“…Your prayers endure forever. None of them die. They live in the air about us and they move us like the breeze of Pentecost. They may appear dead, but they sometimes lay like an ember in the dull, gray ash of the present moment. Then the Spirit blows, the coals flare and the fire burns hot.” Calvin Miller, The Path of Celtic Prayer
A few Sundays ago, I was sitting in a class at church listening to our pastor talk about the Eucharist when his black clerical clothing — the clergy shirt with the white tab collar — suddenly reminded me of a something from my childhood that I haven’t thought about in probably 40 years.
When I was five I injured my left arm in an accident. It was broken in three places and my elbow was dislocated. I was hospitalized for four days at Queen of the Valley in the San Gabriel Valley. I remember going to the hospital and the ER cutting my ballet suit off me. My next memory is waking up alone in a dark hospital room – looking down at my arm, which was bandaged, and thinking it was a monster.
Truly, I thought my arm was a monster — the metal clips the evil eyes. I was terrified.
My mom had three kids at home and my dad worked full time so I was in the hospital mostly by myself awaiting surgery. (My mom told me my father came to see me every day when he got off work!) We were Protestants, but a Catholic priest in clerical clothing would come to visit me and pray with me. I can’t tell you what a joy it was to see him coming and I never wanted him to leave.
On my last day in the hospital, he came around and my father was there. The priest asked my dad if he could pray with me again and my father, a Nazarene minister, obliged.
For years, my father repeated this story about this priest – how much he loved me and how powerful his prayer had been. My dad thought that visit was the priest’s first, but the priest and I both knew he had visited before – at least two or three times. I knew I would never see him again, which made me sad, but his prayers and visits made such a difference in my life. I know this now.