Miracles Along the Way!
I could never have known how invaluable my new Lenten prayer would become, when I began the daily devotion on Ash Wednesday, two weeks before we went into Covid lockdown in 2020. I prayed a litany to the Holy Trinity as well as words from the Diary of St. Faustina, of Jesus to her and her words to Him. These two reflections, with livestream Mass daily, saved my life emotionally & spiritually, during that time.
Awoken by the Holy Spirit, I was excited to jump out of bed each morning and spend precious time with God in this newfound way, which continues today, far beyond my 40 day devotion.
The growth in my life of piety was preparing me for the greatest challenge of my life… which was, being diagnosed that December, with grade three endometrial cancer, requiring surgery as well as chemo & radiation therapies.
Shortly after my doctor gave me the cancer news on the phone, I heard God say that this was my greatest call to apostolic action. With that, I immediately felt His grace wash over me. There was no fear. Instead, there was the certainty that I would be given everything I needed, to do His will. ‘Oh!’ He also told me to start a blog, which I was clueless about. But with the help of my hubby Larry, my blog has been active for a year now. It has allowed me to share my truth through this journey with cancer. God plays a central part in the truth that I share, and I know that many who follow along, are hearing me speak about God in a way that does not happen one on one. As with most families, those that are the ‘far away’ do not welcome hearing about our love for God, or that ‘God loves them!’ I trust that God is speaking to their hearts through what they see and hear from me.
Because of cancer, I’ve also been given one of the most wonderful gifts in my life. The day before surgery in March, the lovely Dominican Sisters from our parish gave me a journal that has since, become such a vital part of my daily life. Over the years, I’ve received journals as gifts from friends & family. Maybe some of you can relate! Most remain blank, except for the ‘Dear Catherine’ greeting on the inside cover. A couple of them have was “Wonderful!” wo or three pages that I wrote on, and the rest remain empty.
This journal, has opened wide the door to Lexio Divina (Divine Reading, Meditation and Prayer). Along with the Sisters’ prayers for me, there is direction with this journal that has helped me be faithful daily. There are four headings, beginning with “TODAY’S WORD”, which I take from the day’s Mass readings, Gloria & Antiphons. That has grown from writing down three or four verses, up to eight that speak to me, without at first, knowing why. The next part of the journal is “LORD TEACH ME TO…” which really makes the Word come alive, while I respond to each verse as I review them.
Surprisingly, what I have found in reading through past entries, is that they were not written from what I would expect from my intellect or creative thinking. I know for absolutely certain, that it is God’s Grace that directs my pen on paper. Beyond focusing on one word or verse, as before, during Lexio Divina, I am deeply nourished by a banquet of readings.
Here are a few examples, that have been gifted to me by the Holy Spirit, from the Living Word that is Jesus. “Lord, teach me to… dismiss speculation, seek Your Will and not present my will, for You to act on.”
“Lord, teach me to have confidence in my good & true thoughts, prayers & encounters with You.” That did not come from me alone!
On the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows: “Lord, teach me to commit my spirit into your hands and the same for my loved ones, and consecrate my sons to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” I really don’t think that the ‘old me’ would have responded in this way.
To the words of Psalm 116:10 “I kept faith even when I said, ‘I am greatly afflicted!’” I wrote: “Lord, teach me to know that You accept my faith, no matter how weak it is. Please nurture & strengthen it to bear great fruit.” Then the very next day, God beautifully responded to me with: Luke 17: “Your faith has made you well!” God’s reassurance came at I time of deep struggle. It lifted me, right up and put, not only peace, but also joy in my heart.
The other headings in my journal are “I AM GRATEFUL FOR…” and “LORD HEAR MY PRAYER”
It wasn’t long before many of my expressions of gratitude and prayer were directly inspired also, by “Today’s Word”. Not only relating to myself, but especially to my loved ones & others. That includes you as well.
Here are examples that the Holy Spirit surprised me with, as I looked back:
“Lord, I am grateful for You never letting me struggle by my own understanding. Help me realize the gift of Your Spirit alive in me, leading me through each dark valley.”
Through bouts of burning anxiety over nagging concerns for an estranged loved one, I continue to “Thank and praise God for the peace that He is returning to my heart.” when there is little sign at that time, of peace giving my heart and mind a break.
And even though I may not see any signs of conversion in my loved ones, “I am grateful Lord, for the good work You are doing in setting good and holy people in their paths, reaching their hearts for You.”
I am very aware of my need to constantly pray, to be more of an open vessel, accepting the grace… to resist all obstacles to grace. I so appreciate this prayer of St. Jean Vianney “Lord, expand my capacity to receive your grace.”
Larry & I have received an overabundance of grace, which has carried us with so much peace, through the surgery and the six months of therapies which included 9 weeks of chemo, 25 radiation treatments over 5 weeks, then another 9 weeks of chemo. I was cared for with great love and dignity by every health care professional, and actually looked forward to going to the hospital. each time.
I’d like to close, by sharing a very supernatural and extraordinary experience: (so buckle up)
With each radiation treatment, I silently prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet for the radiation ‘team’, all patients they would treat that day, and for my healing. I had about 10 treatments to go, when the Mass reading of the day, was from the book of Tobit. So, I had St. Raphael the Archangel on my mind when we left home.
As I was lying, waiting for the ‘big machine’ to revolve around me, I said “Hey St. Raphael, you wanna pray with me!” He replied “Are you kidding? I’m on the job 24/7. You’re praying with me!” (We both were quite cheeky!) The next day, he said, (mimicking the way I spoke to him the day before): “Hey Catherine, you wanna pray with me?” (OK, we got the sillies out of the way.) For the rest of the treatments, without any words, St. Raphael stood behind me, silently praying and enfolding me in his wings to filter the radiation from damaging healthy cells, and only allowing for cancer cells to be destroyed. On one of these quiet encounters, he bent down and kissed me on the forehead. It was overwhelmingly wonderful. I began to sob! I felt the kiss of God!
When the radiologists returned, I shared my beautiful experience with them. Their joy for me was so genuine. The Word of God was so alive in that experience. (Psalm 91:11) “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways.” St. Raphael has been part of my daily prayer since then.
By the way, the response of my oncologist was “Wonderful!” at the result of my CT scan, after treatments. No sign of damage from radiation.
I leave you with a gift that I pray every day:
These words of Jesus to you and me, through St. Faustina.
“When a soul approaches Me with trust,
I fill it with such an abundance of Graces,
that it cannot contain them within itself,
but radiates them to other souls.” (1074)
God bless you with His merciful and abundant grace in your own life’s journey of challenges!