Learning About the Holy Spirit From Mrs. Szymanski: Pentecost

Pentecost: 2013   ‘The Spirit arrived like a white heat coursing through my head and hands. I was sure she was healed.”

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on them. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit….

I volunteered in the hospital and reported to Sister Rose who had charge of the volunteer program. “Who do you think I should visit today?” I asked her. “Mrs. Szymanski”, she told me. Off I went. Mrs. Szymanski was a parishioner in the nearby Roman Catholic Church and had been diagnosed with an advanced stage of cancer. She was a delight, a woman of real deep faith and so I invited her to come to the healing service that we had been working on for some months with a healing team from a parish in Malden.

The healing team believed in the absolute power of prayer. They prayed to find parking spaces and to have the city cleared of traffic when they were on tight schedules. As a retired cabby I had to admit, when we reached one of the city’s most notorious intersections and we breezed on through, that prayer seemed to be a better response than curses.

On that Sunday Mrs. Szymanski arrived with her whole family. The fifteen represented nearly a quarter of the congregation. Mrs. Szymanski came to the altar rail and the healing team and I began to lay hands on each head. Heat was building up in my body like a wave coming through my head into my hands and seemed to be pouring out onto the heads of those who came forward.  I was convinced that Mrs. Szymanski had been healed.

The entire congregation came forward that day, following the example of the Szymanski’s, and received the laying on of hands. It was a powerful day.

A few months later I heard that Mrs. Szymanski was back in the hospital. This time at the major Cancer Hospital in the city. I went to see her. “Mrs. Szymanski”, I blurted out, “b-but I prayed that you would be healed”.

The woman, of deeper faith and insight than I, replied, “But I was healed. Before that day my family could not face the fact that I was going to die. There was absolute silence around the subject. After that morning the floodgates opened. Since then we’ve been able to talk, family and friends have come to visit, we’ve been able to plan for my service and the celebration afterwards….”

She died three months later. I visited the funeral home to pay respects to the family. A cousin who had been at the service took me aside and told me that her death was the most beautiful he had ever experienced. “We spent the day before in her hospital room telling stories. She had a memory to share for each one of us. The day she died we were all gathered around her bed; she looked at each one of us, and gently slipped away.”

So what happened that day when the spirit came like white heat, the fire which enlightens and does not consume? At first, it was almost too seductive, like the first rush when you win at the slot machines. There was a deeper and more durable message that came from my teacher Mrs. Szymanski: There’s a real difference between healing and a cure.

Since then I have left the cures to those blessed with the hands and dexterity of doctors and nurses and men and women of skill. Certainly the Holy Spirit is no stranger to many of them.

The cure simply buys one more time to get on with the real work of healing. To heal relationships, bind up old wounds of the spirit, open doors for communication, and our hearts to forgive. To leave a legacy of love and deep witness to those we have known and travelled during this time we’ve been given. It’s the kind of healing Mrs. Szymanski taught me about some years ago and it still goes on teaching.

I believe the ministry of healing is a primary mission of the church. Wherever I am I still gather anyone who wants to come and pray with me for God’s healing. Now I know the difference between healing and a cure.

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