While recently out of town visiting family in Charlotte, NC, I attended Sunday Mass at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (If you ever visit the area, you will enjoy the intentional liturgy and spiritual atmosphere of this parish.) To my delight, Fr. Chris Alar of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception in Stockbridge, MA, was visiting St. Patrick’s that morning. He celebrated Mass and gave the homily. I expected a good homily, because I’ve heard him speak before. But I was blown away by the story he told.
While in another country, he had celebrated Mass in a church of pilgrimage for thousands of people from many different countries, who spoke many different languages. After Mass, he exited the church into the large courtyard, and he was going to turn left toward the Blessed Sacrament, but something was drawing him to go to the right. As he walked that way, he suddenly saw a woman standing apart from the crowds of people, and she was sobbing.
He had no idea if she spoke English, but he approached her and asked if she was okay. “No,” she said. “No one loves me; God doesn’t love me.” And then she told him of her plans to take her own life.
Fr. Alar told her that he had actually just finished writing a book on suicide, and he spoke confidently to her of God’s passionate love for her. “The mere fact that you exist,” he said, “is proof that God loves you.”
After they had talked for a few minutes, Fr. Alar asked her where she was from. She said she was Ukrainian. He told that he was impressed by how beautifully she spoke English. She just stared at him. “Father,” she said, “I don’t speak English. I’m speaking Ukrainian.”
The whole time they spoke she was hearing Ukrainian, and he was hearing English.
Miracles like this actually happen all of the time. We just have to be open to witnessing them. What is so powerful about this story is that God, out of his deep love for this woman and compassion for her suffering, made an extravagant gesture to make the message of hope — ultimately of His undying love for her — real to her soul. He brought her into contact with the person that had the message that she needed. Fr. Alar was designed to be a beacon of hope for that specific person at that specific moment in time, and I’m sure that at many other moments of his life he has been the divinely appointed beacon of hope for many other individuals.
Fr. Alar’s story, and the main point of his homily, left me with one clear message — we are all designed by God to be messengers of hope daily to specific people. We may not always know who they are or even realize that we have come into contact with them; so often God means for us to spread His message of hope through our actions rather than our direct statements. Yet sometimes He gives us words at the right time, intended for one of His dear children who need them.
We are to be His messengers of hope every day; and if we don’t do it, if we don’t respond to His nudge in the daily moments of our lives, then who will? Who will reach the people who are living without hope? If only we can accept that God intends for each of us to deliver His message of hope to particular people every single day. If we live as ready messengers, imagine how many people might be rescued from despair and encouraged to live in the light of God’s love for them.
Copyright 2019 Jessica Ptomey