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May It Be Evident to Everyone

July 19, AD2014

Birgit - holy family

St. Paul reminds us in his Pastoral Epistle to live out our faith so that it “may be evident to everyone.”  [1 Timothy 4:14-16]

How is that working for you?

For example, while waiting for Mass to begin, do you analyze the people around you? Critique their choice of clothing? Hairstyle? Makeup? How they worship? Or are you focused on your purpose?

Perhaps when you look at anyone at church, you pause and remember that they always have a more interesting story to tell than the one you conjure in your mind. We all need prayers, not  persecution, especially in church, as one family learned.

A Mother’s Horror

On the morning of May 11, 2014, two families were traveling in separate vehicles, going southbound on I-24, an hour south of Nashville, TN. It was Mother’s Day.  In the first vehicle (a van), a family was traveling on vacation from Chicago to Panama City. The family in the second vehicle (a truck) was traveling to Mass.

Suddenly, the van, traveling about 100-feet in front of the truck, swerved to the right side of the road, hit the guard rail, flipped over and slid down the embankment.

The family in the truck witnessed the accident and quickly pulled over to assist. As a skilled trauma nurse, the mother responded on auto-pilot, telling her children to stay near the truck, and not to approach the accident. In seconds, both the mother and father were over the rail and down the embankment towards the van.

The passengers’ cries for help were clearly audible against the background noise of the interstate. The vehicle was resting on its roof. The driver of the van was the mother of that family. She was hurt, but able to release her seatbelt and crawl out of the van’s window with assistance. All the while, she kept pleading with God. The father, sitting in the passenger seat, was also injured. He required a little more assistance, but he too was more concerned about his children than himself.

The nurse advised the parents of her experience, and asked them to wait until she and her husband could assess the childrens’ condition. As she crawled into the van over broken glass, debris and matter, she saw a  horrific scene. There were two boys. Both were severely injured. Their seatbelts disconnected. The younger boy, 13 years old, was conscious with an apparent leg injury and facial lacerations. With assistance from her husband and the boy’s father, she was able to move him to safety on the grass.

The other boy, 16 years old, was on the far side of the van. The nurse crawled quickly toward the boy who was convulsing, leg lacerated to the bone, head trauma with extruding brain matter. As a mother, her heart was breaking. But she couldn’t allow emotion to take control. She had to stay focused on the task. Meanwhile, the boy’s mother, unable to see the severity of the situation kept talking to her son and praying aloud to God.

The boy’s injuries were so severe that he could not be moved without a stretcher or tactical board. The nurse tried to stabilize him as best she could, but the convulsions were too strong. By the grace of God, another traveler along the interstate stopped to offer her help. She was also a mother, and a physical therapist. With her assistance, the two mothers held the boy until paramedics arrived, trying to shield his mother from seeing him in that state.

When Two Or More Are Gathered In His Name

Now a choir of prayers could be heard as more people gathered on the scene, consoling the parents, and preparing for the landing of the Life Flight helicopter as the EMS team took over.

The nurse and her husband returned to their truck to find their sons sitting in the backseat with the doors open, waiting to hear what had happened. As the nurse looked at her two sons, ages 16 and 13, she offered her own prayer; a mother’s prayer.

Noticing her clothes, her boys asked if they were still going to Mass. The nurse looked down and realized that she was covered with blood and mud. But, there was no question. They had to continue to church. Besides, her parents had left just moments ahead of them, heard the sirens and texted her while she was attending to the boys. If they didn’t show up to Mass, her parents would be stressed. They both had heart conditions.

Upon arriving at church, she went the restroom and washed her face and hands, and turned her clothing inside out to hide the mud and blood. She proceeded into Mass; her fervent prayer continuing for the family she had left on the interstate.

Judge Not, Or You Will Miss the Real Story

As Mass began, she couldn’t help but notice the glances and stares of the people around her. At the Sign of Peace, no one would shake her hand. The attitudes were so obvious until it caught her by surprise.

“I’ve never been on the receiving end of such judgment,” she later said, “It was very humbling.”

What a shame that the people at that morning’s Mass didn’t get the opportunity to know what she had done just moments earlier. In fact, her actions are exactly what I would expect from her. I am extremely proud to call her my best friend and sister.

