Beverly Wehner has always been a firm believer in the power of prayer, and she’s always prayed regularly for everyone she knows. Until about a year ago, however, she had never asked God for anything for herself.
“I always thought God was too busy for people like me. I didn’t have anything that urgent to ask him for,” said Wehner, who belongs to Guardian Angels Parish in Henrietta.
All that changed, however, when Wehner experienced what she believes to be a miraculous healing in November 2004.
That month, Wehner decided to attend a healing Mass at her parish because she’d been suffering for three weeks from painful shingles on the left quadrant of her head. She was in pain when she arrived at the church, and she was prayed over during Mass.
“I went out of church that day and I said, ‘All the pain is gone.’ I’ve not had pain since,” Wehner said.
Wehner has always placed her trust in God, so she wasn’t completely shocked to discover she had been healed, but she was somewhat surprised nonetheless. Since leaving the church that day she has come to believe she is as worthy of God’s time and concern as anyone else and has begun to occasionally include her own name on the list of people she prays for.
Wehner’s story calls to mind the Gospel reading for Dec. 2, the first Friday of Advent. This reading from Matthew tells the story of two blind men who followed Jesus and asked him to cure them. Jesus touched their eyes and cured them because they had faith in him. Although a number of miracles are sprinkled throughout the Gospels, they are not strictly a phenomenon of Biblical times and still take place today.
Many would describe Wehner’s healing as a modern-day miracle, although miracles tend to be subjective, said Father Pius Pathmarajah, parochial vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Greece. What one person considers a miracle, another might explain away with science. St. Augustine considered each day a miracle, but most people define miracles as unexplainable events or changes, he added.
“Something has suddenly happened to them, changed them, so it’s a miracle to them,” said Father Pathmarajah, who is also a judicial vicar on the diocesan Tribunal.
Miracles are not always as dramatic or life-altering as Wehner’s experience or the miracles found in the Bible. A miracle can be something as simple as suddenly finding a lost wallet in a place where you’ve looked three times before, said Nancy DeRycke, pastoral administrator at Church of the Resurrection in Fairport. DeRycke found herself in such a situation several years ago when she discovered — while preparing to board a plane at the airport — that she had misplaced her wallet. After searching her car several times, she said a prayer and then found the wallet sitting on top of her seat. DeRycke was wearing her mother’s sweatshirt, which read “angels are watching over me,” and she believes God and her mother — who had recently passed away — helped her find the wallet.
“If we are just open to (miracles), it’s a way of God helping us help each other. If we really are trying to do the best we can, I think God works in our lives,” DeRycke said.
Prayer is strongly linked to miracles, and Wehner said she always sees a positive result of some sort after she prays for someone. The outcome may not be the one she hoped for, but she knows it is in God’s plan and for the best.
“You can’t just put a demand on your prayer. You try to humble yourself before God,” said Tony Ferrara, faith-formation coordinator at Church of the Holy Spirit in Penfield.
Ferrara experienced his own miracle in 1986, when his sister, Linda Hultzapple, was hospitalized with a cerebral aneurysm. Although he desperately wanted his sister to recover, he knew he had to pray for acceptance and understanding rather than healing.
“If that’s not in God’s plan, who are we to say she’s got to be healed?” he said.
Instead, he prayed, “Lord, help me to understand what’s going on here and to accept whatever this is and why it is your will.”
After completing his prayer, Ferrara felt comforted, enveloped in warmth and confident that everything would work out. Hultzapple recovered, and her doctors couldn’t explain why, Ferrara said.
Hultzapple said there were three separate times while she was being operated on that she was clinically dead. During one of those times, Hultzapple said she was “led up to heaven by an angel.” She said she and a beautiful woman with long, dark hair floated up to the gates of heaven, where Hultzapple recognized and briefly spoke with many people she knew. The gates soon closed in front of her, however, and she was told it was not yet her time after all and there were still things she needed to do, she added.
It took five years for Hultzapple to recover after returning from the brink of death, and at first she was angry that she’d been made to continue living. Although many people had been praying for her and her recovery was considered miraculous, she didn’t know why she’d been given that miracle or what her purpose in life was. Nearly 20 years later, however, she now believes she was given the gift of life so she could watch her two children — who were 7 and 9 at the time of her illness — grow up, get married and have children of their own.
God has ways of knowing and providing us with exactly what we need, even though at the time we might not think we need what he gives us, said William Rabjohn, pastoral associate at St. Pius Tenth Parish in Chili. As a college student he prayed God would help him find a best friend, and the next day he met the woman who eventually became his wife. Later in life he said he prayed that God would lead him to a job that would satisfy his calling to ministry while allowing him to provide for his family. The next day someone mentioned a job opening for a pastoral associate position at St. Pius Tenth.
“I believe this is a miracle because God has satisfied all of our needs in more ways than I can possibly imagine. The miracle is that God answered my prayer; not just my inner intention or what I expressed in my words, but his love for me was poured out even beyond my request,” Rabjohn said.