Tag Archives: prayer

A Year Past: Good Friday at the House of Mary


On Good Friday last year, I found myself, quite by accident, at a place of Christian pilgrimage in Turkey. We were on a shared 30th anniversary trip with dear friends when our tour guide decided to make a second stop after our tour of Ephesus. From the rolling hills covered in new grass and spring blooms adjacent to the sea, our van wound up a hill, arriving at a hilltop surrounded by leafy trees and tall, whispering pines. The breeze immediately cooled us after our warm walk through the long marble promenades of Ephesus. Our guide, Yesra, had brought us to the House of Mary (“Meryemana”), where Mary was believed to have lived during the period that Paul was busy spreading the gospel to the people of Ephesus, which was the strategic heart of the Roman empire in Asia Minor. It felt… peaceful.

houseofstmaryThe house is a place of pilgrimage for Christians, but is also respected by Muslims who recognize Mary as the mother of a prophet. After people visit the small house built of rectangular stones, which became a chapel after her death, many light candles. There’s also a Muslim wishing wall where people tie notes with their prayers.

We filed in to the quiet chapel where nuns in habits kept vigil by the small altar. For most visitors, it was a short visit: a solemn one-way walk through the small interior followed quickly by an exit into the small courtyard. I stopped in the chapel and knelt at one of the small wooden prayer benches. And I cried. I prayed for my Dad, who was in failing health. Although I am not Catholic, I prayed for Mary to intercede on his behalf and relieve him from the suffering of congestive heart failure and the grief that only the oldest know after their spouses, parents, and friends have gone before them. As I left, one of the nuns silently approached me and handed me a candle.

lightingcandlesOutside, I saw the glass-enclosed stands of candles implanted in sand. I prayed again, as did my friend, Lisa.

Many candles and many prayers later, my Dad was released. I will never forget the look of greeting on his face those last few hours. Dad, this is a good Friday, a better Friday, knowing that you are at peace, even if I miss you every day.

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Blessed by God

Prayer boat by Lynn Fawcett Whiting

When I spoke to my cousin, Lynn Fawcett Whiting, on the evening that Dad died, she told me she had just sent the following email to me about sending up a prayer on his behalf. Dad died sometime in the hours after she performed this lovely ritual:

When we were children, maybe you did this too.. we sometimes made bark candle boats with our mother to put on the lake at sunset to send our prayers to God.  This afternoon led by that little girl I found a piece of bark and carved a hole in it for a candle, and lined it with wax and muslin. Henry and I wrote our prayers on washi paper with gold leaf and folded them in Japanese love knots and placed them in the bark boat. We then made our way to the National Wildlife Sanctuary on the Snake River where countless thousands of birds are wintering over… Wild swans, snow geese, Canadian geese, Mallards, Teal.. ducks of every variety, cormorants, coots, .. not only heard our prayers but joined our plaintive cry and called the landscape to prayer.. as the sound of a thousand wings lifted in the brilliant light of the setting sun and carried our prayers to God.  The message was a simple one.. Everyone who has known or been touched by Henry Campbell has already been blessed by God.

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