waned again, his roses are more than just a sweet remembrance of our time at Stella Maris; they’re an enduring recollection of God’s loving mercy celebrated on Palm Sunday a year ago.
March 18, 2016
I struggled with [the devil] in my imprisonment. At one moment I thought I was victorious; the next day I was defeated. This cruel and stubborn fight lasted five years. Then God gave me the grace to triumph over my enemy (St. Augustine).
March 20, 2016
“The Mass is long,” you say; [to which] I add, “because your love is short” (St. Josemaría Escrivá).
March 24, 2017
We are not to be without pain. Pain is Jesus suffering in us, but we are to look to him for strength and courage. We are to learn this ability to shoulder our cross by gazing at him and being gentle and humble in heart (Mother Angelica on Suffering and Burnout).
Links of interest… Christ’s way of the cross… Do you want to be well… Fr. Ralph: service to God & country / story of healing (3.13.15)… How to overcome worry by trusting in God’s providence… Open-&-shut case for Jesus… Pope laments “defeated Christians” who do not fully trust in God… 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 / prayer / prayer requests / prayers / shrine / story… Stella Maris: anniversary / facebook / history (more) / Lamar, TX (more) / marker… Trusting in God completely / in uncertain times… Would you have touched Jesus’ cloak…
Filed under: call of service, homilies, Lent, prayer, spiritual gifts, St. Peregrine, thanksgiving and praise | Tagged: building community, God's master plan, overcoming adversity, Stella Maris Chapel-Lamar TX |