Miracle Power: the Staircase and the Word
If you need a miracle, perhaps it's time to call on the prayers of St. Joseph. It is, after all, the "Year of St. Joseph." You may or may not have heard of the miraculous story of the Loretto
Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA?
Basically, as you may remember, the story goes that the Sisters of Loretto needed a staircase built up to the choir loft of their chapel. The chapel itself had been completed in 1878, but was finished without a way to get up into the choir loft!
Mother Superior was very devoted to St. Joseph, and the sisters began a novena to St. Joseph for the right builder for the project. It would be a difficult undertaking, as the loft had been built and there were no support beams, etc. to start from.
Amazingly, once the novena was completed, a man simply "showed up" who was interested in doing the work. He had antiquated tools, and not even any nails.
He requested total privacy, and for three months spent his time alone in the chapel, building what has come now to be known as
an architectural impossibility. He did not use a support beam, did not use nails; rather the staircase is held in place simply by glue and wooden pegs! Still, no one knows where the wood came from, or what kind it was, but most agree it was not native to New Mexico. How he could have gotten the wood there at all, without leaving the place, is certainly a mystery.
Then, once the project was completed, he disappeared, without asking for payment.
The whole story, of course, is entirely supernatural! Yet, the Bible assures us that signs and wonders follow those that believe! (Mark 16:17)
Surely, through living with and raising Jesus Himself, St. Joseph experienced the supernatural workings of God on a constant basis. He was foster father to the divine Son of God! One can only imagine how many encounters with angels, miracles, signs and wonders would have been happening around the Holy Family all the time. Joseph himself was directed supernaturally through angelic visitations in dreams, even before Jesus was born!
As we enter into the Year of St. Joseph, this year of Signs and Wonders and Miracles (2021), let us BELIEVE.
The Church allows us to do novenas, prayers, devotions, all simply to get us to exercise our faith. What is faith?
"Now faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not." (Heb. 11:1) What is it "appears not" right now in your life, that you are in need of? Money, friends, a spouse, a vocation, wisdom or direction? Whatever it is, it can be given to you if you believe.
See, hoping is not enough- we need to possess the "substance" of what is hoped for. Hoping is good- but faith possesses the thing without even seeing it. "We walk by faith, and not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7)
Jesus said, "have the faith of God." (Mark 11:22)
Therefore, faith itself is a gift of God! It is something supernatural on the inside of you, whereby you spiritually, actually possess the thing you are asking for, without even seeing it manifested yet.
How does God impart faith to us, then?
"Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17) This is the reason for preaching, and for daily Scripture time. If we do not hear the Word of God, especially the Word of Christ in the "4 healing Gospels," as Lee Anne always calls them, we will not have faith.
This is the difference between those that have good soil, and the others in the Parable of the Sower. Those who have good soil are spending daily time in the presence of God, ready to hear the Word. They have a devotion to spending time with Jesus in the Scriptures. The others fail to grow, or to receive anything from God, because they are too busy listening and giving attention to the "cares of this world." (Mark 4:19)
When St. Joseph saw the angel in a dream, commanding him to take Mary and the child into Egypt, he immediately got up and did as he said! (Matt. 2:13-14) A righteous Jewish man (Matt. 1:19), he would have constantly been meditating on the Word of God. How can we know this? Because even in the Old Testament, we are assured that "the righteous will live by faith." (Habakkuk 2:4) And, remember, faith comes by hearing the Word of God.
Let us turn to St. Joseph in faith, but more importantly let us get our faith increased by reading and listening to the Word of God. How much time do we spend reading and meditating on Scripture each day? How much time do we spend in silence, waiting for His voice, after we read it, pray and voice all our concerns to God? There are some powerful steps to entering communion with God through this lectio divina, or "holy reading" of Scripture mixed with prayer and contemplation:
(Call upon the Holy Spirit)
(Call upon the Holy Spirit, Who breathes life into us to receive His Word)
(1) Lectio. Read the passage of Scripture with an open heart to what God is saying.
(2) Meditatio. Meditate, or ponder in the heart (Luke 2:19), "what is God saying to me today?" Maybe there is a particular word or phrase that sticks out to us.
Witness Example: once, Lee Anne was meditating on the word, "therefore," as appears in Scripture so many times. She did not understand why this word had stood out to her. After 3 weeks (!) of meditating, waiting in silence and asking "what are You saying to me, Lord?" one day she heard her own voice, in her spirit, saying to God, "what did You send me up THERE FOR?" It was a revelation (Gal. 1:11-12) from the Lord! She realized that she had been upset with the Lord for sending her as a missionary to a town that she absolutely did not like. Of course, God later revealed His will and plan through a huge move of the Spirit in the life of the local priest and the parish...but at the time, she was upset! And, she didn't fully realize it! Thank God that He knows our own hearts better than we do- but it takes the Word ("sharper than a two-edged sword" Heb. 4:12) to pry it out of us.
(3) Oratio. If Lee Anne had stopped when she received the revelation of what "therefore" meant, it would not have been able to move any deeper. This is the prayer stage, where we pray with our hearts using what God is saying to us in Scripture. It is a "prayerful response" to what we are getting in the Bible.
(4) Contemplatio. "Contemplative prayer is silence...or 'silent love'...like kindling that feeds the fire of love." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2717). This is where we wait in silence; God has spoken in His Word, we have considered it and responded in faith and prayer- now we wait for what God may further reveal, or expand on His Word. It is a quiet hoping: "But they that hope in the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall take wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31)
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said the following:
“I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio Divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart [cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25]. If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church – I am convinced of it – a new spiritual springtime.” (link)
Wow! He also added, together with St. Ignatius Loyola, a fifth step to lectio, which is:
(5) Actio. "Faith without deeds is dead." (James 2:14) If we do not change according to what God is saying, the entire prayer exercise was useless! We need to respond in prayer, but also in action, as John the Baptist said, "bring forth fruits worthy of repentance." (Matt. 3:8) If God is speaking to us about forgiveness, we need to forgive, about the poor, we need to do something for someone in need, etc.
NB: the daily readings of the Church (esp. the Gospel) are a great choice for daily Scripture. Another option is to do a Scripture study of some kind: on our ministry Facebook page we have begun a "5 Minute Challenge" of a daily Scripture verse: a great opportunity to practice lectio divina! It is geared towards experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit in the new year.
ALL IN ALL, let us recommit our lives to the Word of God this year, and bear much fruit! As we undertake this deeper walk with Jesus, let us call upon St. Joseph's intercession for us:
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
Show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.