Faithful Not Successful

On miracles, reprise

Hours after my last post, which amounted to basically a temper tantrum about how hard and meaningless it is to pray for miracles, we were granted a miracle. Not THE miracle. But a miracle nonetheless.

Todd received a call to inform him that Oscar has been invited on an all-expenses-paid, medically supported pilgrimage to Lourdes, a site known worldwide as a place of healing.

Oh. And his godparents are already planning to be there the same weekend.

You can’t make this stuff up. And again, I am forced to ask myself: what are we really praying for here? What is going on when I pray? Who do you say that I am? I pray for our son to be healed. And God seems to be dancing around that question, leading me forward toward clarity (or at least less confusion). Answering our hopes and fears in unexpected and confusing but unabashedly beautiful ways.

Do I believe Oscar will come out of St. Bernadette’s spring and begin toddling and babbling like a typical 18 month old? No. Still no. I wish I could believe that. Brutal no-holds-barred honesty here, folks. (O me of little faith.)

But how can I deny the graces already falling from the sky?


I learned about the Order of Malta and their annual Lourdes pilgrimage last summer, on another blog written by the mother of a child who had devastating epilepsy. I sent email after email to every address I could find that was associated with the Order. For months, I got no reply. And even if I had, we might not have qualified to go, with Oscar still seizing on a daily basis and no relief or explanation seemingly within our reach.

During Oscar’s last hospital stay in November, I made one more attempt. And during that hospital stay, we learned that his (sixth!) medication was working, that his seizures were controlled, that he was, for the first time in months, medically stable.

Within a week, I had a reply from someone within the Order. Within another two weeks, a total stranger, a Knight within the Order, came to our house to meet us and offered to sponsor his application. We submitted Oscar’s paperwork with days to spare before the selection committee began their deliberations.

This past Monday, I spoke at length with a neurologist on the selection committee who wanted to know more about Oscar’s condition. Our conversation was wide-ranging: how stable Oscar has been over the last few months, the central role of faith in our family, how not visiting Lourdes on pilgrimage with my grandmother in 2001 (before I reverted to Catholicism) was one of the biggest regrets of my life. By the end of the conversation, he was speaking about Oscar and Lourdes in future tense: when not if, will not might. But he cautioned me: while he would put in a strong word on our behalf, the committee would not finalize the list for nearly a month more and had many applicants to consider.

The next day, Jan 31, I asked our family and “godfamilies” to join us in a novena (9-day prayer) to Our Lady of Lourdes, asking for her help so that Oscar’s application might be successful. The novena is traditionally prayed beginning Feb 2.

The next day, Feb 1, I threw a public pity party about miracles, and mere moments later, God handed us one on a silver platter. 

A joyful yes, in two days flat. Not the month we were told to wait, or even two weeks. A yes on the very cusp of the novena to Our Lady of Lourdes herself.

We begin our novena today, Feb 2, but we are praying in thanksgiving and joy instead of in supplication. God is listening. I am humbled by the way he has moved throughout this process, always opening a door just when I am most certain there is no point in continuing to hope.

(He does this a lot, but it’s rarely the door I am standing in front of, knocking on loudly.)

I have a feeling this pilgrimage will be as much, or more, about my spiritual healing as Oscar’s physical healing. To be standing on a place where Mary herself stood before a little girl — Mary, who watched her own son suffer rejection, torture, and execution. To carry my own son and my own suffering before her, and place it all in her arms, almost literally. To know that she will carry it directly before the throne of God on our behalf.

It’s almost too much grace to bear.

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