On the receiving end of a night of prayer


My last article describes 1998 as one of the most stress-filled years of my life. I wrote then of the difficulty of coping with the effects of El Niño.

Before the year ended, a routine medical check-up produced more stress as I discovered the presence of cancer in my prostate. I felt and still feel fine, but tests revealed cancer. The various treatment options have their positive and negative effects. I was told: “If you want to live to be 85, take out the prostate.”

However, my particular medical condition would leave me with a good possibility of being incontinent. That would make it almost impossible to continue to work here as half of our parish is in the mountains with difficult roads and conditions.

I’m now 65 and would like to continue working here at least another five years. I was also told: “Radiation treatment will give you a 70 percent chance of living until you’re 75.”

But it would leave only a small chance of being left incontinent. It would also most likely give me five more productive years working here. I chose the radiation scheduled for this summer after my sister’s golden anniversary celebration as a sister.

Roman’s 8:28 is my favorite text of the entire Bible: “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love him.” I believe “all things” includes cancer, crucifixion, etc. The God of the paschal mystery is ever at work making all crosses work together for the good of those who love him.

So in trying to love the Lord I asked myself: “Well, how is God going to draw good out of something as bad and destructive as cancer?”

I didn’t have to wait long to see part of the answer.

The parishioners here — aware of the problem — arranged an evening Mass in the parish concelebrated by the bishop and most of the priests in this northern area. All of the sisters in the north were here to help fill the church.

After the Mass, the people spent the entire night in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar. They spent 12 hours praying for me and my health.

I spent the same night at Mass and in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar of Blessed Sacrament Church in Charleston where they have perpetual adoration.

All through the night I watched the men coming in punctually on the hour to spend at least an hour in prayer.

I became aware that my parishioners in Peru were kneeling before the very same eucharistic Lord as I was. The thousands of miles separating us disappeared as we became “one in Christ.”

On returning here, I told the people that despite the physical separation I’ve never felt closer to them — more one with them — than during that night of prayer.

God took advantage of cancer to unite a community together in a whole night of prayer. God made something as horrible as cancer work for my welfare and also for the welfare of that whole church filled with praying people.

What will result from that night of prayer?

Certainly prayer has a shotgun effect. It hits more than we’re aiming at. It did more than help my health. St. Paul speaks of the God who “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3:20)

The only one who knows the results of that night of prayer is God. But I look around me here and I see another young woman and five more young men leaving this week to enter the convent or seminary. We now have two parishioners who have recently become a priest and a nun and another 11 parishioners pursuing a priestly or religious vocation. One is working up in the Andes Mountains as a lay missionary.

Last weekend, I watched a hundred teen-agers take part in a very powerful Jupaz retreat in the mountains. I watched their beautiful tearful encounter with their parents. Another such mountain retreat is scheduled for next month. Four hundred men and women are about to take part in two John XXIII retreats here in our parish. I believe there will be as always many deep conversions and family reconciliations. People who were estranged will come together in love and forgiveness.

What part did that night of prayer have in all this new life springing up? Only God knows the answer. But I believe it’s all part of God’s plan to make “all things work together for the good of those who love him.”

Our task is to keep loving the Lord with our whole heart. God’s task is to make all the elements of our lives work together for our good.

He does that in so many wonderful and mysterious ways. Just before leaving in November for vacation in the United States, a young parishioner who has entered the seminary came to see me. He was very excited.

His mother had stomach cancer and had traveled about 12 hours to the large city of Trujillo. She was admitted into a hospital for surgery.

But, just before the operation, she refused it. She came back to our parish in pain, apparently to die. She received the Sacrament of the Sick and various groups in the parish prayed over her — really soaking her in lots of prayer. I believe the Lord usually heals through human instruments, but sometimes he does it directly.

Her son’s name is “Angel,” and he came in like an angel with a big smile announcing the “good news” that his mother felt great and the doctors could find no trace of cancer. I talked to him today, and she continues to be in great shape.

Our God is so much greater and wiser than our little minds can comprehend. Serving him is a joy and loving him is a guarantee that everything in our lives — no exceptions — is being used by the Lord for our advantage.

To contribute materially to this mission, checks may be made out to the St. James Society and sent to: Msgr. Robert Kelly — Missions; P.O. Box 1257; Folly Beach, SC 29439.

The Society of St. James will forward the checks through their banking account in Peru, thus avoiding the Peruvian Post Office. Only one thank-you acknowledgment will be sent and it will come directly from Zorritos.