One afternoon, at some sort of parish event, one of the young women from the parish asked me, “You believe in miracles, don’t you?”
My response was simply, “No.”
Somewhat shocked she said, “Given some of your conversations with people around me, I thought you had been through all sorts of stuff, and you don’t believe in miracles?”
“No, it is not a matter of belief, I depend on them.”
“If you have a few minutes, sit here and I will share some of the events with you.”, and so it began…
I was raised in a small town, actually more of a village, about 25 miles outside of Boston. To say that the town was small is to give it a greater status than it would have earned. The “You are now entering…” and the “You are now leaving…” signs were on the opposite sides of the same post. For most of my youth, I thought it was a one-horse town until I spoke to the man who swept the streets.
It was rare that my friends and I would get together during the week as they went to public schools and my primary education was at the hands of the good nuns, at a school 18 or so miles away. When my friends were out playing, I was doing my homework. If I got my homework done while they were still playing, and before dinner, I would join them.
One afternoon, we were walking along what had at one time been a railroad track. The tracks, ties, and stones had long since been removed. The rail bed was an incredible densely packed clay and gravel mixture.
The railway had been built and removed well before any federal guidelines dealing with safety had been developed. When a bridge was needed, it was simply built with minimum to no barriers, side walls, etc.
We were standing on one of these bridges when my friends wanted to go down to the stream several dozens of feet below us; I opted to stay on the bridge. During construction of the bridge, or during the removal of the rail bed, several granite “chips” ( which are really larger slabs of granite ) had fallen into the stream. My friends were climbing on these chips while I was looking at the trees and birds from the bridge.
One of my friends called from the stream and chips below while I was watching nature at play. As my focus went immediately from horizontal to several dozen feet down, vertigo struck. I found myself beginning to fall off of the edge of the bridge.
It was at that point a man’s strong hand grasped my left shoulder and pulled me away from the edge of the bridge. With heart and respiration rates each through the roof, I turned to thank the fellow, only to find that I was alone on the bridge.
While you would think that that episode would be enough to keep me out of harm’s way, it wasn’t.
What? There’s Another?
On the occasion of the 21st anniversary of my birth, my brother-in-law and I went to a packie ( in New England, a package store is simply known as a packie ) to share the good news. The owner reached behind her and grabbed a pint of some lesser expensive whiskey and presented it to me as a gift.
I repaid her generosity one bottle or six-pack at a time for the next several years. The journey from a light drinker, to moderate, to heavy and then alcoholic took almost no time at all. This meant, of course, that while I drinking alcoholically, I was also driving while in a stunken drooper.
While I had totaled a station wagon, it still took me several more years to get sober. In my newly found sobriety, as I was looking over my past with clearing eyes rather than through the bottom of a glass, it became obvious that I had been protected over a long period of time by “some force for some reason”.
Does this classify as a miracle? It does from my side of the view.
Do You Have Another?
For the next one, we need to step back in time a bit and return to the parochial primary school. Each school day in May and October the students were gathered together for the rosary. If the weather was good, we would pray in a grotto surrounding a statue of the Immaculate Conception, if the weather was poor, we would meet in the cafeteria.
At the end of the rosary, the students would sing a variety of songs. One of my favorite songs was/is “Queen of the May”, which I would not hear for the next bunch of decades of years.
Fast forward a bit over half a century to the release of “The Passion of the Christ.” My wife and I had gone to see the film and we, as many others, left the theatre in silence. As severe as the scourging scenes and so forth were, I was more impacted by Mary.
When we got home, I fabricated some excuse to go to the store such that I could deal with the emotions, the pain, and the grief which I felt – process, expunge, whatever. The Catholic radio station which had been playing in the background suddenly played “Queen of the May.” I had not heard this song since light had been invented, and I took it as my being told, “Don’t worry, I am fine, it was a necessary and painful part of my Son’s journey.”
Bring flowers of the rarest bring blossoms of the fairest,
from garden and woodland and hillside and dale;
our full hearts are swelling, our glad voices telling
the praise of the loveliest flower of the vale!
O, Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today!
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
O, Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today,
Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May.
I then asked the young lady if we might continue this at another time, as I had to leave to get back to my wife. She indicated that be they coincidences, miracles, or simply the alignment of the stars she wanted to hear other examples at some point in the future. I reminded her, miracles happen around each of us each day, we simply have to be attentive to them.