Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reflections on a Service of Prayer

Dear Parish Faithful,

What a powerful Service of Prayer for the Sick we had on Monday evening on behalf of Elias Wendland, culminating in his anointing with the fragrant myrrh from a weeping icon of the Theotokos! The church was filled with nearly a hundred souls, the vast majority from among our parish faithful, all fervently praying with one mouth and heart for little Elias, whose innocent suffering has profoundly moved us all. As the Apostle Paul wrote: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (GAL. 6:2); and "If one member suffers, all suffer together." (I COR. 12:26) I was also very glad to see that some of our children were able to come. Being made aware of sadness and sorrow can be a spiritually healthy and character-building experience for their young hearts, as it exposes them to some of the harsher realities of life. Of adults and children, then, who there did not experience the full meaning of the intercessory prayers that we offered up to God:

O Physician of souls and bodies, with compunction and broken in heart we fall down before Thee, and with groaning we cry unto Thee ...

As Thou didst accept the tears of Hezekiah ... do Thou also accept our petitions which we bear unto Thee with compunction, O All-good King ...

We did what God gave us the means to do - assemble, pray and anoint. Now we place everything in His hands, as our Lord did when hanging upon the Cross. Why it takes a tragedy to bring us to church and there incline us toward concentrated, undistracted and intense prayer will always remain something of a mystery that we can only further beg God to forgive us for. Be that as it may, it was a wonderful manifestation of support for the entire Wendland family, beginning with Steve and Emma, whose anguish as a father and mother is heartbreaking, but whose strength of faith and character is so encouraging. God has providentially placed them in our parish - and thus in our care - during this time of personal and familial tragedy. Absorbing our love and concern will strenghten them further in the days to come.

Fr. Joseph Gibson from the parish of St. John the Forerunner in Indianapolis was also serving with me on Monday evening. He knows both Steve and Emma from many years back. Over the course of the last two Sundays, his parish raised the remarkable sum of $5,000 for the Wendlands. Since our parish is larger and since this is the Wendlands' home parish, I am fully confident that we will not only match but surpass that total. All we have to do is stay focused on our goal of a $50 - $100 donation from everyone in the parish and we will reach that goal. The key is as full of parish participation as possible. It would be wonderful if we can complete our collection before Christmas. I am in dialogue with Fr. Joseph, and we will more-or-less combine our raised funds and work together with the Wendlands to find the most appropriate and effective way to use this money.

In Christ,

Fr. Steven

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