Sunday afternoon, Sarah and I went to a prayer service at the Maria Stein Relic Chapel. I have to tell you honestly that I don't think I had ever been in the chapel before. I've been in the gift shop numerous times, but never the chapel. (For those of you who are not local, Maria Stein is our little "gift" with a religious relic shrine (relics are pieces of a holy person's body saved for reverence) among other things: a retreat center, beautiful grounds, you name it.)
The chapel is beautiful. Small, but beautiful. We were only a little early (maybe 10 minutes) and chairs were few and far between. At first we were going to stand against the back wall, but then we were encouraged to sit in some chairs on the "altar" -- I made sure we weren't in charge of singing or anything if we did that :). So, up we went. There were probably only about 20 people on the altar, and 150 or so in the congregation part. We had the perfect view of the entire prayer service.
Immediately, I noticed our friends Joe and Linda Lochtefeld, sitting out there. I thought that it was nice that they were there, too, as I didn't recognize many faces.
The prayer service was to honor and pray to St. Peregrine, the Patron Saint of cancer. So, obviously, the topic of discussion and prayer was cancer, and dealing with the spiritual and emotional aspects of it. I went to pray specifically for some friends who have been battling cancer, but truly was not prepared for the experience I was about to have.
We started with prayer. After that, Sister mentioned that there would be a few personal testimonies of people who had survived cancer and how they wove prayer into their lives during that time. Imagine my surprise when Joe and Linda got up to speak!
Linda has a beautiful testimony of how prayer got her through undoubtedly the toughest time in her life. I wouldn't dare try to recreate her story -- but I just have to tell you she is a woman of very strong faith that took a time in her life that could have torn down her faith and made it her own -- and grew stronger for it. Although they didn't say this, I would imagine it also helped her relationship with Joe and their son Lee grow stronger as well.
They were followed by a couple from Sidney who shared their personal stories of cancer and how it has affected their entire family -- first their son, then the wife, and then finally the husband -- twice. And through it all they have realized that the power of prayer -- and the power of their faith -- is what they need to see them through.
Following the testimonies, people were given a choice as to what they wanted to do next -- there were candles to light in memory or in honor of someone with cancer, there were pieces of paper to write individual's names on that need prayers for cancer, and there was the relic of St. Peregrine that people could pray with. I was, undoubtedly, the most touched watching people pray to St. Peregrine. Really, this is where our choice in seats was interesting. We got to see each and every person's face as they came through, and how they prayed. Some picked up the relic (it's in a casing) and simply prayed with it; some touched items to it; some kissed it; and some just simply cried with it. Sarah and I found ourselves quickly crying right along with each person. It was so moving. As people would come forward -- most of them I didn't know -- I would pray for God to help them through whatever they were there for. It was so powerful!
At the closing, we had a few more prayers -- and then we chatted with folks for a while -- which is when we heard the stories. The one that touched me the most was the story of the young girl who, on Independence Day, randomly fell off her bike -- and when they took her to the hospital to figure out what was wrong, was diagnosed with brain cancer. She's 10 years old. The same age as our twins. Boy, did that hit home.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the beautiful music throughout the afternoon. When we sat, I thought that the people picked out the perfect cd to play while we were gathering and praying. Then Sarah pointed out to me that it wasn't a cd -- it was live -- piano and a flute -- played by none other than my friend Amy Noykos and her daughter Ashlee Carder. I wish I had the ability to sign them to a contract. They should really make a cd -- people would buy it. Awesome!
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all who are dealing with cancer right now -- in any way shape or form. We can't seem to pare down our list of people we are praying for -- it seems someone goes into remission and then we find out someone else has it. I wish I understood God's reasoning for that a little more. Until I do, I will continue to pray.
St. Peregrine, pray for us.