She is a pure walking testimony of Christ in action. She works as an oncology nurse, caring for the sick and dying every single day. Then she goes home to care for her family, and her parents. She never complains. Never. She finds joy in everything. It is truly inspiring. There isn’t a day that goes by that she isn’t either praying every breath, attending Mass, Confession, or reading about her faith. And this precious soul attends every funeral of every patient in her care. You can see the Holy Spirit in her smile and feel him in her touch. She just radiates the ministry of being a Christian.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen often told a story about a conversation that he once had with Mother Theresa. Knowing that she had been responsible for converting tens of thousands of men from the gutters of Calcutta, he asked her, “How after dragging these poor mortals to your hospice could have ever evangelize them and teach them the gospel?” She responded, “I didn’t. When I took care of them and showed love, I would say to them, ‘Would you like to hear about Christ?’ And they would say, ‘Is Christ like you?'” Mother Theresa would say, “No, but I try to be like him.” And without a word of Gospel spoken the man would respond, “Then I want to be a Christian.”

Also, remember the story of the Shunammite woman in the Book of Kings? The Shuanammite woman never heard Elisha preach, but she told her husband, “I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God.” It had nothing to do with what Elisha said. It had everything to do with his actions. [2 Kings 4:8 – 37]

How well do we all use our spiritual eyes to see the people around us?

How well do we live out our faith visibly so others will know that we are Christians?

The next time you see someone and feel the need to cast judgment, say this little prayer. I do every time I see someone who just appears to need a spiritual hug.

Dear Lord, I don’t know his (her) story, his needs, or the weight of his cross. But I do know that you are able to provide him with what he requires. Grant him, O’Lord, your healing mercy, your divine grace and your forgiveness in all things. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, we pray. Amen.

© Copyright 2014. Diane McKelva. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Recognized as the former Editor in Chief, Diane McKelva is now the Editor Emeritus of Catholic Stand. You can learn more about Diane and her work here.

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  • Thank you all for your comments. Bless you.

  • Good reminder Diane. I am guilty sometimes of watching people watch people. LOL I wonder if anyone watches me watch people watch people.

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  • Birgit Atherton Jones

    A truly inspirational and humbling story. Of late, I have tried to meet with a smile and internal prayer, those whose exterior results in an involuntary impulse to turn away. May even the involuntary impulse be purged from my being!

  • jamey brown

    Exquisite story, Diane, dealing with a problem I face all the time, judging others. How often the eye sees first and sees falsely. Only with the heart can we see Jesus in our brothers and sisters. Also, I have seen so many saints in the medical profession doing their daily jobs without complaint, and without anyone’s notice or gratitude.

  • Patti Maguire Armstrong

    What a dramatic and inspirational story! The older I get the more I see how judging others hurts our own souls. It’s a challenge to be sure, but your story gives powerful testimony as to why we are called to love not judge.

  • Ray Sullivan

    A great story in this “ME” world we live in…

    • Amen, Ray. We do live in a “me” world. I wonder what type of world our child’s children will grow up in? Perhaps a topic for another article?

  • melanie jean juneau

    wow… Your article is an example of the kind of life that Pope Francis calls all of us to, rendering this articulate woman speechless, a rare occurance

    • Well, I can’t image you speechless, Melanie. But I’m glad to know you appreciate the message. Yes, I think God is amazing. Both of our articles have similar messages. Thank you.

  • Tony Agnesi

    Diane, Beautiful, powerful story of how we often judge people before we understand their circumstances. You have driven home this point in a way that makes everyone stop and reexamine their own judgmental attitudes. I know your article made me pause a reflect on my own. Thank you for your insightful story. Tony

    • You are most welcome, Tony. I’m pleased to know you appreciate the message. Her treatment at Mass really gave me pause and reflection also. I just regret that very few know what she did on that Mother’s Day. But she is not one to garner attention. That’s why I chose not to use her name. She doesn’t like being acknowledged as special. Very humble.

  • Sidebar: For those who may ask, no, they never learned the fate of the boys. HIPAA prohibited the hospital for disclosing the information. They are confident that the family returned to Chicago.

  • David Peters

    Diane, thank you for this powerful article. I’ve been on both ends of judging people and it is just awful either way. I love the way you have written this, and it brought me to tears. By the way, I know first hand the wonderful work done by oncology nurses, and I thank God for them. They are truly a blessing. God bless, and thanks again.

    • Awe, thank you, David, for your kind compliment. Yes, I too have been on both sides of this issue. By the grace of God, go I. I too know the blessings of having a good oncology nurse. Thanks to two wonderful women who cared for me, I am here today as a cancer survivor. 😉