In the spirit of the season, I have a book on order about 100 Catholics saints who raised the dead.
I know. It is really out there. Jesus rising from the dead - OK. Even the idea of saints doing it spooks us a bit. And as for just plain Christians experiencing God raising the dead? Yeah, right.
It came as a surprise to me to discover that it has always been a rare but real part of the Christian experience. The ultimate experience of resurrection life.
My first real life exposure was years ago when I was doing gifts interviews in Washington DC and a woman came in who had had an extraordinary healing ministry for 30 years. When I asked her to tell me a story, she told me about praying for a man who rose from the dead. We hear hundreds of amazing and inspiring stories in the Called & Gifted process but this was one of those jaw-dropping moments. I tried to appear calm and pretend that I had heard stories like this before although I was inwardly skeptical. Darn. She really wanted to talk about other things so I never did hear exactly what happened.
(I had a similar experience not too long ago when I finally heard someone tell of having an experience of bi-location. As she pointed out, I do joke in workshops about my desire to hear bi-location stories, but I never expected anyone to take me up on it. 65,000+ have gone through the Called & Gifted process and I finally stumbled across someone who seems to have experienced bi-location. That percentage seems about right.)
And then there was the time in Rome, when Fr. Michael Sweeney and I and our OP host were standing jammed upright in a Roman bus famous for its crowds and its pick-pockets. I had my purse firmly clapsed under my arm and my arms rigidly down at my side when our guide casually nodded his head toward a church that we were passing and said "Oh, and that's where St. Dominic raised the boy from the dead." "Wait!" I squealed inwardly asI desperately tried to turn my wedged body so that I could see what he was referring to but we had passed the spot by before I managed to extract myself.
Another tantalizing almost-brush with resurrection.
Bl Jordan of Saxony, who followed St. Dominic as Master of the Order, wrote a very sober account of the miracle which was witnessed by a number of intelligent Dominicans.
"It happened that, once while he was in Rome, a young man, related to the Lord Cardinal Stephen of Fossa Nuova, was riding recklessly down a steep hill and thrown from his horse. While he was being carried away, it was hard to tell whether he was still alive or dead. As the crowd which had gathered was displaying its grief with wails and lamentations, Master Dominic happened along with Brother Tancred, a good, fervant man and one prior in Rome; in fact, it was he who told me of this incident. Brother Tancred said to him, "Why do you hesitate? Why don't you call on the Lord? Where is your pity for your neighbor, your confidence in God?"
Stirred by these words and inflamed by the fire of his own ardent compassion, he ordered that the young man be brought to a nearby house. There he restored him to life by his prayers and personally led him out of the house in the sight of those who had gathered."
He had expired. That is what I heard from his parents, who lived in the Roman Campagna.)
Wow. A Dominican whose instinctive response to a fatal injury was "Why do you hesitate to pray for life? Where is your pity for your neighbor, your confidence in God?"
Suddenly, it doesn't all seem so freaky.
And then I started to hear confirmed stories from sober people that Christians were starting to see people raised from the dead in significant numbers around the world.
And then I heard about Heidi and Rolland Baker, missionaries to Mozambique. Watch this short 2008 CBN interview with Heidi about the extraordinary things that she and her co-workers are seeing in northern Mozambique. Mother of over 7,000 abandoned and impoverished children, faced daily with a level of suffering and chaos that is almost indescribable, Heidi puts it bluntly "If God does not show up, we're dead."
And she talks very simply about how hard it is for western Christians to be open to the miraculous. To be desperate enough, hungry enough, humble enough to pursue God instead of depending upon our own considerable resources.
It was said of St. Dominic that he spent his days talking to people about God and his nights talking with God about people. It was his passionate longing for and pursuit of God that made it seem perfectly sane to his closest companions that he could and should pray for God to raise a young man who had died in a tragic accident.
But the question that haunts me is am I that open to God's manifest presence as St. Dominic and his early companions or as Heidi Baker is? Or am I just fine doing the conventional, educated, middle class western thing: depending entirely on my own resources? What more would God give the world through his Church if we were that desperate, that humble, that open?
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