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Friday, March 16, 2012

Keeping the Faith

The following story is from the principal at St. Edward's School in New Iberia, where I went to elementary school. I hope it touches you all as much as it touched our family :)

This is the story of two journeys intertwined in the affirmation and blessings of God.  One journey is Hunter’s and the other is mine.  His journey is toward physical hearing and mine of spiritual hearing - hearing the message I was to deliver Hunter’s family upon my return from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Motherhouse in Bensalem, PA.

Through a series of circumstances, Mrs. Helen Polk, and I planned a trip to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament Motherhouse for St. Katharine Drexel’s Feastday, March 3.  As we traveled, I carried with me hundreds of prayer intentions to lay at St. Katharine’s crypt.  Each intention is considered just as special, significant, and worthy as another, yet I knew the most specific intention I carried was for Hunter.  This is because the intention for Hunter is directly linked to St. Katharine, as while she is not considered the patron saint of hearing, both miracles approved by the Vatican for her canonization were miracles of hearing.

Ms. Polk and I had already gone to mass earlier that morning in the Motherhouse’s infirmary chapel, St. Michaels, yet I felt compelled to go again at noon in the larger chapel, St. Elizabeth’s.  At this mass, rather than the usual feastday celebration (which had to be postponed until the following weekend), the Honor Guard, those who keep watch over St. Katharine’s crypt, are being honored.

St. Elizabeth’s is part of the shrine area and I hoped that after the mass we would visit the crypt for the first time on our trip.  My purse was packed with envelopes of intentions, including Hunter’s.  Hunter’s grandmother, Suzanne, had also given me his photo and four cards printed with the same photo, as well as information about his blog, and the letters in “thank you” expressed through signing hands.  Further, when I saw the photo and counted the cards, I immediately knew my plan: the photo would be placed on St. Katharine’s tomb and the four cards were for particular Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament I’d chosen.

When we walked into St. Elizabeth’s chapel, it was completely full.  The chapel was opened in 1892, with most of the seating being “stalls” – individual spaces, each for a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament at a time when the religious order was flourishing and growing.  As we cross the threshold, we immediately meet up with Sr. Agnes McDevitt and she says, “I have no idea where you are going to find a seat.”  I quickly scan the room and spot the only two unoccupied stalls next to one another.  We make our way there to sit and I get out my St. Katharine rosary, share it with Ms. Polk, and then get out another for myself.  

As I get situated with my bulging purse and such, I look up and sitting next to Ms. Polk, I see a man I am sure I recognize.  Being admittedly starstruck, I have to keep reminding myself during mass to stop being distracted by his presence, as I know I will approach him afterwards.  I am also in awe of the fact that over the past 12 years, the only connection I have to this man is to see his photo a handful of times – the same photo, which is a profile view.  I shake his hand at the sign of peace and I cannot believe whose eyes I am looking into.  After mass, it seems like an eternity before I can say, “Excuse me – Robert?” he nods yes, a bit quizzically, and Ms. Polk is staring at me, wondering who in the world I could know here.  I turn to her and say, “This is Robert Gutherman.  The person who St. Katharine’s first confirmed miracle of hearing was performed on.”  There I was, with a profoundly deaf child’s intention in my heart and in my purse, standing face-to-face with the man who received St. Katharine’s first miracle of hearing.

As we talk, I explain the very specific intention for Hunter and ask him if he will pray for this beautiful child. Of course, he agrees, and while we converse further, I battle with the thought of giving him one of the four cards.  That would mean I’d have to choose which Sister would not receive a card.  Could I maybe copy one?  I surely could just get another and send it when I return home.  But in my humanness, I simply want another card because my plan is going to be interrupted.  I am incredibly grateful to give one to Robert, but a little disappointed I will leave with one Sister not having what I know I was meant to bring her.   When I open my wallet to give him one, I half think that maybe I’ll see five… but I don’t.

Robert was sure to ask if Hunter has a relic of St. Katharine and I tell him that he does.  I find it meaningful that Robert also mentions no one really ever recognizes him, something he’s and other “miracle” recipients have discussed is fairly humorous.  They walk through malls, attend events, go to the movies, etc. and people are none-the-wiser.  It takes me aback when he says he wouldn’t normally be at the Motherhouse for this particular celebration – he’s only there because during the big feastday celebration he will be on retreat. 

