A few weeks ago, before our children left for college, we set out on a journey up the mountain to find Trust. Nothing unusual about that—seeking Trust has been a constant in my life, whether it’s trust in God or simply learning to trust other people. But this time, we were looking for Trust, North Carolina. Specifically, we were looking for St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, appropriately located in Trust.
St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope is no ordinary church—it was built to thank God for a miracle. In 1981, Beverly Barutio was diagnosed with advanced cancer. She underwent many rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer progressed rapidly. So she stopped the chemotherapy and prayed for a miracle. She prayed to God and St. Jude, the saint of hopeless and impossible causes.
Her prayer was answered. Later checkups showed no signs of cancer. In gratitude, after she and her husband moved to Trust, they built St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, which is open to everyone 24 hours a day. She wanted not only to thank God and St. Jude, but to provide a place where people could meditate and pray for their own miracles. And, like most folks, I do have my own seemingly hopeless causes.
After a long and winding journey up the mountain to Trust, we found the tiny, but lovely little cedar chapel. We were pleased to have it to ourselves as we stepped inside. The sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows lit the interior with an ethereal glow. We sat down in front on one of the small pews and left the door open, so we could hear nothing but the sound of the rushing creek outside and birdsong.
In the front were a cross, an open Bible, and a shrine to St. Jude. Around the shrine, people had placed various items that obviously had meaning for them—seashells, rocks, pinecones, photographs, and even small toys. As the four of us sat in silence, I was suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with emotion and began to cry.
It surprised me to be so overwhelmed, but I think it was because I could truly feel the power there…of so many prayers made, so many longings (expressed and unexpressed), so much hope, but so much sadness. The very air inside felt holy, charged with the sacred spirit of all those who had made their hearts vulnerable there. We all felt it, I think, and sat there, without words, for at least a half hour, lost in thought, in memories, in grief, and in our own supplications to the Saint of Lost Causes and to God.
Perhaps you’re wondering if we’ve seen our own miracles since. Well, just the usual everyday sort. You know, the moon rising over the mountain, the seven bluebirds sitting in a row on the fence, or the daisies that have bloomed nonstop in our fields since April. But none of the hopeless-cause-variety miracles. Not that we can see, anyway.
But still I hope, still I trust, still I believe, and still I struggle to hope and trust and believe. Like Beverly Barutio, I trust in something greater than myself, something more powerful than we can imagine. I turn towards the narrow shaft of light streaming in the window and follow it, knowing there is a greater light beyond. A light that illuminates my pilgrim path in the darkness as I seek and follow it. A light that gives me hope in what I cannot see.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”