By Theresa Thomas
I thought I might let my 19-year-old tell you something in her own words.
“I was praying about a word that God might give me to focus on this year, because my mom had told me before that every year she receives a word through prayer around Advent and then that word plays into her life somehow during that year. She feels God is calling her to focus on that word, usually associated with a virtue. So anyway, I thought maybe God was calling me to receive a word too.
“I was praying about it and the word ‘stay’ kept coming into my mind. I wasn’t really happy with that word, because I didn’t think it could relate to my life at all.
“’Stay’ as in ‘stay in school?’ ‘Stay’ at my college, Saint Mary’s? ‘Stay’ in Indiana? I didn’t know what it meant. But I kept praying about it, and I would receive it during and after Mass; so I thought maybe it meant, “stay at Mass,” pray a little longer or stay in Adoration. And so I would.
“One day I had gone to the Grotto at Notre Dame with my friends and was praying there. I had just lit a candle and offered it up for some intention that I now can’t remember. But I knelt down to pray and as I finished my prayers I heard the word ‘stay’ in my mind again.
“I really didn’t want to stay at that moment, because I had prayed for everyone I wanted to; but I thought, ‘OK, God, I’ll stay.’ So I said another Hail Mary for one of my family members and as I was finishing, I heard someone crying and turned to see next to me a girl. The sobbing got louder and louder. I didn’t know why, but she was kneeling there, just sobbing uncontrollably. I didn’t know what to do, so I quietly got up and went over to my friends and told them about it. I wanted to see if the girl was OK and I felt like we should approach her, but I didn’t want all of us to go up to her at the exact same time because that might be overwhelming for her.
“After a minute or so, I walked up to her and asked if she was all right.
“She was still uncontrollably crying and could barely get it out that no, she wasn’t OK and that she was going through something really hard. I stayed there by her, with her, and asked if I could pray with her and for her. She said ‘OK,’ and I asked her what her name was. She told me. Then I said out loud, ‘God, give (girl’s name) the strength to get through this problem she is having. Please help her be alive with Your plan and help her have good support of her friends and family. Help them to encourage her and help her through whatever struggles she is dealing with.’ Then I said a Hail Mary with her.
“We made the sign of the cross and stood back up to just sit there at the grotto for a few minutes, and we talked. I found out this girl was also a Saint Mary’s student, and I asked if she wanted to come with my friends and me on the bus back to campus. Turns out the girl is somebody I’d gone to (high) school with, but that she was two or three years older than me so I didn’t really know her. She rode the bus back with my friends and me, and it ended up being fine. She actually laughed on the way back at something one of my friends said.
“Looking back now, if I hadn’t stayed when I felt prompted, I wouldn’t have been able to comfort this girl; I wouldn’t have been able to talk to her. I wouldn’t have been able to pray with her. And she said she really needed prayers. I told her I’d be praying for her for a while.
“So, I still don’t really know this girl. I haven’t seen her in a while. But I am still praying for her and I have to believe it is helping. I also know she must be one reason I got the word “stay” that night in my thoughts. She is what the word was there for, at least that one night. I think I need to continue to listen whenever I hear God telling me in my heart the word ‘stay,’ which I’m sure now is my word for the year. I need to stay and pray and wait to see what God has in store.”