Leaning on the divine during a disaster.
BY: Joan Wester Anderson
In times of great stress, we need to hear about miracles. I can find no better encouragement than reports of good news during the tsunami. Here are just a few where angels and saints might have been involved:
The Santhome Cathedral Basilica in Chennai, India, was right in the path of the storm. But even though waves devastated the coast, Father Lawrence Raj says the sea did not touch the Basilica. This building sits at the site where Saint Thomas, one of Christ’s apostles, was buried in 72 A.D. Although all the buildings on either side and in front of it were damaged or washed away, no water touched the recently-renovated Basilica.
According to legend, St. Thomas planted a post at the top of the steps leading to the Cathedral, and vowed that the sea water would never touch the post. Hundreds of homeless survivors who have been staying in the church ever since the tsunami credit St. Thomas for their survival. “It is Saint Thomas who has saved me. This church was untouched by the waters because of the miraculous power of the St Thomas post," said K Sebastiraj, one of many fisherman who sought shelter in the Santhome Cathedral.
Floridian Mike Pena was relaxing with his wife and son on the Patong Beach in Thailand when he saw the ocean retreat at least a half-mile away from shore. As fish flopped in the sand, Mike and other puzzled tourists looked out to sea and saw, with horror, the huge waves rolling in.
As a field construction engineer, Mike had just returned from working in Iraq, and his son had returned from a tour of duty there. Mike’s wife Al had promised that if her husband and son came home safely, she would return to Thailand, her birthplace, and make a pilgrimage to a temple in Phuket to pray and light candles, not an easy journey due to her advanced arthritis. Now, as Mike saw the scene, he realized he was seeing a tsunami. He grabbed Al, yelled to his son and the three ran for their lives.
But a huge wave bore down on them. Al fell, and Mike lost his grip on her. The water crashed over them. Mike was hit in the back with a beach chair and tossed about. He cried out to God. How would Al survive if he died? Suddenly, he says, he felt a strong hand, pulling him up. Gasping for air, he looked around. But there was no one there. “You hear people talk about things like this,” Mike says,“but I swear it happened. Something was there, pulling me up.”
Soon he spotted a pickup truck, with Al and his son clinging to the back of it. “I was never so happy to have them both okay,” he said later, speaking from his hospital bed. Even an old family photo, which he always carried, survived the storm. It is a mystery the family will never understand, Mike says, but they give thanks every day.
In the small town of Vailankanni, India, another ray of hope penetrated the darkness, as a shrine mysteriously became a refuge for over 2000 people. This shrine dates back to 1560, when a young shepherd boy was asked to fetch some milk for his master. On the return trip, he stopped to rest, and was awakened by a vision of Mary with the infant Jesus in her arms. She smiled at the boy, asked him for some milk for the Child. After the Child drank, the vision disappeared. The boy’s master did not believe the story until the lid was taken off the milk jug, and it began to run over with milk. Several similar stories happened in later centuries, some involving healings, and eventually a chapel was built on the spot where this Basilica stands today, named Our Lady of Good Health.
This past December 26th, as waves engulfed the town of Vailankanni, a Mass was taking place in the shrine, with 2000 pilgrims in attendence. Although it left the entire town in shambles, the deadly water did not enter the Basilica, and everyone present was spared. According to the BBC, the shrine was the only building to escape the devastation, even though buildings farther inland were destroyed. What do these miracles mean? Why did God take some of His children and spare others?
Perhaps it shows that a) God is in control. And b) There is a divine plan for each of us, and those taken play just as important a role in that plan as those who are spared. This life is simply a gateway to the eternity we all hope to share, with God and with His angels.