A feverish invitation
By Jacques Daniel
Diocesan Communications Director
As I sit in bed tonight, I come to terms with the fact that a nasty virus that has been making its way around town has ravaged my family and has now come for me. I’ve been ruminating on this article I was hoping to write about an upcoming event at Terra Sancta this weekend, mulling over stories of ordinary people you may have met and the ways that they’ve experienced the miraculous healing of God in their lives. Even though I feel cold and hot simultaneously, there is a unique, warm ember of hope in my heart thinking about this topic of healing and the stories I’d like to share with you.
No doubt you’ve at least heard that the bishops of the USA have initiated a 3-year Eucharistic Revival. There was a big procession downtown six months ago. Bishop Peter Muhich, Fr. Mark McCormick, Shawna Hanson, and countless others have shared through WRC articles, homilies, and a plethora of events the reality that Jesus comes to us truly present in the Eucharist. But why? What do the bishops want? What does that have to do with Dr. Mary Healy and her weekend retreat?
Dr. Healy is a renowned scripture scholar. Her books and videos, which can be readily found on the internet, show an impassioned follower of Christ who has spent a lifetime studying the Sacred Scriptures. That was the main reason she was asked to come. Wouldn’t it be nice to celebrate ten years of ministry of Terra Sancta in our diocese with a famous scholar who can teach us how to appreciate the scriptures more? In 2014 Pope Francis appointed her as one of the first three women ever to serve on the Pontifical Biblical Commission. She’s an accomplished writer and serves the church by teaching scripture classes to seminarians in the Archdiocese of Detroit. But as the planning committee prayed and as the details started to get in order, it became clear that God had another plan for bringing Dr. Healy to our diocese this weekend. You see, not only is Dr. Healy a renowned scholar, but she is also an avid believer in the transformative healing power of prayer and has helped countless people experience that healing. Another organization she serves trains priests and lay people alike in the long tradition of healing ministry that has been passed down to us through the pages of the Gospels by the first witnesses of Jesus who wrote down this Good News to share with others. With a casual reading of the pages of the Gospels, some might be drawn to either a timid, peaceful Jesus or an intense, demanding Jesus depending on your own experience on any given day. Yet a meticulous study, such as Dr. Healy has done, reveals a God whose sole mission was to seek and save what was lost. The pages of the Gospels are filled with miraculous healings: the blind recovering their sight, the mute talking, the lame walking, and even the dead being raised by the power of the person of Jesus Christ. And this power wasn’t kept to himself. No, in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew (Chapters 9 and 10) that we just read last Saturday at Mass, Jesus sends out the disciples to go out and share these same miraculous experiences.
Healing is one of the major themes the bishops of the US have focused their efforts on by calling every person in the USA to 3 years of Eucharistic Revival. Their vision is “To inspire a movement of Catholics across the United States who are healed, converted, formed, and unified by an encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist—and who are then sent out on mission ‘for the life of the world.’” This movement is not about getting more people into the pews so we can be more successful. No, it is about allowing our hearts to be renewed and set back to the original mission of God, who sent his Son into the world for you, me, and the folks down the street whose dog barks at all hours of the night when you are trying to get needed rest.
I’ve struggled to get this article started, I wanted to have it written last week, but as I nursed my family and sat thinking about it, I was hoping that no one would notice that it was missing. But there is something that the Lord has revealed to me in the onset of my own fever that I have to get out. I am struck by the reality that I have no power to stop this virus that has ravaged our home. I can’t just will myself to feel better. There is a virus attacking my body, and as I lay here, it brings to mind a deep wound in my own heart. I have bought the lie that if I just try harder or if I were just a better person, the hard things of life would escape me. But what I experience now is the long-held teaching of our Catholic faith that God does not CAUSE suffering, but he allows it so that we can finally come to terms with the reality that he is God and we are not. He allows us to come to these difficult places so we run out of the excuses we use to keep our hearts from him. Sometimes the challenge of sickness allows him to do the type of healing he wants to do if we just let him. Sometimes he uses physical healings to make visible the invisible healing he is doing in our lives.
This same reality hit Ana Robbins, a member of the Dr. Healy event planning team. For three years after giving birth, she experienced a stabbing pain in her back that nothing seemed to relieve. She tried everything, weekly massages and chiropractic visits, but nothing would make it better. It messed with everything: her sleep, work, and her ability to feel like a helpful wife and mother. On an ember of hope, she heard about a priest Fr. Mclear, and a healing retreat he was offering at the Cathedral in September of 2015. She went alone, not knowing what to ask for or what to expect. She heard Fr. Mclear preach about the connection between reconciliation, forgiveness, and physical healing. When individuals were invited to go up to the front of the church before small teams of people praying, she remembers stepping out in simple faith. “I remember walking up to Fr. Mclear and only being able to look down. He said, ‘Look up here,’ and as I looked into his eyes, they were crystal blue. Now, I would describe them as oceans of mercy. I was moved to tears. I went home and woke up the next day, and the pain was gone”.
Fr. Brian Christensen, who was assigned as pastor to the cathedral in Rapid City in 2017, remembers the feeling of stepping into a budding healing ministry that he had never experienced before. Even though his priesthood was all about bringing the type of healing that Jesus brought people 2000 years ago, he remembers looking at it with fresh theological eyes and noticing that something was changing in his own priesthood as then Bishop Robert Gruss invited the diocese into an era of “Mercy Nights” featuring Eucharistic adoration, powerful praise and worship music, opportunities for confessions, and teams of people willing to pray over anyone with faith enough to step up to the front. Things hit home for Fr. Brian this fall as he went on a retreat with the Amazing Parish ministry out of Colorado that helps pastors and parish leadership teams move from “maintenance to missionary communities.” Fr. Brian describes the retreat as “fairly active for a retreat.” “I’m used to celebrating Mass, maybe napping, and then eating some good food.” What happened on this retreat was through was miraculous. Through short 15-minute talks and then intense experiences of Jesus in prayer, “The Lord showed me an area in my heart that needed some healing.” He describes praying a meditation on Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and how Jesus invited him to experience his healing touch and the words of God the Father saying, “You are my beloved son,” as he watched himself come out of the water. “It became very apparent that God was showing me that I very often feel powerless or overwhelmed. And when I fall into this, I can see where I act out to try and take control. So Jesus came there to heal me! I don’t want to work out of this pain, wound, this defect where I am acting out of fear instead inviting him into that.” Reflecting on the graces of the retreat, he said, “I find myself praying every day, ‘I am your beloved son, and in my weakness, I rely on you who strengthen me.’ It is changing me. In the daily way that I interact with people and approach the Sacraments. Many of those pieces have been there in my life and priesthood, but this experience of personal healing is pulling those things together in a new way!”
These are just a couple of stories of people who have experienced this amazing healing that God is offering to you this weekend! This weekend amid the busyness of this season, there is a unique opportunity to pause and come experience this same healing in your life. Ana Robbins, getting more excited as she spoke, said, “If you can’t make it to the whole thing, don’t say ‘no’ because of that. If you know someone who is in great need of healing, invite them! People will be healed here. You don’t show up, and then God doesn’t show up. God will heal you in some way this weekend by simply saying yes, showing up, and letting God move.”
“Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” – Gospel of St. Matthew 11, verses 2-6.
According to Terra Sancta Retreat Center Director, Reeny Wilson, “Although we’ve closed pre-registration as we’ve sold all the meals and lodging that we can, people are more than welcome to come to listen to Dr Healy’s talks, participate in liturgies and in the healing service.” For a schedule of talks, liturgies and the healing service, go to: terrasancta.org/drhealy. Free-will donations are supporting this event.”