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Header-The Deer Hunter

 

In Mexico, there is an extremely hot region named Terracaliente — “Hot Land.”

It is a beautiful place of dense forests of palms, fruit trees, precious hardwoods, and abundant flowers. Great rushing rivers course through these forests, keeping them green and lush. Birds of exotic plumage live there, and animals of every size, from rabbits to deer and leopards, roam the underbrush. Hidden away in hard to reach places lie rich mines of iron, copper, and silver.

At the time of our story, about the year 1868, this seeming paradise was infested by yellow fever and other diseases favored by the extreme heat. This kept many people from settling in Terracaliente. Nevertheless, there was a small village, Huacana, of about five thousand inhabitants.

 

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The Archbishop’s Visit

Around the close of that year, the archbishop of Michoacan, the diocese to which our little village belonged, visited the parish church of San Juan of Huacana. It was his first visitation to this part of his diocese, and the poor people who lived there received him with great joy. Men and women came down from the mountains and out of the woods in droves, raising an enthusiastic din. Like happy children, they rushed to greet their archbishop. Each one produced some precious gift, gifts that, in their great poverty, they could scarcely afford.

“Here, Your Excellency, I brought you this pair of cows...”

“And I a team of oxen,” another said.

“And I a young fowl, Excellency,” added another.

The good archbishop received all and everyone like a true father admiring so much generosity. Nevertheless, he was in a real quandary. Pitying their poverty, he dared not accept all those gifts, yet he was afraid of disappointing them by refusing. He knew well that the best way of showing gratitude for a gift is by accepting it gladly and sincerely. Finally, the archbishop decided to ask the good people to give him some fruit of the region instead of such costly presents. This was no sooner said than done. Fruits of all sizes, shapes, colors, and tastes began to pour in so that a large room was not enough to contain them all.

These were the people of Huacana, poverty stricken, in many ways ignorant, still captives to certain pagan customs and even vices, but full of good will.

One fine day the archbishop, following his usual procedure when on visitations, sat in the confessional administering the Sacrament of Penance. This particular day he was hearing the confession of adults who were preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.

 

The Cripple

The CrippleAmidst the multitude of penitents, he noticed a poor crippled man who patiently waited his turn. To save him discomfort, the archbishop motioned to him to approach. As was his custom, he began by asking him several questions, because of the people’s general ignorance of Christian doctrine.

“Where are you from?” asked the archbishop.

“My Father,” answered the cripple, “I come from a mountain more than fifteen leagues from here.”

“And how did you come?”

“By mule, my Father.”

“What is your state in life?”

“A widower, my Father, with two young daughters of marriageable age.”

“And what is your trade?”

“I am a hunter, my Father.”

“You, a hunter!” exclaimed the amazed archbishop, unable to hold back a smile.

“Yes, my Father,” answered the undisturbed cripple.

“But, what is it that you hunt?”

“I hunt deer, my Father.”

“Deer? Come, come, my man that can’t be,” retorted the prelate, amused and just a little upset, for he was beginning to think that the man was pulling his leg.

But his doubts quickly evaporated and a lively curiosity arose within him as the cripple, shrugging his shoulders, added with the total conviction of one who speaks sincerely: “It would certainly not be possible if my Father God did not help me.”

Surprised at such a simple yet profound answer, the archbishop entreated the man to tell him all about his way of life.

“Well, Your Excellency,” answered the cripple with the same simple calm, “as I said, I am a widower with two young daughters. I spend the days which God grants me this way: In the morning, I get up and say a prayer to my Father God. After I eat the breakfast that my daughters cooked for me, I make my way, as well as I can manage, toward the field with my rifle. I go just a few paces outside my house and there my Father God has a deer waiting for me as I asked Him in my prayer. I shoot it; my daughters come and drag it home. Selling the meat and hide, we have made our living for these many years.”

ConfessionMarveling not only at what he had just heard, but also at the simplicity and candor with which the man told his story, the archbishop begged him to recite the prayer with which, every day, he asked for a deer from that God whom he called “Father” with a true son’s trust.

“Oh no, my Father! That I can’t do,” returned the crippled warmly.

“But why not?”

“Oh, because I’d be very embarrassed...”

“But, my son, don’t you say this prayer to your Father God?”

“Yes, my Father, but... you know... well... to my Father God... is different...”

“But, you see, I truly wish to hear it. Why won’t you make me happy?”

“My Father,... I’ll do anything Your Grace tells me to do, but this would embarrass me.”

“But this is what I ask of you now. Come, my man, grant me this. You should not be embarrassed.”

“But , my Father, I didn’t learn this prayer in any book, nor did anyone teach it to me.”

“It doesn’t matter. Tell me.”

“Well, my Father, just so you won’t feel offended I will say it. When I get on my knees in the middle of my cot, I say to my Father God: ‘O Father God! Thou hast given me these two daughters of mine and Thou hast also given me this illness that doesn’t allow me to walk. I have to feed my little maidens so they don’t have to go to work in town and run the risk of offending Thee. So, Father, place a deer right here where I can shoot it so this poor family can have support.’

The archbishop listened with deep reverence, the shepherd of the Church learning from a poor cripple. The poor man, without realizing his prelate’s admiration, concluded simply: “This is my prayer, my Father. And once I finish it, I go out certain of finding what I have asked of my Father God, and I find it always. In all these twenty years that I have been sick, this help has never failed me, because my Father God is very good...very good.”

 

* * * * * * * * * 

 

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Are we surprised at this miracle? Do we doubt it, perhaps thinking how, at times, we have asked things of God and He has not answered?

