In mid-July, my parents and younger sister, Bekah, came to visit me in Fort Wayne, Indiana, for a short weekend. Ever since I moved here three years ago, my family has loved coming to the City of Churches, making a point to visit a few favorite locations such as an eclectic bookstore that houses a couple cats and our favorite family restaurant that has the best breakfast menu.
But this time, my sister was less mobile than usual. Last fall, she tore her ACL during soccer practice. After nine months of recovery, she was recently cleared to resume her previous activity. Eager to get back on the soccer field, she dove into the summer program. Then, two days before their visit to Fort Wayne, she heard a pop during practice and felt pain in her other knee. Whether or not it was her ACL, we didn’t know at the time. All we knew was that it seemed completely unfair.
Even with the knowledge that mobility and activities would be limited, my parents and sister still came up for the weekend. As we were talking on Friday evening about what we could do, we decided on Mass at the nearby parish the following morning, hoping that my priest friend, Father Stephen Felicichia — whom I had told my family much about, even introducing my mom and sister to his podcast — would be the celebrant.
Sometime during our planning, Bekah, in her frustration about her knee, mentioned how she had decided to pray to Blessed Solanus Casey for her healing after reading about him that morning in her copy of “In Caelo Et In Terra“ from the Daughters of St. Paul, which provides a saint for every day of the year. My dad added that he had already started praying to the blessed friar from Detroit for the same thing. So, it was an easy decision to make when I suggested we visit the St. Felix Catholic Center in nearby Huntington, Indiana, which was the home to Blessed Solanus Casey from 1946-56.
That Saturday morning, we went to Mass. Father Stephen was not the celebrant, but the other priest gave a wonderful homily about how God is never silent, even when we have a hard time hearing him. The words reminding us of God’s faithfulness gave all of us the peace we were looking for.
A few hours later, we jumped in the car and drove to Huntington. I knew St. Felix often held retreats and sometimes offered Mass, but there was still the chance that the doors would be locked. But when we got to the property, the parking lot was filled with cars. The main wooden doors were unlocked, and when we opened the second set of doors, I realized we had walked into the end of Mass. While I usually would have turned around with the intention of coming back after Mass had ended, I recognized the priest cleaning the paten and chalice on the altar. It was my friend, Father Stephen, the priest I had hoped to see earlier that morning. To the confusion of my family, I ushered them in and knelt on the carpet behind the last pew. My parents followed suit, while Bekah stood nearby.
As the Mass concluded — we learned later it was the monthly healing Mass — Father Stephen announced that he would offer individual blessings to people using the relic of Blessed Solanus. Following the line of people, we all processed forward, my sister leading our family, and received the blessing. When we got to the back, I tapped her on the shoulder and told her who the priest was. My family was all dazed, laughing at how God had taken our plans and made them even better.
When Father Stephen was about to leave the church, I caught his attention, introduced my family and explained the entire story. He laughed with us and said what we were all thinking: “With God, there are no coincidences.”
We are still waiting for Bekah to get her MRI and the following results to know if she will have to repeat the previous nine months of surgery and recovery, or if a different route awaits her. But I know that the desolation we all felt, the urge to commiserate in how unfair it was, had been transformed. No matter what happens, we know God will be with my sister in her recovery, and that he can use it for good. For, he already has.
Ava Lalor is assistant editor for Our Sunday Visitor and editor for Radiant magazine.