When my husband and I were in Montreal a few years ago we visit Saint Joseph’s Oratory, a beautiful grounds with gardens, a chapel with walls covered with crutches, and a large staircase leading to a the basilica. It is the largest church in Canada, receiving over 2 million visitors a year. It was built at the undertaking of a porter at Notre Dame College in Cote-des-Neiges, Quebec named Brother Andre, who was revered as a healer during his lifetime.
Brother Andre took no credit for healing, but always recommended the sick pray to St. Joseph. In 1904 he began a campaign to erect a chapel to honor the saint.When he died in 1937, a million people filed past his coffin. The Oratory is regarded as a place of healing today and both Catholic and Protestant pilgrims come today to pray their way up the 100 steps.
There is a tradition that the center section the steps is reserved for those praying for healing. The outer sections are for those wishing to go up and down more quickly. For me, on that sunny June day, it was going to take time. I couldn’t walk up the steps. I had to skooch up on my rear end. At each step I prayed to God to cure me – of the diseases that kept me from walking, and robbed me of my energy and made it impossible for me to be out in the heat (dear hubby lent me his cap to protect me from the sun that came out of the overcast that day). And if it weren’t God’s will to cure me that day, I prayed that I accept my condition with grace and humor because I would need them both. In either case I vowed to continue my ministry as long as God would empower me. That was my promise to God.
It took several hours to skooch up 100 steps. My dear husband stuck by me each step of the way, making sure I was all right. When I got near to the top, he went to get my wheelchair, which had not been able to make the ascent with me. Several people had climbed before or after me, and kept an eye on me. They were all sure I would be cured because I had stuck it out. Surely my dedication would be rewarded, they said. I wasn’t sure that was how it worked. When I finally got to the top, it started to rain – hard. I didn’t know whether to take that as a good sign or not, but then I’m not one to read signs. I only knew it didn’t matter. I was at peace with God whichever way it went.
If I were cured – wonderful! I love to dance, and walk, and hike, and play tennis, and ride bikes, and I would love to have more time to do those things. If not, that’s all right too. I’ve been blessed with the technological tools to get around in my world. Yes, I wish I weren’t so tired, and I wish I weren’t i pain, but I’ve learned to live with that most of the time. The important thing is God and I have a deal and we understand each other. I will work for God, and God has already healed me. Healed doesn’t mean being cured; healed means being at peace with my condition, and I am. With reasonable medical care, and I am beginning to find some, I can function. And with God’s protective armor, and guiding light, my way is marked clearly before me.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Pslam 91:4
Dear Healing God, We pray that you will help each of us to find our path with you, and to know that you are with us each step of the way, whether we are treading that step on foot or on fanny. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.