I love the communion of Saints. While the world laps up every detail of the lives of celebrities, I’m always on the hunt for little anecdotes about my heroes.
Saint Monica is in my personal top ten. There’s no way to know, but I have to guess that when she prayed for her son, Saint Augustine, her main goal was significantly lower than sainthood. At times, just keeping him out hell probably seemed like a tall order.
Augustine, by any measure, was a bad boy. If it was wrong, he did it. His mother converted to Christianity and devoted her life to praying for his conversion. When her prayers were finally answered and Augustine was safely delivered into the hands of the Church, she keeled over dead. I totally get that. God knows the woman deserved a rest. Then she watched from heaven as he struggled to find some way around changing his life, praying, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.” There must have been some party up there when he finally grew into the person he was created to be, a Doctor of the Church and revered Father of the faith.
Now that I’m over fifty, I belong to the loose affiliation of women who follow in Saint Monica’s footsteps, whether they’ve ever heard of her or not. Trying to mother hairy-legged men is not for sissies.
During a precarious time with my youngest son, I went about my work, distracted and
praying against the background noise of worry. Just when I needed it the most, I stumbled across a spiritual sister in the Saint Monica club.
At first glance, she seemed to be an ancient woman in the final stages of dementia, unaware and bedfast. I’d been sent to evaluate her for the hospice program, and everything I needed to know was already on the chart. I just wanted to get a look at
her, and that’s what I was doing when she suddenly sprang to life.
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, in a strong voice that took me by surprise.
“I’m here to make sure that you’re comfortable.”
She looked me over intently. I found myself shrinking away from her gaze, as if I’d been called to the principal’s office.
“Why did you bring me here?” my interrogator asked.
“I didn’t bring you here.”
“Who sent me to this place?”
“Your doctor, I’m guessing.”
“What’s the name of this place?”
“Hulen Springs. And I am here to make sure you’re comfortable.”
“Why did Dr. Hulen send me here?”
“Your doctor is not named Hulen.”
“Then what’s his name?”
“I’m not sure. Let me go check your chart.”
As I left the room, thankful to disentangle myself from the inquisition, her voice carried out into the hall.
“Father God, thank you for sending that angel to me. She came to make me
comfortable, and I know you sent her, straight from heaven. You are so very good to me!”
Her prayer brought a smile to my face, and it felt so good. The burden of boy trouble had wrung all the joy out of me, and I am a naturally joyous person. I marched right back to her bedside, took her hands and asked if I could pray with her. It turned into an absolutely precious prayer duet. After a while, she ran out of steam..
“I’m going to meet with your daughter later today.”
“Oh, my daughter is such a honey. Do you have a daughter?”
“Yes I do. And she’s a honey.”
“I also have three boys. Don’t you just love those boys?”
Emboldened by the opportunity, I said, “Yes, I just love boys, and I have three of my own. The youngest has me worried at the moment.”
Her brow furrowed and she squeezed my hand, tight. “Nothing will break a mother’s heart like a boy in trouble.” Suddenly, a smiled erupted on her face. “It’s not a bad
thing, if it doesn’t go on too long, because a boy in trouble will get you on your knees!”
Amen, sister! Swept up in the moment, I crossed an invisible line. “I can see that you are a prayer warrior. Would you pray for my son? His name is Alex.”
“I would be honored! I will pray for your son without ceasing!”
Thanking her profusely, and fighting back tears, I squeezed her hands in gratitude. As I turned to leave, I felt sure this was the luckiest day of my life. Alex would have his own personal intercessor, praying day and night for his spiritual health.
My new best friend called after me, “And I won’t forget to pray for your son. Don’t you worry! That’s my favorite name. And such a handsome name, too. Alan.”
I ran back to correct the error. “Alex,” I said, loud and slow. “His name is Alex.” Then, trying to mask the edge of crazy desperation I heard creeping into my voice, I asked, gently, “Can you remember that?”
She grinned sheepishly and shrugged her shoulders, a good Christian woman who wouldn’t be coerced into making promises for her unpredictable memory.
Deflated, I walked out to my car. My disappointment gave way to shame. How desperate do you have to be to troll for prayers from a dementia patient? That’s messed up, by any standard.
Then I had a thought that made me laugh out loud. Somewhere in the wide world, a troubled boy named Alan would wake up thinking, “I just feel like doing right.”
Suddenly, I felt ridiculous. Of course God is big enough to sort out all the boys named Alex and Alan, and every other name that starts with the letter A.
Then I imagined waves of prayers floating up to Him from the demented faithful. Precious, confused supplications, and not one of them wasted, but recycled into amazing grace that falls on us all.