IN THE PRESENCE OF A MARTYR
O ye of little faith? Listen to this story.
Heidi is not our common ladyfolk. She is highly educated but chose to be unemployed. She belonged to a well-heeled family but chose to be an errand. She is fair and lovely but chose to lead a celibate life. No, she did not join the nunnery. She never even envisioned herself as one in a cloister. She is very religious but never entertained the thought of entering the convent.
She is still a civilian up to this very day.
A normal life turned inside out
Heidi has a twin sister and both had a bubbly disposition, light hearted, cheerful and sweet. Both were active in school and in their neighborhood and in every activity where they joined, they project an aura of maturity, leadership and discipline. Both finished their college with flying colors and they got through early in their respective career as corporate staff. They intend to show their parents how smart and dutiful they are in the organization where they work and their respective companies could not but recognize the potential of their new recruits.
But one dreary afternoon, after office hours, Heidi noticed of late that her twin sister was having difficulties in breathing. Her sister has been pale for a period but they merely dismissed it as adjustment stress. It was a normal presumption viewed by all commuters in Metro Manila. Just by reporting for work one instantly gets freaked out and be drained as a consequence of traffic!
She accompanied her sister to a nearby hospital for physical examination and after thorough laboratory procedures, right there; suspicions of blood deficiency were noted. She underwent a series of diagnostic tests and more laboratory procedures. The first findings would yield a similar shade, the third and final diagnosis pointed out what has been feared. She was diagnosed with blood cancer or leukemia. And every physician they would consult had only one view: it is a terminal case and only a miracle can cure it. It was a shocking medical revelation for the family and everyone in the household could not get their bearings right. They were all petrified. Heidi was most affected and equally terrified.
When the health condition of the girl turned worse, there was only resignation in sight. But Heidi persevered. She dropped out from employment and spent most of her days navigating all churches, temples and chapels in their town. In her prayers, she would ask that her twin sister’s life be spared in exchange for her servitude, martyrdom if necessary. She got lost in deep supplications, her weight and appetite too. She knew that faith could work on wonders. Only a miracle can cure it.
A struggling vow
While her sister remained under intensive care, Heidi would storm the heavens with her prayers, this time, done day and night.
After a few weeks, her sister’s condition would miraculously improve. The girl’s strength has restored to normalcy, the blood count almost average and she has gone from pale to pink of health. A month later, that fast, the girl was up and about as if nothing happened. Even her physicians could not determine which medicine or regimen gave the health back on their patient. All her physicians were in a celebratory mood. It was one successful treatment they had in their career. It was worth the medical journal. For those in science, methods and procedures carried the day more than spirituality.
But for Heidi, it was more on accepting fate. It was for her however more than fate, it was more a reward, more about faith. For if the heavens have given her miracles, then she must be that special spiritually, she must be that angelic to say the least. Heaven heard her prayers and her twin sister saved from a fatal ailment. It was a secret she could not divulge on anyone.
The family was very grateful to the hospital staff, the medical team and lab personnel. Heidi was doubly thankful too.
On her own, in every church and chapel where she would find shelter, Heidi must therefore face her vow of servitude, her promise. But she could not discern where and in what manner. She was nowhere near an initiate. She prayed hard offering her life in the service of her faith but she could not ascertain how. She continued her church hopping without let up just to be given a sign until she grew tired and weary. There seemed no indication except for her to spend her entire waking period in prayers. She even had included all living creatures in her prayers, even nature for that matter. In her light moment, she was no longer expressing gratitude, she is already crusading the salvation of a planet!
An imperceptible sign
One day, while in deep prayer during a simple morning Mass in a small town Chapel of Sto. Nino, Muntinlupa City, she noticed the celebrating priest dazed and could not make the usual gesture. She looked around to check on mass goers, they were only 5 at that time, if they noticed it too. Then slowly, the priest held on the altar table and slowly bent. Something was wrong. The priest was about to pass out!
Heidi who was occupying the front row tried to signal to other church goers pointing at the priest but there was shock registered on their faces. She went near the priest, held up his head and instructed the acolytes to assist her bring the priest inside the convent.
“Sister,” responded the altar boys, “Father is not from this place. He is residing in the reservation, Chaplain’s quarters of New Bilibid Prison, near this place.”
