By SUZANNE HAUGH, Staff Writer | Published June 22, 2006
Over 5,000 people gathered Friday evening, June 16, at the Georgia International Convention Center for the Healing Mass and to gain new insights into the meaning of suffering and pray for the relief of ailments or the strength needed to persevere with them.
Main celebrant and homilist Father Luke Ballman, pastor of St. Augustine Church, Covington, used the examples of Jesus and St. Therese of Lisieux to demonstrate a dictionary’s definition of suffering.
“Suffering is ‘to surrender something for the sake of something else,’” he quoted. While the world would like to look at suffering as meaningless and as something to avoid at all costs, the cross of Jesus shows us the power of the suffering attached to it.
“Jesus Christ offered His life for the sake of our salvation,” Father Ballman said, adding that we remember this each time we celebrate the Eucharist.
“God loves to take our suffering, whether physical or our day-to-day crosses, and work through them. God takes the little flower in the garden and makes it precious,” he explained, alluding to St. Therese, often referred to as “The Little Flower.”
St. Therese teaches us that suffering is “prophetic”—it speaks of God’s love—but remains a message many have difficulty fully understanding. You can find joy in suffering when you no longer live for yourself but when Christ lives in you, he continued.
If St. Therese had had her way she would have been a missionary in a foreign land but physical ailments led her to the cloistered life of a Carmelite nun.
“I, in your church, in your garden, I will be love. … If I am love then I am everything,” said Father Ballman referring to the writings of the saint considered a doctor of the church.
Embracing one’s suffering is not to lay dormant one’s desire for healing. “Jesus Christ prayed that His suffering might end, saying, ‘If possible, let this cup pass.’” But Father Ballman continued, saying we must remember the second part of His prayer—“Your will, not mine, be done.”
Following the Mass, Alan Ames of Australia, a noted speaker on healing, led a healing service in which he challenged the audience to seek forgiveness through a “true confession” to a priest and to forgive others as well.
“So often we come for healing but forget about confession,” he explained. “Don’t forget how important priests are. Their hands are so powerful.”
Ames described the eucharistic rosary of Christ that was revealed to him and described two healings possibly linked to it. He then called those forward in the crowd to give them a personal blessing, explaining that “God is not limited by time,” as he would pray over each of them for only a second. He also explained that healing may not be instantaneous and most often occurs over a longer period of time.
“You have to play your part. Jesus said (to the lame man), ‘Pick up your bed and walk.’ Jesus calls for the action of faith.”
For over an hour, Ames marked the sign of the cross on the foreheads of mothers with grown daughters, men in suits, a woman with crutches and parents with young children still up well past their bedtimes. As he moved quickly down the line of people seeking healing, “catchers,” men standing behind each person, caught those “resting in the Spirit” and gently placed them on the ground.
One experienced catcher, Ray Crock of Ellijay, took heart in the evening’s events compared to charismatic gatherings of 25 years ago that felt “superficial” at times.
“The whole group really came to worship,” he said. “There has been a maturing of faith by the faithful … you could feel the power of the Lord’s presence and the Spirit’s.”
Crock, a jolly gentleman, came with his wife, Marilyn, who is afflicted with a condition that requires the use of a wheelchair. Both are encouraged by Marilyn’s small steps of progress. “Last week she rolled over by herself.”
Marta Rodriguez, a parishioner at St. Pius X Church in Conyers, lay peacefully on the red carpet and was then helped to her feet by family members. Later she described the experience when Ames blessed her. “Something comes through you; it’s love.”
Joseph Sherman, a parishioner at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Cartersville, enjoyed the “fellowship with other Catholics” and the Mass. “One of the first things that impacted me was when I walked in and saw the large crowd, versus when I go to church, there are usually 150 to 200 people.”
Seventeen-year-old Kaitlin Karbach of Maitland, Fla., always remembers in her prayers those touched by 9/11. Her parents, Ruth and Bud, offered up in prayer their daughter, who has special needs, and prayed that the Holy Spirit “guide us each and every day to do the right thing,” Ruth said.
Deacon Lloyd Sutter, administrator of the Office of Religious Education and Faith Formation, who orchestrated the Mass, chose the lanky teen with an endearing smile to bring up the gifts during the offertory. Deacon Sutter was touched with the note later handed to him.
“Dear Deacon Lloyd, thank you for letting me bring up a gift for the Lord with a grandfather in a wheelchair. Have a great day. God bless you, Kaitlin.”