And he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared. Luke 1:17
This past weekend I took my parents to attend the funeral of a very dear friend, Reba, who passed away after a life well lived at the age of 89. She was one of my mom’s best friends and she was like a second Mother to me. She also happened to be my sister’s Mother-in-law.
My own parents are elderly so travel can be difficult, for both them and me. But because of the closeness of my family with Reba, I knew we had to be there. The funeral was in Charlotte. A seven hour drive for me with my parents. My husband and children did not come due to the timing and logistics of everything.
I started out the morning picking up my parents, who decided to have a sit down breakfast at their Independent Living Facility. I have learned when I am traveling with the elderly I just have to go with the flow. There is no sense of “hurry up” which can feel like a curse, but is actually a blessing in our fast paced world. They proceeded to introduce me to every single person there, many whom I have met before. It’s all about relationship. We could learn something from spending time with the elderly.
I sat down with them at the table. Table number 17. I looked at the number and God said, “pay attention.” I knew it would be an interesting day.
After breakfast we got on the road. About an hour into the ride my tire blew out on my mini-van.
We were on Interstate 40, with 18 wheelers flying by, and there was a guard rail and very little room to pull over on my right. My mom was crying. I drove a few meters past the guard rail and pulled off the Interstate as best as I could. But there was a ditch on the right side, and 18 wheelers whizzing by on the left. I knew I could not exit the vehicle. My parents cannot walk well and if I tried to have them exit to the right they were at serious risk of falling into the ditch. Obviously no one wanted to exit on the side with trucks flying by. I was stuck.
I called for help and was informed that it would be an hour before any tow truck could get there. Trying to get the spare tire would require emptying walkers and wheelchairs onto i40 and did not appear to be an option.
The only thing we could do was wait. Wait for rescue. I felt like Moses at the Red Sea when God tells him to “be still, I will fight for you.” (Exodus 14:14)
My parents and I decided to pray the Rosary as we waited for the tow truck driver. We got 3 decades in when he arrived. Andy, our tow truck driver, looked like he wasn’t old enough to drive. He reminded my of Skylar our boat captain back during the storms in Florida. God keeps sending me children to rescue me. I think he is trying to tell me something.
And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3
Andy seemed to have no problem walking around on the side of the interstate with trucks whizzing by about 24 inches from him. I waited for a break in traffic and I hopped out to talk to him. Together Andy and I assessed the situation. There really was no good way to get us out of there because of my parents and he didn’t have room for all of us in his cab anyway. He called the powers that be. They told him to hook us up to the tow truck while we remained in our vehicle. So Andy, the child, got under my car with his cable and pulled us up onto his tow truck, chaining us securely.
Andy, true to the name of the Apostle first called, fished us out of the situation we were in. The wind blew fiercely making the cable creak, which in turn made my mom and I cry. My dad proceeded to lead the next two decades of the Rosary, just as calm as could be. I loved having my father with me in that moment. We drove a few miles to a tire shop where Andy dropped us off. We were safe. And God had put me in yet another situation where I had no control and whispered, “Trust.” I couldn’t help but think of our church, which seems in disarray from scandal and ambiguity. Like a ship stuck in stormy water waiting for rescue.
“so that we confidently say, “THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” Hebrews 13:6
We were at a small mom and pop tire shop awaiting my car to be repaired. The woman who was helping us started telling us about her nephew. He was born with half of a heart. She said, yes he was born November 17 and his heart transplant was July 17. Seventeen is his lucky number. And God said “pay attention.”
I was paying attention, and I asked God, “what is it you want me to see about 17?”
So I actually looked up on my phone 17 and scripture.
And it popped up and said;
Number 10 is a symbol of perfect order, while number 7 is a symbol of perfection. It is also written in the bible that the next prophet who will come to earth will be Elijah and he will be actually the representation of Jesus. He will restore all the things on the planet and he will make a victory.
Now I have no idea what site this was on. But after I read this, God just said, “Spirit of Elijah and the double portion.”
My friend Lucy has spoken to me about the Spirit of Elijah before, but she is much more schooled than I am and I honestly didn’t always know what exactly she was talking about. But on this day I did.
God was pointing out disorder to me in our church. You see, by virtue of my being an RCIA Coordinator, I had noticed that the order of the Sacraments in RCIA is actually different than the order of the Sacraments for our baptized Catholic Children in our Diocese.
Let me back up a bit and remind you of the story of Elijah. Elijah is with Elisha and Elisha realizing Elijah will soon pass away asks Elijah if he can have a double portion of his spirit (which would give him the ability to perform more miracles). Elijah tells him if Elisha sees him ascend, he will receive that double portion. And Elijah does indeed ascend and God bestows the double portion.
