Thoughts of this story (that I originally posted a year and a half ago) came into my mind tonight. So I thought that I would post it again.
I was cleaning my bookshelves the other day and I came across a book that I hadn’t seen in many many years. It is the Prayer Book of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy.
Let me tell you how this little 80-page book blessed my life.
It was back in late 1995 that I worked as a pastoral assistant to a Catholic Pastor in Massachusetts. He was a great priest and a great friend. However, he was also great at volunteering me for projects! (I will admit that I really didn’t mind at all) We travelled to Boston one afternoon to visit with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. What an amazing ministry they have. While taking a tour of their chapel, we noticed that their prayer books were a torn and tattered mess. They were really just file folders filled with photocopied papers. This is where my services were volunteered. Would I mind putting together a prayer book for the nuns? How do you say no to a priest and some nuns? I was raised Catholic… trust me… you don’t say no :) Actually I was honored to be able to support this tiny congregation in any way that I could.
And so I began working on the prayer book.
It was December 25th, that things in my extended family went nuts. On that day in December, my sister in law collapsed into seizures and was rushed by ambulance to our local hospital and from there, she was airlifted to the Medical Center. Scans confirmed a massive brain tumor. Not a single sign or symptom… but suddenly she was in surgery. The prognosis, grim. She went from a young vibrant wife and mother of 2, a recent college graduate in finance to… totally helpless, unable to do most anything for herself… with perhaps 6 months to live. Things took a dramatic turn that day. My brother had 2 young children at that time. They, along with his businesses, need to be looked after. I did what I could to support him in whatever I could do.
Flash forward a month to SuperBowl Sunday in January 1996. We got word that my 16 year old neice from my husband side of the family had run away and her sister didn’t know where she was. It wasn’t until February 7, that we learned the truth about what had happened to our neice. We got word that she had been murdered and her sister and the sisters boyfriend had been arrested for the crime. Talk about your world turning upside down!!! I won’t go into all of the gory details. There is no need for that now. Suffice to say that “gory” is a complete understatement. I still have nightmares from time to time about what I saw and heard about that murder.
But during this entire time I was still under a schedule to get the Nun’s prayer book completed. Thank you Fr. R! So here I was running here and there. Working at the church now part time mornings, leaving there to help my brother where I could and help him take care of business. And now I was making trips into Boston for the court cases and visiting my neice in prison every week. Trying to figure out how I was going to help my in-laws make sense of all of this. While still trying to maintain my marriage and my home.
It wasn’t until very late most evenings, I would be typing away on that prayer book. Getting as much done as I could. Sometimes in the very early morning hours, I would print out portions, make myself a cup of tea and proofread what I had transcribed. I would do more edits and proofread it again. Finally in late February I completed the prayer book and was able to deliver it to the Mother Superior for a final proofing. By March it was at the printers. I have to say that some nights, I did have “cuss-thoughts” about Fr. R for volunteering me.
It took me quite some months before I realized what a blessing that prayer book project had been. God knew that somehow He needed to keep me grounded with the torrent of horrendous stuff that was headed my way. What I didn’t realize… was that during the months that I helped to care for my sister in law and the family on my side… and during the months that I dealt with the murder of our neice on my in-laws side and the fallout from that… that God had me praying every night. It was the hours of proofreading all those 80 pages of prayers that got me through all of it.
I still have that little 80 page prayer book. What a blessing it was at that time. God does work in amazing ways. Even in the most hideous of circumstances His light can still shine through. Thank you God for the strength you gave me all those years back… and thank you for reminding me today that you still are watching over me.