Crutches and hatMaybe this same cripple can give us the key to the mystery. Let us listen to the Archbishop of Michoacan, who gave us this true story himself and who certainly would also have whispered affectionately to us so as not to embarrass us.

This poor, uncultivated native of the hills of Mexico invoked his Father God with perfect resignation; as St. Paul says, he raised hands to Him that were pure, pure... so pure that in those twenty years of illness his greatest fault had been to hit a dog that was chewing one of his deer hides.

With this, the miracle should no longer amaze us, for it is no miracle that God fulfills what He promises. 

 


 Translated and adapted from the Spanish original of Father Luiz Coloma, S.J.

 

 

 

Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for April 8, 2020

Every virtue in your soul is a precious ornament which makes...

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April 8

Every virtue in your soul
is a precious ornament
which makes you dear to God and to man.
But holy purity, the queen of virtues, the angelic virtue,
is a jewel so precious
that those who possess it become like the angels of God in Heaven,
even though clothed in mortal flesh.

St. John Bosco

 
My Mother, I will stand with you on OCTOBER 10, 2020

 

Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Julie Billiart

She was miraculously healed of the paralysis of her legs on...

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St. Julie Billiart

Born on July 12, 1751 in Cuvilly, France, Marie Rose Julie Billiard was the daughter of fairly well-to-do peasant farmers who also owned a small shop. From early childhood Julie had a keen interest in spiritual things and by seven years of age she had memorized the catechism and attained an understanding of it beyond her years.

During her youth, her father’s shop was robbed and her father attacked. This so traumatized his daughter that she became ill and gradually a physical paralysis took hold of her. Deprived of the use of her legs, she eventually had great difficulty in even speaking. Julie's paralysis lasted for twenty-two years, and throughout this whole trial she continued to teach her beloved catechism to children and to trust unwaveringly in the everlasting goodness of “le bon Dieu”. Her infirmities drove her to an even deeper life of prayer and union with God.

During the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution when the pastor of Cuvilly was superseded by a constitutional priest sworn to the new atheistic government, Julie influenced her friends and neighbors to boycott the intruder. Though an invalid herself, she worked to hide and assist fugitive priests who remained loyal to the Catholic Church, and for this charitable work she was herself persecuted and obliged to escape from place to place – on one occasion, hiding all night under a haystack.

While taking refuge with the aristocratic family of Gézaincourt, Julie met Françoise Blin de Bourdon, a noblewoman who had barely escaped the guillotine by the fall of Robespierre before her execution. The two became close friends and collaborators.

After the Terror, they both dedicated themselves to the spiritual care of poor children, and the Christian education of girls in a generation sorely neglected by the ravages of the Revolution.

In 1804, after a novena to Him, Julie Billiart was miraculously healed of the paralysis of her legs on the feast of Sacred Heart of Jesus. Now physically free to pursue a full range of activity, her educational work increased rapidly.

At odds with the bishop of Amiens through the meddling influence of a misguided young priest, Julie and Françoise were obliged to move to Namur, in present-day Belgium, where with the full support of the local bishop, they proceeded with their work, eventually founding the Institute of Notre Dame de Namur, today in sixteen countries around the world.

Julie Billiart died on April 8, 1816 while praying the Magnificat. She was canonized in 1969.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort...

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And He Stole Heaven

He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.
 
On his left hung another man, covered in the matted blood of his wounds. Yet, with the exception of a few intermittent words, there was no sound from him.

As time passed, the thief became more and more engrossed in the silent crucified beside him, and less and less in his own plight.St Dismas Picture

Indeed life is ironic, mused Dismas, this man who had lived in the open, and was acclaimed as a healer and even as a king, now hung beside him who had spent his life lurking and hiding.

And now they were lifted up, both on a high parallel. He could see the roof tops of the city, he could see the highways he had stalked, and he could see the way they had walked. Now he looked down on those gathered around this place of execution, the Roman soldiers, the Pharisees, the curious, the friends of the man beside him…and a young man supporting a lady directly beneath them...

And then he knew her; that upturned face, that maidenly majesty now wracked by sorrow, her tear-filled eyes fastened on the man on his left–Yes, he knew that face.

As the wheels of time rolled back in his mind,  his heart gave a jolt as he remembered that blessed day in the desert, decades ago, when a young family making its way to Egypt, sought refuge for the night in his family’s hovel. The man was strong and kind, the woman was the fairest his child’s eyes had seen, and she carried a golden haired babe, as if nothing in the universe was more precious.

He remembered the lady’s gaze on him, her beautiful eyes full of concern for the leprous sores on his young body. Then she and his mother talked. And next, he was being bathed in the same water the lady had just washed her infant son.

And then the sores were gone.  His mother wept for joy, and kissed the lady’s hands, and the baby’s feet. And even his robber-father was moved, and offered the strong man and his family the best in the house.

Now, in one revealing flash, he knew the identity of the wounded man on his left.  He looked again at the lady, and her eyes, those same sweet eyes of old, were on him once more.  
He felt his heart quiver, as the power of gratitude filled his being and softened his criminal soul.  And then came tears, rivers of tears.  When he could speak, he turned to the left,

“Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

And the Lord turned his face to him, His divine eyes on him, and he heard the most beautiful voice he had ever heard, a voice at once full of pain and full of strength, full of sweetness and full of majesty, a judge’s voice, and a father’s voice,

“Amen, amen I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise.”

 

By Andrea F. Phillips
Based on: A Legend of St. Dismas and Other Poems,
Copyright by P. J. Kenedy and Sons. 1927, p. 18.

 

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He hung on a cross that day, writhing in pain and discomfort, the infamous highwayman.

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