We see this also at Pentecost. After Jesus ascends, this is when the Spirit comes down upon the Apostles. We already know they are Baptized with water and the Spirit, and it is this event that the church points to for the Sacrament of Confirmation. A double portion of the Spirit, Baptism and Confirmation. In both cases the ascending brings the Pentecost, brings the double portion. And it is here we see the Birthday of the Church. Baptism and Confirmation take place as the first two of the 3 initiation Sacraments. The third is the Eucharist.
And I realized we have it out of order. I think all but maybe 10 Dioceses do. It has to do with restored order. Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist. This is the order we follow in RCIA, but it is not the order my children or myself received the Sacraments in. Giving our children Eucharist and withholding Confirmation is like giving a child a brand new car without any gas to get where they’re going. We had stopped expecting the Holy Spirit to act. Of course God can make order out of our disorder, and he has in some souls, but it begs the question, why was this ever changed in the first place? RCIA and a sparse few Diocese’s are the only places I know of that order this properly. And I come across so many Catholics who are not fully initiated into the church. They have no double portion and so they are marked in the Kingdom of God, but access to the gifts He wants to pour out upon them has not happened. God can make anything happen, but he seeks our cooperation. We have not cooperated. Why are we making it harder? It’s like having half of the heart of God, like the woman’s nephew who needed a new heart. We need the whole heart of God in us.
The Holy Spirit at Confirmation bestows the gifts of wisdom, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, understanding and fear of the Lord. Children are open to the Spirit in a way older teens and adults often are not. WHY IN THE WORLD ARE WE NOT BESTOWING THIS UPON THEM EARLY? Be like little children. These gifts beget other gifts. Discernment of Spirits, prophecy, healing, mercy… the list goes on. GOD IS WAITING TO POUR IT OUT.
When we receive Baptism, then Confirmation, then Eucharist, in proper order we become disposed to the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy in the World. And the world becomes better.
The perfect example of this is the Blessed Mother. Though she had no need of baptism by virtue of her Immaculate Conception, it is at the Annunciation that the Spirit comes upon her. This enables her to become the living Sanctuary of the Eucharist. God in her. A daughter of God the Father, the spouse of the Holy Spirit, and the Mother of the Son. All things relationship, in proper order. Baptism restores us to God’s Kingdom as children. Confirmation bestows upon us the gifts we were meant to receive as brothers and sisters of the Kingdom and Eucharist enables us to bring God’s love to the world as a spiritually mature giver, bringing His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Bringing about a Mystical Body, a communion of Saints. These things belong together in proper order. We have disordered them. Mary shows us how to be restored. Restore order.
When I went to Latin Mass for the first time in 20 years, I felt as though God scrolled me through time. And that the church would walk the same Passion as Christ. That there were parallels in the actual Path of Christ and His Passion and in the path of the Passion of the Church. Mary, who is the Mother of the Church and the archetype of what the church should be fits into this. I felt as though the Annunciation was like the Ascension bringing down the Spirit.
So when I look at Mary down through the centuries I realize she has been appearing all over the place. We have many approved church apparitions, and some still under investigation. She has been walking with the church. Walking with us to our Passion. One where we surrender to the will of God as Jesus did. Though we have known for a long time she was Assumed by God into Heaven, it was not declared Dogma until November 1, 1950. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the Doctrine of the Assumption of Mary. There’s another number for you, 70. Also made of 10 and 7. Order and Perfection (of love). These things were never meant to be separated. There are those who made order their god, and those who misconstrue love to be without truth. But God says no to both of these. And God will reorder things to His perfect love. Everything a movement back to His Divine Will. We just have to surrender and listen. And we must wait for the double portion to renew our hurting church. The Spirit of Elijah. What an exciting time to be alive.
I think of this age of the double portion as an Illumination of Conscience. I actually pray for it. One where the Spirit convicts us of who we are in God’s eyes. Conviction is not condemnation, it shows us our sin, while still knowing we are loved. Confession and forgiveness is the recognition of the promise of God at our Baptism and the openness to be filled with the gifts given at Confirmation. He wipes away our sin. And we can be poured upon with gifts as we receive the Eucharist and have God in us. Thus we are totally whole. The epoch of Mary and the Holy Spirit.
This was the fruit of my paying attention to the number 17 and the excursion with my parents. We continued on to the funeral, all toll it took us about 12 hours for what should have been our 7 hour car ride. The funeral was beautiful. Reba died after receiving the Sacrament of the sick with all her kids and husband praying around her. Her husband who is 97 led the Rosary and the kids said there were more Our Fathers than Hail Mary’s because of his memory but they felt certain God understood. It was a VERY Catholic funeral. She left behind her husband, 6 kids, their spouses, 18 grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren. It was exactly as it should be. The eulogy was Amazing. All about her life as a Catholic and how she led Maryland Right to Life.
It was a life well lived and filled with relationship. I will miss her.
In loving Memory of Reba Marie Ransom Ferris
September 12, 1930 – September 13, 2019