Time to Speak — A View from the Pew

By Joseph M. Smith

I’ve often wondered how those who have no faith deal with life’s ups and downs. Over twenty years ago, my daughter was paralyzed in an accident. My Catholic faith and the support of my church and community gave me the tools to deal with the tragedy. I knew God had a plan, but figuring out what the plan would be in the future took a strong faith.

Early during my daughter’s hospital stay, I had a very spiritual experience that gave me the true meaning of “the peace that passes understanding.” As I was visiting my daughter, a brilliant white light shone in her room. I heard a clear voice say, “Do not worry about the future, this is for my honor and glory.” I am sure this was the result of all the prayers being said by my fellow parishioners.

Many small miracles happened after that. An article in The Courier Journal led to my home being remodeled to make it accessible. Fund-raisers helped to purchase a van. Parishioners provided meals and mowed my lawn, painted, and assisted in everyday chores. At the time of the accident I was completing the Ministry Formation Program through the archdiocese.

My classmates were wonderful by offering their prayers and support. Priests from different parishes came for visits and moral support.

I had never been on the receiving end in time of need. I knew I could never repay all those wonderful people who gave their time to assist my family. I began to understand why people affected by tragedies are so overwhelmed by the generosity of others.

Another lesson I learned was that some people were so overcome by emotion that they could not visit, because they did not know what to say. However, I learned that just visiting and not speaking was very powerful and unforgettable. I also learned how a tragedy in my family’s life could positively affect the parishioners in my community. One parishioner who was experiencing a debilitating medical problem told me that she had given up hope until she followed my daughter’s story in the paper. She stated that she had found renewed faith and a new outlook on life with the inspiration from my daughter’s experience.

I spent most of my adult life as a law enforcement officer, and after dealing with the worst two percent of the population, I had become very cynical, often wondering if caring people still existed. After this very humbling experience I received my answer.

My daughter graduated from high school a year early, and completed her master’s degree in psychology. She is fluent in Spanish, and spent a year in Arizona studying the Dari language in order to assist others in her ministries. Although still paralyzed, she drives herself and lives independently. She plays wheelchair rugby, wheelchair tennis and rows with a local rowing club. She works for a non-profit organization with missionaries in 46 countries and has traveled the world on humanitarian missions.

So my view from the pew is about the power of community, the power of prayer, the goodness of people, the importance of being present to people who are suffering,even if you don’t know what to say and the amazing power of God’s grace. Most certainly a tribute to God’s honor and glory! Sometimes it takes tragedy for us to learn these lessons. God is always present to teach us.

Joseph M. Smith is a member of St. Bernadette Church.

If you have a story you would like to submit for, “A View from the Pew,” contact Sal Della Bella at sdb@archlou.org or 585-3291.

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