August 11, 2012

 

Do you believe in miracles?

 

I’ve always proclaimed a firm belief that God can and does work miracles in our world today.  I’ve preached this to my children and have rejoiced with friends who have seen miracles at work in their lives.

 

I never expected a miracle in our own family.  When confronted with one, I’ve been slow to trust in it.  Forgive me Father.  I believe, help my unbelief.

 

On July 11, 2012, by the power of Jesus through his Eucharistic species and through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Help, some of our family were miraculously healed of food intolerances.  To truly understand the magnitude of this special grace, one has to know the history of their medical issues.

 

The History

 

My husband and I recently welcomed baby #10 into our family’s fold.  With her birth came questions: “Will she be able to eat ‘normally’?”  Our first five children could eat foods without problem except for a brief period when our third child was dairy-free due to his propensity to have ear infections.

 

Child #6, from the time she began eating solid foods, had very runny bowel movements.  On the advice of her doctor, we began to feed her an organic yogurt every day.  Magically, the “end result” firmed and we rejoiced at the simple solution.  Unfortunately, after a couple months #6 developed extremely itchy eczema which we linked to dairy.  A dairy-free diet cleared the skin condition and left her with pasty BM, a problem we just accepted.

 

By this time, child #7 had arrived and was another happy bouncing baby boy.  When he began eating solid foods, he also had extremely nasty bowel movements.  “Ah-ha!” we thought.  “Yogurt to the rescue!”  As many parents can attest to, what works for one child may not work for another and we learned that lesson yet again when his diapers became even worse.  Removing dairy from his diet helped but his bowel movements were still very far from being firm and normal.

 

We were at a loss as to what our next step should be until I met wonderful woman at the YMCA.  Our children were playing together and somehow #7’s “issues” came up in the conversation.  She told me about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance – two things I had never heard of before.  We set off to see the doctor who agreed to test #7 for food allergies and Celiac disease.  Food allergies were ruled out quickly and while the blood test for Celiac disease came back negative, a consultation with a pediatric gastroenterologist led us to the decision to do a scope.  Results were encouraging: although he was positive for lactose intolerance he was negative for Celiac disease.  That meant he could possibly outgrow the gluten intolerance.

 

Unfortunately, the specialist’s only advice to us at that point was to let #7 eat whatever he wanted.  “After all,” he said, “some people just have diarrhea their whole life.”  Really?  I wish I had asked him if he had diarrhea every day and if he enjoyed living that way.

 

We consulted a dietician who suggested that if a gluten-free and dairy-free diet improved #7’s condition but did not clear it completely, we should try eliminating soy as well.  She hoped we wouldn’t have to as she said eliminating all soy is nearly impossible to do.  She added, “Just as long as he doesn’t have to avoid corn.  Now that IS impossible.”

 

Well, through trial and error we learned he WAS sensitive to both soy and corn in addition to the gluten and dairy.  By this time, child #8 was showing the same problems with food and big sister (#6) was becoming intolerant to gluten and soy.

 

So by 2010 we had three children on very restricted diets.  Corn was especially challenging to avoid.  Most commercially used vinegar comes from corn so if that was ingredient, that food was out.  Citric acid used as an additive is commonly derived through a process where corn is fermented so any foods with citric acid added were out.  Iodized salt was out as the iodine was somehow connected to corn and it would cause a reaction.  Flavor extracts were out as the alcohol used came either from corn alcohol or a glutinous grain.  And many people are becoming aware that high-fructose corn syrup is in so many products.

 

This led us to make our own baking powder, vanilla, ketchup and salad dressings, every sauce was from scratch, rice noodles were a regular on the table and there were very few casseroles gracing our mealtimes any longer.  The grocery bill grew and cooking meals became more challenging as I tried to prepare less expensive food for the rest of the family and the allergen-free foods for the younger ones.

 

We developed a list of what the kids, especially #7, could eat.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, meats seasoned with sea salt and herbs, rice and potatoes were staples.  We found a few items we could purchase: a couple brands of cereal, one type of broth, one brand of rice cakes.  We adjusted to having less variety in all our diets.

