When I was a child, a storybook about Lourdes led me into a deep fascination with miracles. Waters that spontaneously healed young and old from all sorts of ailments seemed to be something that belonged in a work of fiction — but these waters truly existed. As I grew older, the world washed over me with its tugging tide of doubt and disbelief. Our society moves ever toward reliance upon our own knowledge and wisdom and away from anything that seems inexplicable by human means. Miraculous occurrences — such as those at Lourdes — invite all sorts of skepticism and criticism. The devil seems to wield scientific advancement as a powerful weapon, banishing belief in a God capable of miracles.
In Isaiah, though, we read quite clearly that we are incapable of explaining the acts of the Lord: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [His] ways higher than [our] ways” (Is 55:9). Some things simply are beyond our understanding and, only in humility, can we accept that. Only when we recognize our littleness can we truly acknowledge his magnificence.
This past summer, humbled by the miracle growing within my womb, I found myself once again reflecting on the wonders of the Lord. With more than a tinge of sadness and guilt, I saw that I had become more like the doubting Nazarenes for whom Christ “did not work many mighty deeds there because of their lack of faith” and less like the Canaanite woman whose daughter Christ healed because of her great faith (Mt 13:58). My prayer became “I do believe, help my unbelief” raised with the urgency of the possessed boy’s father in the Gospel of Mark (9:24).
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Never does the Lord let such a plea go unanswered. He brought me to the Miracle of the Sun, the Shroud of Turin, the tilma of Juan Diego, and the flesh and blood of Lanciano. These spectacular occurrences have not only been confirmed by the Church, but also by secular scientists. Aside from these, my eyes were also opened to smaller miracles that unfold before our very eyes each and every day — the rising and setting of the sun, the way in which the seasons change subtly but surely, and the capacity of the female body to shelter another soul. With his grace, I began to possess eyes that saw his miracles, a mind that believed in them and a heart that sought them.
Amid these interior changes, I became very ill and found myself in the hospital twice within a few short weeks. Infection had raged through my body time and again throughout the pregnancy, and that, along with many rounds of strong antibiotics, had finally taken its toll. One night, while suffering perhaps the greatest physical agony I had ever experienced, my husband and I prayed, pleading with God to take it all away and bring health and peace to the final few months of the pregnancy. We both felt drawn to an image of his Divine Mercy and continued to pray, “Jesus, I trust in you.”
The following week, we sat in the office of a specialist doctor who regretfully told me of the extreme measures that needed to be taken to preserve my health and that of the child in my womb. As she spoke, it occurred to me to ask her to read over my latest test results — just to see if, perhaps, the infection had left my body. She left the room to retrieve the results, and my husband smiled at me — a smile of the greatest peace and trust. We already knew what the doctor would say when she returned. “Your labs came back completely clear,” she told me, astonished. On the drive home, my husband and I noticed a billboard that we had never seen before. Smiling down upon us was the image of his Divine Mercy.
Naturally, I battled doubt. Had my body truly been healed of the infection? Could it not be attributed to a simple medical explanation? As I wrestled with these thoughts, I realized that skepticism regarding miracles pointed to disbelief in a God who is all powerful and Lord of all creation. A distressing thought struck me: If I could not believe that he is a God capable of moving mountains, walking on water and healing the lame — yes, even today! — how could I believe that he comes to us in the form of bread and wine?
The Eucharist is the greatest miracle known to man, yet it seems that we hardly recognize it as such. Yes, we read that our God turned water into wine at Cana. But do we gaze upon the raised host during the consecration and know that we are witnessing the miraculous transformation of bread and wine into his own body and blood? Do we receive and allow our hearts to be changed into ones that trust that our God is a god who can do all things?
“Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief.” This prayer came to me again and again as I pondered my healing. And, little by little, he did chip away at my stony heart until it finally became one that blazed with a spirit of trust in his grandeur. He ignited within me a confidence that he is a God who heals, who comes in the form of bread and wine and who, indeed, can do all things.
As Catholic Christians, it is our duty to know, share and rejoice in this good news. We cannot — as I too often have — cower in the shadows of disbelief. We are called to seek out and, from the rooftops, proclaim his mighty works. He, the king of the world, does wondrous deeds, and if we live every day with that knowledge, our lives will be filled with greater peace, hope and joy.