This was the third book I did in the Monastery. It is available on Amazon either as a Paperback or Kindle. All paperback sales go to support the monastery while the Sisters have graciously allowed Kindle sales to go to me.
Mysterious Touch that Gave Courage
by Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM – Cincinnati, Ohio
This true story took place in the late 1970s while I was teaching at our Franciscan seminary, Duns Scotus College in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. The chapel of St. Anthony and the college building were modeled after the Franciscan Basilica and friaries in and around Assisi.
One of the most important ministries we had in our chapel was that of hearing confessions. Every day, except Sundays, we heard confessions in the mornings from nine to eleven, in the afternoons from two to five, and in the evenings from seven to eight. People came from all over the city and surrounding areas.
This story was told to me by a lady following her confession. She had been away from the sacraments for many years and recently had found making a new start more and more on her mind. The thoughts would not go away. And so, one summer afternoon, she gathered up her courage and drove to our chapel to make her confession. But, the closer she got the more scared she became.
She parked her car and headed toward the chapel. Leading to the chapel from ground level, there were twelve large and long steps. In her state of mind, those steps looked like the steps to the gallows. There was no way she could go up. Instead, she decided to follow the lovely wooded pathways that went around the chapel and college; it was not a short walk. She walked, and walked, and walked. Back and forth, back and forth as the thoughts raced through her head, “Do I really want to do this? Maybe I should wait and come back next week? Maybe…”
Finally, she had enough courage to go up the stairs. She was not certain that she would actually go to confession. Just get up the stairs! That was her first task to accomplish. It was after five o’clock in the evening when she finally reached the chapel. Only a few people were waiting in the pew to go to confession. She knelt at the end, still not sure that she would actually make the move to the confessional when her turn came. After the first person and then the second entered the confessional, she was alone in the pew. She told me, “Father, I know I was alone, but when the last person came out of the confessional, I felt a nudge on my left arm, like someone gently poking me with his elbow, and a voice said, “Okay, you’re next.”
She told me later that when the nudge and the voice came, she got up without a thought and went into the confessional. She was surprised that even though she had been away from church for such a long period, it didn’t take much time. When she came out of the confessional, she looked for the person who touched her arm and there was no one. “Father,” she exclaimed, “there were no cars in the parking lot. No one was in the chapel. Who could it have been?”
I am convinced that God, in some mysterious way, allowed her to experience His touch and His call. How? Who knows? Grace comes in mysterious ways. I’m not sure that she needed her car to get home that evening; she was so happy she easily could have floated without touching the ground.Fr. Jim Van Vurst, OFM Cincinnati, Ohio