 

Yet we felt grateful that their problems were not life-threatening, just an annoyance.  We altered our lifestyle and moved on.   As child #9 got older, it seemed apparent she would have similar problems but we thought, “Oh well, at least we know what it will take to deal with it.”

 

In 2011, we began to take #7 & #8 to a Doctor of Osteopathic medicine who is also a homeopathic practitioner, Dr. Michele Reyes in Glendale, Wisconsin.  She was wonderful.  She listened, she sympathized, and for the first time, gave us hope.  Under her guidance and suggested treatments we slowly saw improvements in the three kids most affected.

 

By July, 2012, #6 and #8 were eating simple gluten foods on a restricted basis and could tolerate some soy.  Dairy still was a big problem.  Child #7 could have an occasional simple gluten food, some minor corn additives but still no soy or dairy.  We were thrilled with the improvements.

 

Then July 11, 2012, our lives changed dramatically.

 

The Healing

Two days previously, while listening to Relevant Radio, I heard about a healing Mass that was to be held at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin. Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga of the Cyangugu Diocese, Rwanda, would preside over Mass and a healing service.  Apparently, he had been an instrument of God in the healing of many people.  I was intrigued and decided to take my children with me to attend.

The day of the Mass was a busy one for me and we arrived at the shrine after Mass had begun.  The church was packed and so we sat outside with other pilgrims who had arrived late.  Sitting in the shade of a tree, I was reminded of the hemorrhaging woman in the Gospels who just wanted to touch the hem of Christ’s cloak.  I felt like her, on the outskirts, but having faith that our presence was known by Jesus.

Mass was wonderful and because they had loudspeakers outside, we could follow along beautifully.  Fr. Ubald’s homily focused on the 10 steps of forgiveness.  As a survivor of the Rwandan genocide, his words impacted both me and my older children who could understand what he had endured.

Fr. Ubald was accompanied by Immacullee Ilibagiza (www.lefttotell.com).  She is also a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.  She led everyone in the rosary and gave beautiful meditations.  I felt the Blessed Mother was close and implored her to take our petitions for healing to her son.

After the rosary, Fr. Ubald exposed the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance and processed through the church.  He had us all sing the name of Jesus (to the tune of Amazing Grace) over and over again.  I could smell the incense as it wafted through the windows to us.  I placed our whole family and all our various needs for healing in Mary’s hands, asking her again to take them to Jesus.  We had total faith in God’s will.  If any of us were healed, we would rejoice.  If not, we knew then that God was allowing us to carry our crosses for our own long-term spiritual benefit.  I was at peace.

After several minutes of singing and praying, I looked up and Fr. Ubald was outside right near us.  The children knelt before their Lord in the Eucharist and Fr. Ubald blessed them.  Then he retreated back into church.

Once he had returned into the church and was done blessing everyone, Fr. Ubald approached the microphone.  He explained that he would now announce who had been healed as they were revealed to him by Jesus.  He asked Immacullee to translate for him as his English is not good enough to know how to describe some of the medical conditions.

After listing many things including cancer cures, pain relieved in someone’s neck & shoulders, cures for alcoholism and more we heard Immacullee say, “Some people here could not eat many foods, many foods that they wanted to eat.  They have now been healed.”  The kids all looked at me.  “That’s us!”  I couldn’t believe it and was afraid maybe it applied to someone else.  I kept listening as more and more healings were announced.  As we’d been there more than 2 hours already, I decided it was time to take the kids home.  As we were leaving, I did hear Fr. Ubald say, “Some of the healings will be progressive and will happen over time, some over 6 months even.”  I thought, “Maybe that will be our kids.”

In the van, #6, #7, and #8 all clamored to eat something to test their healing.  I let them eat Gardetto’s, a snack mix chock full of gluten, corn, soy and milk.  At supper, I insisted they eat their regular allergen-free food because I feared they’d be miserable if I let them eat too many “off limits” foods.

