I have mentioned recently that I’ve been going through my grandfather’s archive and it has certainly opened my eyes to the huge amount of research he did on the subject of Christian healing, for which he had a gift. There are very few letters in his own handwriting, but I found one which he must have written while still a curate (apprentice parish priest) and before he was married to my grandmother, whom he was obviously courting.
It’s dated 4 July 1916, and I begin to wonder whether this was in fact his very first experience of how his prayers could be used by God for healing. He writes:
‘My dearest. The jolly meeting we had this evening ended up sadly for me, because I had to go to baptize a baby who is not expected to live. She is a sweet little thing, 2 weeks old; but about 3 days after her birth she got a very severe sort of eczema (?) which has gone all over her little body and she is in great pain. It is her parents’ first child, and the poor mother is dIstracted with grief for her – of course she is only very poorly herself. I never realised before what mother love was, till I looked back and saw her leaning over the bed gazing at the wee child. It was a picture of God’s love – the look was so intense. I do hope and pray she will get well…. it has been a day of events for me – my first death, and first Baptism.
(The next day, in the evening, he continues with the letter) …The little baby whom I baptised … was much worse yesterday. Her poor mother cried broken hearted to me. She said she had always been passionately fond of children, and now that she had a babe of her own, it was going to be taken from her. This morning tears of joy greeted me – baby (whom he had baptised the previous evening) had slept and was taking food… she puts the change down to my prayers. But, she is still in great danger I fear. The doctor won’t trouble to come to see her – he hasn’t been since Tues – Isn’t it awful, and he has passed the house several times – he even hasn’t sent some stuff he said he was going to send!
(He finishes the letter thanking my to-be grandmother for her letters and saying they help him more than he can say).
It’s a tantalising insight because I don’t know what happened next. Obviously, the baby was not healed instantly – but her improvement was noticeable. Since that time the ministry of Christian healing has grown apace and experience shows that healing sometimes takes place in stages under continuing prayer.
(Incidentally, obviously he was not able to take the baby to a font and do the whole caboodle because she was too ill. He would have used the Prayer Book service for private baptism of infants not expected to live.)
But what shines through for me, was his deep compassion for both mother and child, and that this was his motivation.