And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Lately my son has been asking me to tell him about miracles. I was running low on stories when my copy of Nothing Short of a Miracle, by Patricia Treece, arrived. Perfect! I thought. More material to share with JD! I was also very interested in learning more about modern miracles, as it is easy to forget that such things still happen in our scientific age. So I cracked open the book, ready to enjoy some great tales of God’s wonders. What I wasn’t really expecting is what happened next.
The very first story hit me like a ton of bricks. Without revealing too much thus taking away from the author’s powerful retelling for anybody who reads the book, the first miracle related involves desperate prayers for the health of a newborn. Nuns, nurses and family at the hospital prayed through the night, asking for the intercession of the recently deceased Mother Frances Cabrini. Even though I knew with a title Nothing Short of a Miracle this story was going to have a happy ending, I found the account harrowing, imagining the pain of the mother and medical staff. And by the end I had learned something about myself. I don’t know if I would have been in that chapel all night.
I don’t really pray for miracles often, not because I don’t believe in them, but because I don’t believe in them happening to me. I’ve told myself I am uncomfortable testing God, but now I realize I’m frightened of testing myself. Putting all my faith into asking for a miracle would potentially open me up to the shattering disappointment of it not being granted. I don’t know if my faith could take it. Now I understand faith is necessary and I do possess it and exercise it. I understand that it is an act of the will, just as love is an act of the will. We must decide to believe in something that cannot be entirely proven.
I can do that, but I don’t like it. I’m embarrassed by it. I want to prove everything I believe, partly for myself, partly so as not to look silly to nonbelievers, entirely out of pride and fear.
And apparently I hoard my faith, only willing to pay out a tiny bit at a time. This far and no further, say I. When the time comes to pray for a miracle I am the one praying “thy will be done,” but not for the right reasons. I am not asking for a miracle because I don’t trust God to come through. I know he could, but I don’t want to be hurt when he doesn’t. This is stingy faith. To ask for a miracle involves surrendering everything to God. Believing firmly that, against all odds He can and will contravene His own laws to bring about something extraordinary.
Treece’s book is not simply a collection of anecdotes. Rather, the miracles are told to reflect upon the nature of saints and God’s relationship to them. She is careful to clarify that we aren’t praying for the saints to perform miracles, but asking them to intercede before God on our behalf. And why would we do that? Why not approach Him ourselves? Well, probably because a lot of people are like me. While many of the miracles in in the book are granted to those of little faith, every saint who intercedes for them has utter certainty. They are extravagant in their faith. They have so much faith that is spills over into the deficits of others. This book was a powerful reminder that miracles aren’t fairy tales for children. They are signs to all of us and a challenge to allow God to work upon us all in mysterious and wondrous ways.
And where we fall short, it is reassuring to know that the communion of saints is always waiting to provide what we lack.