Normally, within four hours child #7 would be running to the bathroom.  Not this time.  The next day, we saw normal BM for both #6 and #7 but not #8. 

More “test” foods followed the next day when I prepared a chicken pot pie from scratch that included more gluten and dairy.  It was so delicious and we all enjoyed eating it together even though I had this nagging concern that I’d regret feeding it to them later.  But they were fine!

By Friday, July 13, we let them eat grilled cheese sandwiches made with butter and on “real” bread and pizza from one of our favorite local pizza parlors.  Watching #7 eat that pizza and see him thoroughly enjoy stringing out the melting cheese from his slice of pizza to his mouth was priceless.  We giggled and almost cried at the same time.  He asked us, “Can I have another piece?”  We told him yes.  “Can I have one last piece?”  You bet we said.  “How about another one?”  It was so fun to keep saying yes as his grandparents, aunts and uncles stood by watching in amazement. 

 

That night, though I felt amazed I still struggled.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop.  Jesus knew my heart and reassured me through child #7.  He was having a hard time falling asleep.  I was the only one downstairs and he came to me hesitantly.  “Mom, I keep hearing a voice talking to me while I’m lying in bed.”

 

“What is it saying to you?” I asked, a little skeptical.

 

“It’s telling me it’s true, I really can eat all these foods.  The healing is real.”

 

That’s not what I was expecting to hear.  I asked him who he thought was talking to him.

 

“It’s God, Mom.  And He wants me to tell you that I really can eat all these foods now.”

 

Who am I to argue with that?  It would have been enough for Jesus to heal the children, but He loves me so much He spoke to me through my son to reassure me, to encourage me to trust him.  Wow.

 

The next day I made one of our family’s favorite recipes: chicken marinated in a homemade teriyaki sauce.  Once again, we all ate with relish and I watched the kids carefully for any negative reactions.  There were none.

On Sunday, I thought I would put this healing to the test and feed them corn – “straight up.”   Only #6 had been able to eat corn without an issue, but now #7 and #8 ate it without a problem.  I was finally convinced.

The only problem we’ve had is when we fed a bowl of oatmeal to #7.  He has tolerated foods with oat flour though.  So I think we can handle avoiding oatmeal.  That’s a pretty short list compared to the 3 pages of ingredients to avoid I used to carry with me to the grocery store.

They are healed.  It is a miracle.  It is the only explanation.  They went from several food intolerances to (basically) none, overnight.

Child #9 has not shown the same quick results.  She is not having the terrible diarrhea every day though.  She may be destined for a progressive healing or the healing was not for her.  We have accepted God’s will and will deal with whatever the future holds for her.

 

Thanksgiving

 

We are so grateful to Jesus for healing our children.  We were already thankful that their physical ailments were minor compared to the life-threatening diseases and disabilities many children face.  Yet, with this concern gone, I am amazed at how much happier I feel.  I’m almost giddy over how easy it is to shop and cook now.  The only problem now is I’ve been treating the family to all kinds of less-than-healthy items that we’ve been avoiding for so long.  The honeymoon will only last so long though and we’ll reserve those items for occasional treats again.  Now, it’s just fun to say, “Yes!  You CAN have an ice cream cone!  Yes!  You CAN have a piece of bubble gum!  Yes!  You CAN have that bag of chips!”

 

We plan on making a family pilgrimage back to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help to express our gratitude for her intercession.  Our faith in the Eucharist is even stronger and at every meal I feel so grateful to Jesus.  We also acknowledge that as Fr. Ubald preached a homily about forgiveness, seeking and offering forgiveness must continue to be central in our family life.  We incorporate this through regular confession.  Jesus is continually calling us to a deeper union with him and this moment of grace has grabbed our attention.

 

I always said I believed in miracles but when put to the test I nearly failed.  Now I can say with conviction, I’m a believer.  Are you?

 

Copyright 2012.  May not be reprinted or published in any fashion without the express permission of the author.