Divine Mercy Minutes with Jesus is a pocket... Read more
He drove for hours through a storm. When he finally arrived here, the friend from Boston he was supposed to meet — the friend who said he must come to Eden Hill in Stockbridge, Mass. — never showed up.
John Belies scratched his head, pulled on the door of the stone chapel, which is now known as the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy. He pulled, and the door was locked.
He went back down into town and called his friend. She answered the phone. Obviously, she was still home. Why hadn't she come to Stockbridge as planned? She didn't feel it was a good day to come.
"Well, thanks for telling me!" John thought, but he didn't say that out loud.
After he hung up the phone, he stood there and said a prayer. "OK, Lord," he said, "what do you want me to do? What am I here for?"
He was about to find out. He felt called to make the short climb back up to Eden Hill. Once there, he stood staring at the locked doors.
"All the sudden there was this couple behind me, a man and a woman," John recalls. "They said, 'What's the problem?' And I said, 'The doors are locked, and I can't get in.' And they said, 'Why don't you try the side door.' I said, 'OK, I didn't know there was a side door.' And just as I was about to open the door, I looked back, and the couple was gone.
"Then, as I'm opening the door," John says, "I feel the door is being pushed opened from the inside."
Indeed, on the other side of the door, heading out, was Br. Ken Galisa, MIC. "Hello!" Br. Ken said. He invited John in, and they've been friends ever since.
Who was that couple, and where did they suddenly disappear to? John believes they were angles, "or they were acting as angels or guides." They set it up so John could have friends for life here at the National Shrine.
This was 21 years ago. This was how John's relationship with the Marians of the Immaculate Conception began. This is what led him to become a volunteer for years here for Divine Mercy Sunday. This is what helped inspire him to grow in trust of the Merciful Father.
That odd, grace-filled experience on that stormy day seems to have served as a template for the years ahead. Strange, wonderful things happen in his life, things that keep reminding him that God is present.
Case in point: He had been searching for years for the right woman whom he could fall in love with and marry. So one day he finally said in prayer, "God, I'm tired of telling You who the right person is. Just send me the right one. You know who she is."
The woman who would become his wife, Tami, called him that very evening. They had exchanged phone numbers a couple years before when they met at a seminar on Long Island. Out of the clear blue, she called. She's from Huntington Beach, Calif. He's from Huntington, N.Y.
This all leads to the present day — actually last winter. John and Tami, married for eight years, visited the Shrine during a cross-country road trip last December. Let's call it John and Tami Belies' Excellent Adventure, because the trip proved to them the power of prayer and trust.
During their stay at their cabin in the Catskills, John and Tami visited the Marians and offered to volunteer at the Shrine before heading back to their home in California. John and Tami had planned for the journey, but money was tight. God was rewarding them because it turns out, the Marians put John and Tami and their dog, Shasta, and cat, Kiki, up for six weeks.
John, a building contractor, spent the time helping the Marians plumb bathrooms in the Marians' guest house. Tami helped in the Shrine offices and in the Marian Helpers Center. It was a wonderful experience for all involved, and when it came time to climb into their van and start heading west again, Mary Kay Volpone, an employee on Eden Hill, told Tami she would put her and John on the Marians' Divine Mercy Intercessory Prayerline.
"They said they'd pray for us to have a good trip back, and I have to tell you, we received so many graces on the trip back, and I thank the prayerline," says Tami. "We were not looking forward to driving back. But we knew everyone's prayers were with us, so we started back, and along the way we had a bunch of things happen."
Things? Yes, things.
Good things. Such as?
"Pulling out of the Catskills, we stopped for a bite to eat," says John. "When we came back out, the van wouldn't start. We hadn't had problems with it. I tried a bunch of things, and it still wouldn't start. Not a sound, not a peep.
"But then we realized we didn't pray the three Hail Marys before leaving," says John. "We typically pray three Hail Marys whenever we get into the car. So we prayed the three Hail Marys, and then I had a thought to click the alarm system on and off. I did that, and I heard a funny noise. I turned the ignition, and it started right up."
Lesson learned: Pray.
Then they were off. "We had the most amazing time," says Tami. " The money we had planned for the trip was gone. We stayed with friends on the way back. Everywhere we stayed we were invited to stay longer, and the people we stayed with made food, took us out to dinner, wouldn't let us pay. God was blessing us all the way back."
In New Mexico, they took a wrong turn on a barren dirt road and eventually stuck in a dry riverbed. The more they tried the get it unstuck, the deeper the wheel dug into the sand. They tried everything. They stuffed rocks, paper, towels, cardboard — anything they could find — under the tires to try to gain traction. But when they gave it some gas, the tire just proceeded to shred everything and dig deeper.
They tried everything — everything but prayer.
"Tami says, 'You know, we didn't pray first,'" recalls John. They both felt a little ashamed.
"Then we prayed, and — boom — we got out," says John. "We had asked the angels to push with us. And sure enough, we tried again, and we got the van out, and we kept going, through streambeds and sand. The angels pushed us about 10 miles to get us out to the main road."
OK, lesson really learned this time: Pray.
Then, in Santa Fe, they visited the famous Loretto Chapel, a site they had wanted to visit for years. They got to talking to the parking attendant there who asked them if they had heard of the nearby chapel in Chimayo, N.M., famous for its "holy dirt."
"I have never heard of it," Tami says. "So he tells us the story." Apparently, it's considered the Lourdes of New Mexico — only dirt, not water, serves as the conduit for God's healing powers.
"John had a really strong feeling in his heart that we were supposed to go there," Tami says. "It was another 45 minutes up the road, in the wrong direction. I was tired of driving and didn't want to go, but if John has that feeling, I know to trust it."
When they got there, like the other pilgrims, they took a handful of dirt. Then they put it in a plastic bag. They poked around a bit. They prayed. Then, they drove away.
"I had a feeling we were supposed to stop in Sedona, Ariz., on the way home," Tami says. Eventually, they arrived in Sedona. It was gorgeous. There was a coat of white snow all over the red rock mountains. They went hiking. John felt to say a silent prayer. "God," he prayed, "if there is someone You want us to meet here, let us meet them."
Then, they looked for a room. It was Valentine's Day. Everyplace they called was booked. So, of course, they prayed that they would be led to the right place to stay — a place that also takes pets. Sure enough, a man at one hotel referred them to another hotel that allows pets.
"I called," says Tami. "We got their cheapest room, and it was beautiful. It was affordable. We were in shock. 'Thank you God,' we kept saying."
That evening, when they went to walk the dog, they wound up meeting a married couple in the room next door. It turns out they had just traveled across the country, recently began learning about God and the Jesus in a Bible Study class, and had just recently started tithing. But before this all came out, the woman said, "You know, my husband has this problem. We went to all these wonderful places, but one place we didn't go was this little church in Chimayo. I don't know if you heard of it, but they have this holy dirt, and I really believe this dirt will help my husband.'"
Of course John then reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out the bag of dirt and handed it to them.
"We ended up talking with them for three hours," says Tami. "The woman told us how she felt God kept rewarding them for their faith. The more they trusted, the more He kept providing for them. And this is how we have felt."
"On the trip back, every day there was some little miracle," says Tami. "The prayers on Eden Hill followed us home. It was a lesson in trust."