Miracles and the Church of Ta Pinu

The story began with our first night on Malta. It was a comedy of errors, though it didn’t seem all that funny at the time. I foolishly rented a car and we drove around lost until nearly four o’clock in the morning when we happened to run into a friendly police officer who led us to our hotel.From that point, nothing especially eventful happened except that we found a wonderful little Guest House in the city of Sliema, the Soleado, and took up residence there. During our week’s sojourn, we spent most of our days visiting Valletta and doing other touristy things and our nights trying out new things to eat. I actually liked Octopus and Rabbit stew. And the snails weren’t too bad, either. With our time on the island dwindling to their final hours, we decided we wanted to visit Gozo, one of the three islands that make up the tiny country. We had read about its rustic charms in a guide book. Where the big island of Malta was highly developed, Gozo was a step back in time to Malta of the early 1900s. On the next to last day of our stay we made up our minds to go. That morning we took a bus up to the ‘whale’s tail.’ Malta is shaped like a whale and the ferry landing was at the northernmost tip.The ferry has been in service for more than a century. It wasn’t fast, but it was dependable. We munched on pastizzi, a Maltese pastry, and drank capuccino while we sat on the deck of the stodgy vessel and watched the landing place slowly come into view. The trip took less than half an hour and we soon landed at the village of Mgarr, (pronounced Em-jarr.)Not knowing what else to do, we hired a local cabbie to show us the sights. He began by taking us to the capital, Rabat, which is also known as Victoria. After walking along the top of the wall of the city and visiting gift shops, we were ready to try something different. The driver suggested that we pay a visit to Ta Pinu. Pope John Paul II had visited the church, and it was known as a place for miracles. Leon, our cabbie, told us that the walls were lined with discarded canes, casts and crutchs that were no longer needed after supplicants had made their pilgrimages there.We were happy for the suggestion. Malta has some of the most beautiful churches in the world, and we hadn’t grown tired of looking at them.True to our guide’s word, we found hundreds of typewritten accounts as well as plaster casts and other accoutrements for the lame and disabled. Many of the stories were especially touching, dealing with children who were born with deformities or had been injured in accidents. Hopeful parents had brought them there and left their testimony to the wonders the church had performed. We’re Methodists, so we were a little skeptical. But we also know that there are too many unexplained things that have happened to rule out the possibility of miracles.As we were leaving, Evie bought a medal for fity Maltese cents, the equivalent of a dollar and a half. She put it in her wallet and forgot about it. At noon on that 13th of May she started from her office to a nearby printer. After she finished the errand, she was to meet our daughter, Katie. Katie was about to be confirmed and needed a dress so the two of them were going to look for one together. As Evie was about to cross the street, a fugitive in a stolen car ran into her at a high speed, hurling her more than ten feet into the air and striking her head against the windshield as she came down.At 5:30, Katie came home very worried. Mom hadn’t shown up. She told me to turn on the news and we watched a report about a police chase in downtown Minneapolis that resulted in the injury of a middle-aged woman. She was sure that was Mom. Worried, I called a friend at Evie’s workplace. She told me no one had seen her since noon. When I called Hennepin County Medical Center, I got crushing news. Evie was in intensive care.Beside myself, I got into the car and tore off for the hospital. Even now I wonder how I got there without getting in an accident myself. A nurse led me to a hospital bed. The swollen bruised and cut face I saw lying on the pillow had me making a dash for the closest rest room.The head nurse was waiting for me. It was a miracle Evie was alive, she said. She had been struck with such force and had suffered such head trauma that in most cases she would have been killed instantly. Even more miraculous, she was awake and lucid when the rescue team brought her into the emergency room. Although she couldn’t talk, she understood what had happened and responded to questions with eyeblinks. I went to her bed and took her hand. She squeezed it. The next day, we had our first post-accident conversation. She sounded so much like the Evie I had known and loved that I couldn’t control my emotions and I started to blubber. The nurse was right. It was a miracle.The second miracle wasn’t apparent until months later. Despite the horrendous collision, she had sustained only a broken pelvis and a minor brain injury. Her physical injuries were the first to heal. But to this day she still has double vision looking down and problems with her short term memory.One day months later, she happened to find the medal she had bought at Ta Pinu. She remembered the miracles. Was she another? We will never know if it saved her life, but we’re both glad she had it with her on that terrible day.

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