Just over a month ago, the switchboard of Heaven lit ablaze. Word had reached the world that Cardinal Raymond Burke was fighting for his life, on a ventilator in the COVID ICU, and the faithful went into action. The effect in Heaven must have been akin to the opening scene of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, with prayers pouring in from family, friends, and the littlest children:
“I owe everything to George Bailey. Help him, Dear Father.” . . . “Joseph, Jesus, and Mary, help my friend.” . . . “He never thinks about himself, God.” . . . “I love him, dear Lord, watch over him tonight.” . . . “Please God, something’s the matter with Daddy. Please bring Daddy back.”
In those harrowing hours of early August, the faithful willed a miracle of healing for Cardinal Burke from God’s heart. We tugged the Lord’s mantle – with the woman of the hemorrhage; we told the Lord that His Word would be obeyed – with the believing centurion; and then we tore open the roof and lowered our friend to Christ’s feet from the rafters – with the men of last resort.
During Cardinal Burke’s time of trial, Our Lord was allowing this faithful, heroic defender of Christ’s Truth and Magisterium, to enter His Heart, and to experience His Passion there. He was suffering, under that ventilator, for the needs and intentions of all of us. Cardinal Burke tells us in his Letter of Gratitude, “I offer all that I suffer for the Church and for the world.”
And we did not abandon him in the fight. I had once before been allowed to pray at the bedside of a spiritual father, in St. Peter’s Square, in Rome, on the Vigil of the death of Pope St. John Paul II. On that anointed April evening, the Cardinals told the crowd, “When a father dies, the children kneel at the bedside and pray.” We knelt in prayer and gave Pope St. John Paul II, gently, to the Father.
But this August, the world knew it was not Cardinal Burke’s time. It could not be his time. And if it was, we needed the Lord to rearrange the schedule.
We as the faithful confronted what it would mean, to each of us personally and to the Church collectively, to lose this holy soul from our midst. We knelt in spirit outside his hospital, hoping the Cardinal could feel our prayers, pouring in from around the world. We all prayed there together. We prayed, and we begged.
Calls poured in. “How is the Cardinal?”
“Fighting like a champion,” was the constant reply. And he was.
Our Lord had mercy on our fearsome prayers. The saints interceded.
Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, told me how she implored her holy parents to heal the Cardinal, who has such a devotion to their intercession and love. She recently shared: “I have told the Cardinal in what manner and how much I implored my Saint parents, that I had never prayed to them and implored them so much as I had for him, and that they had pity on me and on all my tears!” In her prayer she placed the relic and memento of her parents upon the Cardinal’s beretta, lowering his red hat through the Heavenly roof and beseeching the healing.
And we all felt this way.
He was the Lord’s, and he had abandoned himself to Divine Providence. But he had prayed for all of us, in our needs large and small, and we now needed to be there for him.
And then, the Lord answered our unceasing inundation of prayers, Masses, Holy Hours, novenas, Rosaries, and tears. He bestowed the gift of healing on this man, our dear friend, whom we had lowered through the roof to Christ’s feet in our hearts.
He was relinquished from the grasp of the insidious virus. Our Lord breathed His Spirit into the Cardinal’s lungs, and heart, and bloodstream. And Cardinal Burke was able to rise, slowly, gingerly, to rise and recover.
And now, we pray for his full recovery. The slow, grueling recovery of one who has faced death, and returned to bring us hope.
During those dark and painful days of prayer, I received one message that enabled me to keep asking for a miracle. A friend sent me the simple, faith-filled words of little St. Thérèse of Lisieux, “How can my confidence have any limits?”
How can our confidence have any limits? We must remove the limits to our confidence because the Lord is not bound by any limits.
If the roof impedes the miracle, remove the roof! St. Augustine inspires us, “When his bearers could not bring him in to the Lord, they opened the roof and lowered him down to the feet of Christ. Perhaps you wish to do this in spirit: to open the roof and lower a paralytic soul down to the Lord” (from a sermon On Pastors, St. Augustine).
The paralysis can also be interior. It can be in our hearts, or mind, or spirit. We cannot move ourselves, helpless, and paralyzed. But healing is possible. “Perhaps the physician himself is concealed within. . . .Reveal therefore what is hidden, and thus you will open the roof and lower the paralytic to the feet of Christ.”
We can do so in prayer. We can do this for one another. We can bring our needy souls to Christ. Through the roof may be the only way. And the wounded soul will be placed before the healing, consoling, Heart of Christ, a consolation “that will bind what is broken.”
We have seen the mighty, healing hand of God. We demanded the miracle. In His great mercy, Our Lord bestowed it. We thank you, Lord, with deeply grateful hearts. We remove the roof and lower our hearts to Christ. May we know, without a doubt, that we can never have too much confidence in Him.
*Image: Christ healing the Paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, 1667-70 [The National Gallery, London].