The Genuine Miracle

Do you think that "miracles" are only occurrences from long ago biblical times? Maybe you haven't been paying enough attention.
by Kathryn M. Cunningham, MAPS | Source:

Sometimes miracles are given to us as a blessing or a sign of faith and we simply don’t pay attention enough to recognize what has happened.  My little inner city church was assumed by the diocese a few years ago when our Benedictine pastor of 40 years finally retired.  Our 150 year old German Revival Church was communal, warm and welcoming, perfectly beautiful to the eye but its finances were in dire straits.  We were combined with a more affluent parish to our north that only had a medium sized chapel and given one pastor with the job of creating “one parish on two campuses”.  Needless to say, the transition has been less than perfect and more often or not, really rough all around. People missed the warmth of our ever present shepherd and wondered if the only reason that the combination was made was to “take over” our beautiful sanctuary.  Familiar community drifted away and faces that no one had ever seen started to appear at Mass.   Still, in the midst of the ongoing transition we arrived at winter and Advent of ’08. 

I looked at the calendar and finally heaved a sigh of relief!  One of the worst winters in memory is more than half over.  So far we had experienced every kind of winter weather disaster possible, from frostbite inducing temperatures to blizzard like conditions to 48 hour non-stop snow.  All this happening in just a few short weeks and in an ironic kind of “Chicago weather” twist, all beginning just days before Christmas. 

Christmas Eve and Day are, of course, one of the two “highest” celebrations of our Catholic Faith.  This is one of two nights of the year that community far and wide and long remembered comes together.  Christmas week was high stress because it looked like a very real possibility that getting to Mass to celebrate Jesus’ Birthday would be nigh on to impossible. And it was!  Rehearsal days early that week were almost taking your life into your hands as the negotiation of, and parking in the midst of frozen ice-mountains, blocked curbs and frozen street slush made it impossible to park or walk anywhere.  Our church is in the midst of a developing area. There is no lot and parking is literally impossible to find even on a clear day.

There was no “divine break” at the last minute.  As Christmas Eve dawned, things were just plain bad! Temperatures plunged and clearing curbs and the limited spaces was simply not physically possible.  Ministers and clergy wondered if there would be more than ten people at Mass that night.  The doors were opened, though, for one or a thousand, whoever came.  And then it happened! 

As time for the Christmas Eve liturgy drew near it was clear that Mass would be attended by at least a couple of dozen.  But that’s not where the story ends.  By the time the pre-mass carols were done and Mass was about to begin I took one last look around.  And there it was………..the genuine Christmas miracle. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  As I scanned the Church it was obvious that every pew, front to back was filled (easily 300 people).  I saw families with babies and older children.  I saw seniors and people for whom walking is not an easy task.  I saw strangers and guests. I saw old friends.  I even saw one of our parishioners who is afflicted with Parkinson’s. I saw a Church filled to brim with believers who could not miss the celebration of Jesus Birth!  This, this is what we mean when we talk about “enduring faith”, our faith.  People were going to get into that church to worship, no matter what.  It was astounding! 

Conditions had not changed or eased.  Walking was treacherous, getting past the curb onto the cleared walk ways was still impossible. The sparse parking that existed was completely blocked by the slush, frozen rock hard.  I still don’t know how all those people got into Church or where in the world they parked.  But I do know that the view of the jam packed church on that terrible night took my breath away.  It was a living testimony of faith. People determined to celebrate together.  I don’t know how they came or where they parked or how they got there, but I do know that it was a genuine miracle, right in front of my eyes!  Thank you to the determined members of our two communities, for one of the most amazing Christmas Gifts that I’ve gotten in a long time.  Haven’t seen a miracle lately?  Just pay attention and look at what’s right in front of you.    


Copyright 2009 © Kathryn M. Cunningham, all rights reserved.    

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