Every week I try to tell the story of God’s grace alive in one particular person: how He made another ordinary, sometimes struggling, sometimes hurting, person into a saint.
This week I am going to try and tell the story of God’s grace around one particular event, basically one week here in our diocese where God, again and again, consistently, continuously provided as only He can. How He is at work right now to make you, and I, and so many others into saints.
It was a rainy afternoon in mid-March and had been a day filled just enough that I hadn’t had time to tackle any of the little tasks that tend to fall through the cracks, yet wasn’t so packed that I was worn and weary from the day’s events. We’ve all been there: the kind of day where you’re just barely getting by on your own steam. It’s not quite long or arduous enough that you are absolutely forced to turn to God, but not exactly “easy and light”. About 8 of us were having a final meeting to put the finishing touches on our plans for the March for Life that would happen about 10 days later. (Notice that all-important descriptor: our plan…) Little did I know as they asked me to open the meeting in prayer, how much we were going to be leaning on God going forward. (And how He was going to abundantly show that this was His plan.)
Turns out, our ballpark expectation of a maximum of 1200 people had been obliterated over the prior few days. We had 1700 people registered just for the Mass before the March (and 2500 at least for the Rally and March itself). Instead of one bishop and 8 priests, we had 6 bishops and 40 priests. Rather than using only the main floor of the auditorium, we were going to need every seat in there, and I was going to need to figure out how to distribute Holy Communion through every cranny of loge level. Of course, we rejoiced at the prospect of a biblical multitude, but at the same time I think every person on the team was taken-aback by the magnitude of the project we were now attempting to pull off. I cannot speak for all the other hurdles faced to pull everything off, but I would like to share a few that I got to see for myself, and the astonishing ways that God moved mountains all the way through.
Hurdle #1: We didn’t have an altar or ambo. Well, we had a little wooden one, but I already knew it would be dwarfed in the Sangamon Auditorium, and now I doubted it would even be of sufficient size to hold all the corporals, patens, chalices, and missal that we would need for the Mass (not to mention spreading 6 bishops behind it). I thought another member of the team had been in touch with the Archdiocese of St. Louis about borrowing the altar and ambo that they had which Pope St. John Paul II had used during his visit there, but no one had reached out, and I didn’t even have a contact for the person I would need to talk to. My heart whipped back and forth between frustration and discouragement and confidence and hope. Of course God would provide … but everything was falling apart. What are we going to do??!! … but it’ll all work out. I emailed someone at the Cathedral Basilica in St. Louis but knew I needed things to move faster than that, so I texted a priest I know down there and paused and said a prayer that God would open the doors that He wanted us to go down… And the priest called back within one minute, tracked down the business manager at their Cathedral for me, found out that the altar was available, and had him emailing me the details within another minute.
Hurdle #2: To borrow the altar and ambo, you have to have it moved by a honest-to-goodness moving company, and it has to be covered by $100,000 of insurance. Did I mentioned we don’t have a budget for this? The choice to move the March for Life down here to Springfield happened just a handful of months ago. Hence the skeleton crew. Hence the month-out contract with Sangamon auditorium. Hence me not having an Altar. And now I needed a moving company with a heap of insurance, this week, and willing to do it out of the goodness of their heart. God was going to ask for trust again, and I needed Him to move a few more mountains.
– Fr. Dominic Rankin will tell the rest of the tale, don’t worry. For now – spoiler alert, he survived the March for Life – but he needs some sleep before attempting any more storytelling.