It was just another winter day as I made my way to St. Bernard for the 12:10PM Mass. St Bernard’s is a beautiful, large church in the middle of downtown and during the week caters to the downtown workers as well as students from the nearby University of Akron.
I don’t know about you, but when I go to daily mass, I have my own seat. You might have your regular seat too. It’s always there, the same seat in the same row on the same side of the church. It’s kind of a comfort to know that I have my seat. But not today!
As I walked into mass I noticed someone in my seat! This church must have a thousand seats, why did this person sit in MINE.
Walking down the aisle I could see a young woman with a book bag. I was certain this was a probably a student praying for a good grade on a test that she really didn’t study for! As I entered the pew, I noticed that the woman was older, perhaps in her early 30’s. A little disgusted, I settled in my new seat at the far end of the row as mass began.
Immediately, I noticed that she was new to this church thing. As the opening hymn was sung she didn’t have a songbook. So, being a good Christian, I handed her mine. She smiled a thank you and moved closer to me in the row so that we could both see and share the hymnal. As she did, I realized that this wasn’t a college student, but a young homeless woman.
As mass came to an end, we again shared the hymnal, and as I moved from the pew to leave, she stopped me and asked, “Can I tell you something?” “OK”, I replied.
“I’m homeless and I have an appointment at the courthouse. I have to pay a fine of 28 dollars but I was only able to get the money for bus fare downtown. I walked here from the bus station. Since I had time before my appointment with the court, I thought I would come into this church to pray for a miracle.”
“Do you see that grey haired woman in the first pew? She saw me crying and came over to me and asked if she could help. I told her my situation and she took out her checkbook and wrote a check to the court for 28 dollars. She told me when the court sees her name on the check that they will accept it.” She flashed the check proudly for me to see her miracle and I couldn’t help but notice that the elderly woman’s name started with JUDGE!
I told her I was excited that she got her miracle and after a God bless you, and have a great day, she stopped me again. “Sir”, she said. “I am hungry and haven’t eaten in almost three days. Normally, I would have given her money for lunch, but this happened to be one of those days when I didn’t have any cash with me. I said, “Walk with me. The University has a café down one block and I’ll see if they have an ATM or take credit cards and I’ll get you something to eat.” As we opened the door to the café, I noticed an ATM and it was my bank. I quickly went to the machine and got her enough cash for the day. As I went back to the doorway where she was standing, I noticed that she had only five minutes before her appointment. I gave her the money and quickly walked her back up the hill to the courthouse. As we walked, I could tell that she was crying. When we reached the courthouse she gave me the biggest hug and thanked me between the tears.
She sobbed, “I walked into a church for the FIRST time today to pray for a miracle. And I got two! God is SO great!”
Walking away I couldn’t help but think that God had put her into MY seat so that we could share mass and a couple of miracles. I’ve seen her several times at mass since and every time she smiles at me and says, “God is SO Great!”
You know, come to think of it, God REALLY IS GREAT!
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