A couple of weeks ago, someone asked me what I did to heal my teeth. I had had severe receding gums, at one point an enormous cavity that felt like a huge chunk of my tooth had come out. 2 HG pregnancies in a row and breastfeeding did a real number on my teeth that had been pretty much perfect before this. I told them the actual steps I took to heal the teeth, but what I forgot and was too afraid to mention was that I was so consumed with fear and hopelessness that I started praying. I was praying daily about my tooth anxiety. I found the patron saint of teeth, St. Apollonia, who I had never heard of, and I bought the most beautiful print I could find of her, which happened to be a holy card. I displayed it in my bathroom and prayed for her intercession every single day.
That was when I started learning about how dangerous modern care is for our teeth. I found out that the way the dentists had taught me to brush was destroying my gums. I learned that the very toothpaste the gave us is destroying our mouths. I learned that half the time my problem was grinding my teeth due to stress. I learned that deficiency in certain vitamins leads to certain issues in the teeth.
I started following the recommendations I found in a book called Cure Tooth Decay, particularly in the chapter on receding gums. My gums healed almost completely, and so did my cavities. It was a miracle. Then, it happened again, because you have to keep up with a routine, and it is hard to do with 2 under 2 when you are constantly playing catch up, and I attributed it to science and myself. It happened again, and I still didn’t give credit where credit was due.
Yet I sit here one more time because I completely failed at my routine last week, and immediately I turn to St. Apollonia, and I keep hearing myself explaining how I fixed my teeth, but I’m afraid to be a fanatic so I just mention the ‘normal’-ish sounding part. She is my mainstay, I turn to her when I am so desperate in fear and pain that I can’t remember what you are supposed to do to fix these things.
That’s how prayer works sometimes. Sometimes it’s not that you get a miracle that just happens, though that happens too, but sometimes your miracle is that you learn something you didn’t know before. Sometimes it’s that you thought you had a problem and you don’t. Sometimes it’s that you find some information you needed to keep going but you couldn’t find.
The Holy Spirit, the most often neglected member of the Holy Trinity, is a powerful partner to have in life. He is beauty, He is truth, He is knowledge. Everything good and beautiful in this life and this world, comes from Him. I call Him “The Muse,” because I believe He works especially in artists. I believe that He reveals what is true, beautiful, good, through His people. He is capable of great things, so great that you might think I’m crazy if I were to list them.
One time when I was in college, I felt called to write letters to some friends I had who were on retreat. I wrote them in the chapel during Adoration, and I remember feeling like I knew every word they were supposed to say. I will never forget a particular one of them. I was writing all of these comforting things about being angry and sad, and I was writing them I was like, “Where is this coming from? He is on retreat, everything should be great!” But I kept writing and writing for 2 pages. Several days later, he came up to me with such sincerity in his eyes, and told me, “I don’t know how you knew. I was having such a hard time, and this was exactly what I needed.”
Another time I was going Christmas shopping with my mom, and we were on our way to the mall talking about a friend of hers that she had no clue what to get. I prayed, and immediately told her to go to Barnes and Noble instead of the mall. She argued with me, but I repeated, “I’m serious, just go!” We walked in and on the first shelf we saw was a Calvin and Hobbes book, I told her to get it, and she wasn’t sure but she did. When we gave it to him, he said “How did you know? I’ve been wanting this forever!”
Sometimes, I am afraid that people will think I am crazy when I talk about this stuff. I even sometimes think I am. Powerful moments of communication with God are not something that is often talked about, and when it is, it seems so fake to me. But He does still talk to us today. He has given us ways to stay in touch with Him so that we are not alone no matter how alone we feel. This is what Scripture and the Eucharist are for. They are for Him to be close to us, so He can talk to us and comfort us, every time we turn to Him.
That doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t feel hopeless. I do. I mean, obviously anyone who knows me knows, I do. This world can be scary, and some seasons in life seem almost unbearable. Some things about my life now, I try to tell myself aren’t as bad as they are, but if I am not constantly on my knees begging for help, I am in tears and the whole world falls apart. It is literally only in Him that we can survive the millions of things that could possibly go wrong in this world. I don’t know why He doesn’t save us from every trial, but He does save us sometimes, if we ask. He can see you in complete despair, and bring you the one ray of light you need to keep going. Sometimes He brings you so much light that you are blinded by it, and sometimes He just brings the feeling that you are not alone, but no matter what He is there, even when you don’t feel Him, and as much as it sucks to not feel Him there, it’s worse when He really isn’t, which is what it feels like if you don’t go to Him.
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