“Then, please flag down a tricycle for us, and I will bring Father to the hospital or to his chaplaincy quarters.”
The priest regained his strength a bit and asked that he be taken to his quarters. A few minutes later, they were all inside the receiving area of the house.
“Father, sorry to intervene in your mass, but….” Heidi apologized.
“Ohhh, thank you Madam, I felt like melting, my strength was fading, my head was bursting in pain as if I am about to die…thank you, thank you, you must have missed your schedule already.” The priest gratefully acknowledged.
“By the way Father, do you have any medication? You may want to take some to restore your balance.”
The priest slowly walked towards an unpainted cabinet and produced a box filled to the brim with an assortment of medicine.
“That’s right Madam, I have here a boxful of meds. I think, I will have to take this tablet, I will just look for the prescription somewhere at the bottom of the heap to be sure.”
“If you won’t mind Father, may I organize your medicine box so that you won’t find it hard to check what medicine to take and when?”
“My dear child, thank you for your concern. I hope you won’t mind either if I retreat in my room or get over my dizziness, I think I must doze off for a few minutes. I will see you after an hour. Please help yourself and don’t leave yet.”
The Chaplaincy visitors
During that time, the church-based seniors, they who served as vanguard and errand to the town priests, got wind of what happened to their religious leader. They came in droves and were surprised, to their conservative consternation, a lovely lady sifting through stacks of medicine sachets and writing down labels. The seniors were all aghast at the blasphemous presence of a woman in the holy ground of their pastor. Their malicious eyes were all stabbing at her. Heidi was embarrassed and left a note instead before she left in a hurry.
But before she stepped down from the quarters, a uniformed old lady swath with beads and religious medallions confronted her. “What are you doing inside the room of the priest?”
“Madam” replied Heidi, “I am in receiving area of the chaplain’s quarters organizing the medicine box of our priest.”
“Ok, we are always here in charge of our priest.” The elderly lady proudly proclaims.
“Please check on the medicine of our priest, it’s a bit tupsy turvy.” Heidi pleaded.
Heidi would still persist in visiting his friend priest. To her mind, it could probably be the vow she was expecting. To her mind, to serve the priest must be the calling required of her by heaven. She must serve and be a martyr if need be.
She would constantly pay the priest a visit, bringing food and fruits and would request that she and her family be prayed for and included in the celebration of the Mass.
A cure for brain tumor
Several months later, the priest would suffer another ailment—brain tumor. It would entail a regular trip to the hospital for the radiation therapy and costly procurement of maintenance medicine. As soon as word that the priest had to undergo an expensive hospital treatment, almost all church seniors took a long vacation! Suddenly, there were no shadows of do-gooders in the area, much more so any indication of moral soldiers. The priest was virtually abandoned.
Heidi would accompany the priest in the regular regimen of a costly radiation therapy. I know because Heidi would seek my counsel and assistance along the way. And fatal the ailment would be but under Heidi’s shadow, the tumor would respond to the treatment until finally it would recede to normalcy.
Like any other treatment pertaining exposure to radiation, it would have a deleterious effect on the person. In the case of the priest, his hearing and balance would be affected. While the mass on the brain has been defeated, it ruined that part of the priest’s auditory nerves and sense of equilibrium. Without the assistance of two grown-ups, the priest could not stand alone. As a consequence, he was for a time bed ridden.
Knowing that the priest had no more people sympathetic on his expensive condition, Heidi brought the priest in their house. And her whole family was indeed very compassionate to nurture and assist an ailing old man, almost crippled, almost deaf and leading a vegetable existence.
The saintly lady as martyr
Slowly however the priest would recover from one fatal ailment after another. Heidi’s attendance indeed is a comforting balm and has a miraculous healing effect. She could have been a Saint for all we know but for sure, she is leading the life of a martyr. She had devoted completely all her attention on the welfare of the ageing priest. All her sacrifices tended to increase the strength of her beneficiary and innocently, her spiritual significance as well. She has made it a career for almost a decade and a half.
The priest is already in his mid-70s and providentially, all his ailments are gone already. Truly, Heidi’s presence is mysterious if not mystical.
I am convinced that having Heidi as a friend is not only a curative experience but can be likened to embracing faith in its salvific form.