October 4, 2016

CNF/Essay by Donal Mahoney: "Believe It or What?"

Donal Mahoney has worked as an editor for U.S. Catholic Magazine, Loyola University Press, and The Chicago Sun-Times. Retired now, he keeps busy writing poetry, fiction and nonfiction. One of the most important aspects of “freedom” for him is freedom of religion and the opportunity in this country to practice it or not practice it. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=


Believe It or What?

He doesn’t have to prove anything to me. The Holy Spirit, that is. I’ve always known He’s there, from childhood on, even if I ignored Him for many years. But like others growing older, I thank Him now and then just for being there. I think it helps to pay one’s dues as early as possible.

The other night, however, an odd thing happened. I couldn’t get to sleep and usually I’m asleep once my head’s on the pillow. I kept changing positions but nothing seemed to work. I was wide awake. And then my arms began to tremble, first one arm, then the other. Alarming, let me tell you. 

I tried everything to make the trembling stop. rolling over, trying new positions, shaking my arms. I didn’t want to disturb my wife who was watching a Turner Classic Movie because I had no idea what I'd ask her to do since nothing like this had ever happened to either of us before. I never read about the problem, either, in the many medical bulletins we receive. I like to know in advance what might kill me.

Twenty minutes later, my arms were still trembling, more, not less. I was another Lawrence Welk, recumbent though I was, and I was growing a tad frantic. Is this how Parkinson’s says hello, I wondered.

Then I remembered my faith says that the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, lives in me and other members of His church, which is something I accept but feel unworthy of in light of past performance, if you will. And it’s certainly not something I brag about to atheists or agnostics or folks for whom the Trinity is not an article of faith. 

I know I’m supposed to proselytize but even if I did it as much as some others do, I don’t think I would begin by telling folks the Holy Spirit lives in me. There are other ways to introduce Him and let Him take it from there. 

The interesting thing is that although I’ve asked Him in the past to help others going through trials I don’t recall ever asking Him for a personal favor, so to speak. Perhaps it’s because I’ve lived a long life with ups and downs and never really thought to call on Him during the downs or until lately to thank Him for the ups. 

I’ve called on Jesus at times during the downs. That’s pretty normal for a Christian. But not the Holy Spirit or God the Father.

This time, however, with my arms inexplicably trembling just short of violently, I decided to ask the Holy Spirit to stop them. It wasn’t a prayer. I just asked Him silently. I still didn’t want to disturb my wife who takes old movies seriously. 

You probably know what happened next or I wouldn’t be telling you all this. In a minute, no more than two, after I had asked the Holy Spirit to stop the trembling, my arms stopped. Not one more tremble. I had given the baton back to Lawrence Welk and he had the band playing a favorite of mine from my youth called “In Heaven They Have No Beer, That’s Why We Drink It Here.”

Seriously, though, either the Holy Spirit stopped the trembling or something mental or physical kicked in at that moment and the trembling stopped. 

I’m not too big on miracles once you get beyond the ones in the Bible. I have no problem with Jesus turning the water into wine at Cana or His multiplication of the loaves and fishes or any of the other miracles performed by Jesus and the apostles as explained in Scripture. But the miracles performed by healers on TV, I’m not too big on those. Pin me down and I’d say they don’t pass the smell test. My smell test. But ask me again and I’d say God can do whatever He wants through anyone he pleases. 

As Pope Francis said on the plane, “Who am I to judge?"

All I know right now is that my arms stopped trembling as soon as I asked the Holy Spirit for the biggest favor of my life. I had a good night’s sleep and my arms have not started trembling again. 

I already have an appointment set up with my internist and I will tell him exactly what happened. I’ll tell him everything that I’ve told you here. And if he prescribes electroshock treatments for me, I’ll find a new doctor. He can believe it or what?

First published in Spirit Fire Review

Donal Mahoney

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