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  • Sarah Raad

Prayers

When my little niece was very sick our family and those who prayed with us for her learned a wonderful lesson about faith.


The Profession of Faith: ‘The Incredulity of St. Thomas’ by Caravaggio
The Profession of Faith: ‘The Incredulity of St. Thomas’ by Caravaggio

When my niece had her open heart surgery to repair the deformed part of her tiny heart, she was away from her mother for nine and a half hours. During that time, the repair of her heart took, two hours. The remaining time was spent trying to stop her bleeding. When the surgeon told my sister and brother-in-law that their daughter’s first night would be incredibly “rocky” they did not understand at the time that the doctor did not really expect her to survive the night. Today, four days later, the surgeon told my sister, that my niece’s survival of the operation was a miracle, as he did not think she was going to make it and she gave the medical team quite a scare. Little did he know that we had been praying for the Holy Spirit and all the angels and saints to possess the doctors and operate on that child themselves to restore her health in mind and body. Perhaps that is why those doctors and nurses, possessed as they were by God himself, had the fortitude to continue working on her despite fatigue and despair, despite the terrible odds against this blessed baby that day?


That very first night following her surgery, 25 doctors and nurses battled to keep my niece alive during the long long night. Her condition was critical. It still is. She was very unstable. To move her tiny body even to adjust a breathing tube or to complete a chest x-ray to determine next stages of treatment, was a life-threatening endeavour.

That night, we did not sleep much. Some very beautiful priests, some of whom I have never even spoken to over the phone, improved upon the example set by the apostles in the Garden of Gethsemane, and stayed awake with us and prayed during the night as we sent them texts, begging for prayers to save my niece’s life. For this devotion to Our Lord, for this faith in his mercy and love, we will be eternally grateful. Prayers saved my niece. Prayers continue to save her.


We have asked for prayers from across the world. People are praying for my niece in Lebanon, Canada, the US, Brazil, Africa, Sydney, Melbourne, and probably many more places that we are yet to hear about. My brother-in-law joked that the only place we have not yet contacted for prayers is the International Space Station… but I am not so sure – my husband has a cousin who works for NASA!


We pray for my niece’s recovery in mind and body. We pray with unwavering FAITH in God’s mercy that he would not turn his face away from us. That he will cure our baby.

Strangers who I have never met join with us and pray for my niece. They love her with unwavering love. My niece should not have lived. But her life has changed the entire world.

My sister will not photograph her daughter now, but after her second post-operative night she described what she looks like. I had no idea. I really will not go into detail because it is a horrific amount of suffering to witness and think about, but my niece’s heart is only the size of a 20 cent coin, terribly swollen and it is clearly visible. The reason my niece cannot be touched is because her chest is an open wound and the pain sends her into shock which makes her heart beat too fast. And that is not the most confronting thing about her appearance at the moment. Right now, my niece is improving, and it is a great miracle.


I feel my niece’s suffering is to lead us to God, because in this moment, she is like Jesus – completely without sin (not even original sin as she is baptised). Hers is the closest a human sacrifice can get to God's own suffering on the cross because of her innocence. I do not want it to be wasted! May God have mercy on us. May we reflect on my niece's suffering and Christ himself and his blessed Mother, who my sister emulates in accepting God's will in refusing an abortion so many times and watching the suffering of her innocent child – a suffering only caused through human frailty and Original Sin! May we think of my niece every time we are tempted to sin. May we offer our sacrifices for the Lost Souls of Purgatory and ask them to join with us in praying for my niece’s health in mind and body as they enter the Kingdom of Heaven. May God in his mercy work the miracle of my niece's healing and in healing her heart, heal our own by drawing us closer in faith to Him. I feel through my niece's suffering that we stand on holy ground.


In praying and reflecting since the birth of my most beautiful niece, I have thought often of Christ’s miracles on Earth. Inspired by the great faith of those who asked Christ for his intervention, when there is a crisis for my niece and she is near death, my sister stands beside her daughter, turns her back on her, and prays while the doctors work. In turning away, she surrenders her child to God as Abraham did Isaac, and trusts in His merciful providence to cure her child. She has not been disappointed. My sister’s grace and strength is contagious. We too are not disappointed.


Each time there is a crisis, and there are many, my sister sends us a text message asking for the next prayer to get her daughter through the next moment – the next thing required to keep my niece alive – and we pass those on to anyone willing to pray with us for her. Together we pray and God listens to our prayers. We are eternally grateful to any who have prayed for my niece.


When my niece was first born, someone said to me that this illness and suffering was a test of our faith. That phrase worried me. I did not like it. It made me think of a harsh and terrible God who would use a difficult time to create more difficulty. In this thinking, I could not see the loving Holy Spirit with whom I had so recently become acquainted through my prayers for this baby. And then, after praying a rosary (or ten), and reflecting on Christ’s ministry on Earth, I realised that God is not TESTING our faith. He is ENJOYING it!

Once, we understand the simplicity of this paradox, our entire life becomes easier. No longer do I worry as I used to. In my entire life, I have never felt closer to the Holy Spirit or His wisdom or love. If I get scared, I turn to prayer, and before I am done, the words or actions come to me. The Holy Spirit fills me with his infinite wisdom and I am calm. That is the miracle of my beautiful niece. Her suffering redeems us all.


The road is very long for my niece. There is no chance of closing her chest for at least another three days. Her fluid levels are too high, her heart too swollen and her heart rate too fast. And that was just the news from this morning – with my niece things can change in a moment. She needs prayers. They are healing her. Her road is long. But I have total faith in God’s goodness and mercy and grace. Please pray for this next stage in my niece’s journey. The prayers are desperately sought and fervently received.

In reflecting on Christ’s first public miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana, I have come to better understand the words of Lucia, the blessed mystic of Fatima, “there is no problem, no matter how difficult… that cannot be solved by the Rosary”. During that Wedding feast at Cana, when the Blessed Virgin asked for more wine, Christ – God Himself – refused her, “my time has not yet come”. Clearly, intervening in the very human concerns of catering at a wedding to ensure that the hosts could show off in front of their new in-laws by providing wine instead of some other drink, was not the Creator of Universe’s highest priority at the time. And yet, with total faith, Our Blessed Mother, turned her back on her son (as my sister turns her back on her daughter) and told the servants to do as He bid. This was not a coincidence. Christ’s first official miracle was the result of His Blessed Mother’s intervention.

In satisfying this request of His most Blessed Mother, God changed the course of His own divine plan. How are we to know that Christ did not wish for his public ministry to commence 10, 20, 30, 40 or even in 50 years’ time. Perhaps in God’s original plan, Christ was to have been crucified when he was 80 years old and not 33. In God’s own words, it was “not yet time”. Yet for His Blessed Mother – for love of her – in payment for her unwavering faith in Him, Christ – God himself – changed His plans!


And so, for those who ask why I thank God for the miracle of my beautiful baby niece – it is because I see the true miracle of my niece. The answer is simple… Our Lady provided it some 2,000 years ago over the small matter of a bit of wine.


Faith.


The miracle of my niece is Faith.


One of the beautiful priests praying with us for my niece told me that everything is clear at the Foot of the Cross.


And so it is...With my niece – in praying for my niece – we stand on Holy Ground.

Here. At the Foot of the Cross.


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