Saturday, November 7, 2009

For Minor Miracles I

I have never seen a dead woman walk or a blind man restored to sight. But I have seen minor miracles. A skeptic would call them coincidences, or nice moments. That's OK with me. These moments prove nothing, and they are not my faith, any more than ornaments on a Christmas tree are the tree itself or the base on which it stands.

Nevertheless, each of these moments has stemmed directly from my participation in Catholic life—in my parish, in prayer, in fellowship with Catholic friends. As time goes on, I'd like to share a few of these moments, and I hope readers will share theirs.

Thursday evening, Katie and I attended a charity dinner and auction for our parish school. We have never had children in the school, but I have grown fond of it because I teach an after-school CCD class there one day a week.

Before dinner, while Katie was shopping the silent-auction tables, I saw my friends Jolyne and Joe. Jolyne sits behind me at daily Mass and is a lector on weekends. She has a beautiful voice and a smile to match. Joe, her husband, is a cheerful but frail-looking man of about seventy. Recently, Jolyne told me what many friends in the parish already knew, that Joe has suffered from type-1 diabetes for about thirty years. To me, this explained the frailty and made the cheerfulness all the more remarkable.

Joe had never met Katie before—although, as the story unfolds, you'll see that this hardly mattered. As I got talking with him, with Jolyne by our side, I discovered that Joe had known Katie's father, Gene McNiff, very well. Gene died in 1960, when Katie was seven. Katie has loving memories of her father, but details of his life are somewhat sketchy to her and she seldom has an opportunity to talk with anyone who can remember him the way Joe did. I was touched by this coincidence and walked over to where Katie was to invite her to come talk with Joe. "He knew your father—really well," I said. Katie's face lit up, and I could see that she really wanted to talk with Joe. I led her over, got them introduced, and then left them to talk together.

A few minutes later, Jolyne found me at the silent-auction tables. Her face was lit up with joy. "This is a miracle," she said, using the term as loosely as I have in the heading of this post. Then she explained to me what I had not known: About two years ago, as a result of frequent fluctuations in his body chemistry, Joe's short-term memory suddenly shut down, all at once. From that time on, he could not remember anything recent, although he retained a clear memory of long-past events. As Jolyne and I both looked across the room to where Katie and Joe were still happily talking, nodding energetically to each other, Jolyne said, "It is usually hard for Joe at events like this, not having short-term memory. This is so good for him to have this chance to tell Katie about her Dad."

From Katie's smile, I could see that it was good for her too.