It didn’t take long before my computer listed a story about Billy Graham. He was a dynamic communicator. At first, when I would occasionally run onto one of his stadium gatherings, my back would be pinned to the back of my chair, and I wondered inside, if I should be viewing this southern gospel preacher. “Fire and Brimstone” would come to mind. And the “come forward” as the end of the program approached really left me puzzled as to salvation and so much more.
Mind you, I grew up in a community and county that were populated by 60-70 percent Catholics. So this “fish eater” struggled with what was “right and wrong” as to Graham’s salvation gatherings. I was impressed by his delivery style and large turnouts. And Graham’s inclusion of his beloved gospel singer George Beverly Shea added to the evangelistic message of Jesus our Savior.
Thinking back so many years ago, I recall hearing an occasional snippet offered on radio by Father Coughlin, a Catholic priest who fought against capitalism and communism. And how could I ever forget the early television appearances of Bishop Fulton Sheen? Those were the days of black and white TV. Sheen was an impressive speaker; had a nice manner in generating stories of faith. His series of shows about “Life is Worth Living” still command attention, although he died in 1979.
I now turn to both Billy Graham and Fulton Sheen for some life-living quotes.
“Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion — it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.” Graham
“My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.” Graham
“Show me your hands. Do they have scars from giving? Show me your feet. Are they wounded from service? Show me your hearts. Have you left a place for divine love?
“Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.” Sheen
What about that important person mentioned in my title? Here’s the story. The Rev. Graham had just returned home after one of his crusades. He was met at the airport by a friend with a limo. As he was about to get in, he mentioned to the driver that he had never driven a limo and asked: “Would you mind if I drove?” “Not at all.” So the two switched positions and down the highway they went. Graham was soon up to 60 mph in a 40mph zone. A newly assigned patrolman took chase and had the limo pulled over. When he approached the driver’s side, he recognized the person driving. He immediately did an about face and headed back to his squad car and radioed headquarters. He explained to the dispatcher that the driver was an important person and asked how he should handle the case. “Is it the mayor?” “No sir, much more important.” Is it the governor then?” The officer quickly said, “Oh no, much more important than that. It has to be Jesus Christ because Billy Graham is driving the car.”
A replay from an earlier column: The man whispered, “God, speak to me.” And a meadowlark sang. But the man did not hear. So the man yelled, “God, speak to me!” Thunder rolled across the sky. But the man did not listen. The man looked around and said, “God, let me see you.” A star shone brightly, but he noticed it not. And the man shouted, “God, show me a miracle.” And a life was born. But the man was unaware. So the man cried out in despair, “Touch me, God, and let me know that you are here!” Whereupon God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.
Jesuit Paul Coutinho calls us humans, “the breath of God — beautiful and good. Look inside — the kingdom of God is within you.”
I often, when I’m in a quandary and questioning faith, I find calming of my spirit in the American Indian prayer. I am small and weak as the prayer says. “O great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the winds, and whose breath gives life to all of the world, hear me! I need your strength and wisdom. I seek strength, not to be greater than my friend, but to fight my greatest enemy — myself. Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes ... so, when life fades, as the fading sunset, may my spirit come to you without shame.”