After mass, a meal had been organized and we eat in the wide hallways and the gathering areas outside of the gift shop.  I begin talking to a Sister of the Blessed Sacrament and share the Hunter/Robert story.  She marvels and says that’s my experience to take home.  I expressed that we still have about 24 hours at the Motherhouse before leaving, so there’s time for more!  We laugh and agree, “Who knows?”

Later when we visit crypt, I lay Hunter’s photo on the end of it where St. Katharine’s head lies.  It is among a display of a relic and a prayer cloth.  The honor guards keeping watch over the crypt are Sr. Anne Doyle, SBS and a husband and wife team.  Among the 60 or so honor guardsmen who were at the St. Elizabeth’s mass, this couple are two of the very few we personally met at the gathering afterwards.

After kneeling in prayer for some time, I walk over to Sr. Anne Doyle and ask her to pray for Hunter.  She asks me write his name in her prayer book, along with why she is to pray for him.  I then walk back and get his photo to show her.  She is overcome by how beautiful he is.  I also share the photo with couple and ask them to pray for Hunter.  The husband asks if I can stay at the crypt for a while – he has something he needs to get and send to Hunter.  He returns with Padre Pio blessed oil.

That afternoon, Ms. Polk and I recount the story about Robert, the couple, the oil, and more.  Between us, we’ve been to the Motherhouse 15 times, with beautiful, spiritual and holy experiences happening, yet neither can remember something like this ever happening.  Later that evening, I give Hunter’s second card to Sr. Michelle Callanan and explain why prayers are needed. 

The following morning, we are enjoying breakfast with Sr. Agnes McDevitt and the opportunity to give her the third card I have presents itself.  She takes the card and says, “Now where do you get these made?  There must be a source for hearing impaired people because I have a card that looks just like this.  We got a few from a person in a Methodist prayer group but I’m not sure where mine is.”

We agree how nice it is that there are cards like this for people with hearing afflictions and continue our conversation.  Later that afternoon, as we are saying our goodbyes, we are with Sr. Ruth Catherine Spain and I give her the fourth and final card I have.  I make a mental note to ensure that when I return home to get another card from Suzanne to send to Sr. Mary O’Riordan.  She is the fourth Sister to whom I’d intended to give a card.  Further, since beginning to give out the cards, I had not even run into her, so even if I’d had a fifth one, I wouldn’t have had the chance.

We return home at nearly 10 p.m. Sunday evening.  I email Sr. Agnes to let her know we made it safely.  I know that Monday will be a tiring and hectic day back at school, but I am energized thinking about meeting with Suzanne to share the story.  I email her Monday morning and ask about when she has time to meet.  She replies that she can come after lunch.  Before Suzanne arrives, I receive a reply from Sr. Agnes.  Among other things she emails about is this, “I also found the card with Hunter's picture on it.  Don't ask how it got all the way up here before you.  I think it is a sign.”  It takes me a moment to process… the card she found is the one she said looked just like the one I gave her… because IT WAS the one I gave her!  I realize there is no source for “stock” cards like this – Hunter’s cards were made uniquely for him.

The message I know I am to deliver is clear and one that is overwhelming.  How do I tell a grandmother that I know her grandson will hear well?  Hear with his ears?  Hear with his heart?  Hear through the actions of others?

How do I, with conviction, reassure her he will be okay? All I have to lean on is my story and the faith that whatever I say will be the right thing.   Sometimes connections can be made through stretching and yearning to see them, which is just fine.  Other times they cannot be denied or explained.  They are specific – just like I always considered Hunter’s intention.

And there are more connections.  Like the fact that Elise was one of three students at St. Edward, chosen from 70-80 children when she was in 3rd grade, to receive the school’s highest honor, the St. Katharine Drexel Award.  And the Padre Pio blessed oil… a perfect fit for a tiny, beautiful bag Suzanne received as a Christmas gift – a bag that she’d been waiting to use for something special in regards to Hunter.  The list could go on.

Whatever you take from this story, it is hoped to have strengthened your faith and also affirmed that St. Katharine is interceding for Hunter.  I believe that God is drawing people closer to Him and to one another through Hunter.  Let us continue to “storm heaven” for his health, for the success of his coming surgery, and in thanksgiving for this precious child who has already profoundly touched the lives of so many.


  1. Replies
    1. I have kept this card with me since it was given to me on March 3rd (St Katharine's feast day). I hope and pray that some day soon that Hunter will be able to hear the love and joy of the results of prayers answered. I will be watching for the updates.
      Best regards,
      Bob Gutherman