By Michael H. Brown
When life seems to be closing in on us, in a world that so often seems upside-down, there one way to exit, and that's through humor. A sure cure for our ills is found in laughter!
Usually, we should be laughing at ourselves.
And one thing that should make us smile is how silly it is to worry when we have God.
In the Light of His eternity and angels and watchfulness, there is nothing to fear but lack of prayer. We can even pray for a good sense of humor!
Many of you have heard the experts talk about how laughter can help us recover from serious illnesses. That's because humor is a spiritual release and when we release something on that level, it goes to both our emotions and bodies.
A great example of this -- of both healing and laughter -- is Char Vance, the television producer and comedian from New Orleans who is often out there speaking at conferences and causing people to roll in the aisles. Char had been in the radio business when she suffered a horrendous accident. It was on Halloween night at a farm she owned back in the 1980s. She and a group were riding on a tractor-pulled wagon when suddenly they caught sight of the barn on fire.
Char jumped off in hopes of running to the blaze but got caught underneath, injured so badly it looked like part of her leg would have to be amputated. The ankle was severely damaged.
Just crushed. No bone support at all. It looked like a lifelong handicap.
At the time, Char Vance was not a Catholic, but a friend got her to go to the apparition site of Medjugorje -- much besmirched these days by the devil. And for good reason: this is a place of enormous conversion. Ask Char. Her recounting of her trip and her conversion to the Catholic faith -- more importantly, to faith in Jesus -- is a hilarious excursion into deep spirituality. Finally, it has been captured on videotape.
At Medjugorje, where Char hobbled in a huge, lumbering cast, the Louisiana woman climbed the holy highland of Mount Krizevac despite those who thought it was crazy and despite her own skepticism. "I wondered why [after Apparition Hill], they wanted us to go up the mountain," she jokes. "I said, why do you have us climbing two hills, two mountains in one day? It's not like we're going to run out of fun things to do here!"
Here she was in a place with no TV and no hotels and no pools, drinking beer while everyone else was praying the Rosary in a way she saw as strange and obsessive.
But Char went up the "hill." As she walked a dirt road on the outskirts of the village, something had said to her, "You know, it will be just your luck if something big happens up there and you're gonna miss it." That's what had finally convinced her to go up. She and her companions caught a cab. When they got to the mountain, many others were doing the same.
"I didn't know a lot of prayers," says Char, who was not a Catholic at the time. "I knew 'Now I lay me down to sleep' and the Lord's Prayer, but that's the most wonderful thing you Catholics have: you have prayers for everything," she jokes. "You know, you got department heads. You lost something, you got St. Anthony. You got bad eyes you got St. Lucy..."
Heading up the mountain and praying at the Fourth Station of the Cross, Char propped up her cast on a boulder and here comes a monk -- a very unusual monk. "He had on this white robe and the hood up and he's carrying a tripod with nothing on it, no camera. And he's looking directly at me," says Char. "And coming to me. And he says, 'You know, when I was in Germany, I had the good fortune of meeting Theresa Neumann.' To me it was like saying, 'I met John Jones.' He said, 'You know who that is, don't you?' I said, 'No.' And he said, 'Well, she was a stigmatist.'"
Got me again, said Char.
"Don't you know what a stigmatist is?" the man asked.
Uh uh, replied Char.
He explained what a stigmatic was (someone who had received the wounds of Christ) and pulling out a rosary told her that he had put it on her stigmatic wounds and that it had since healed people of many problems, including cancer. "Here I am with this big cast on the rock, and he says, 'I would like your permission to put this on your head!'"
It's hard to convey how Char tells this story. Her inflections, her timing, her side comments are hilarious. The tape shows an audience in constant stitches. But she was telling a serious story. "When something like this happens, you think 'somebody has tapped into your thoughts' -- and you better start thinking some holy pious thoughts QUICK!"
The mysterious stranger told Char to say seven Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glory Bes, and when she got to the top, the Creed. "When he left he would talk to others," she recounts. "If they were French he would begin talking in French. If you were Spanish he would start speaking Spanish. It was like he knew what you were before he got there."
At the seventh Station, the comedian noticed the "monk" was kind of winded. Char offered him a canteen of water. "He smiled a smile that went all the way through me," she says.
Medjugorje is famous for the reports of mysterious strangers -- including monks or nuns in white. When Char got to the top, the seers were ready to have an apparition. Char didn't want to see anything -- afraid there would be hysteria and she would fall off the mountain! They were at the large cross there. "All of a sudden it's gets quiet, quiet, quiet. All of a sudden, that cross lit up, and it lit up, best I can describe it, like those old strobe lights, quick, and I see Jesus on the cross. I saw him like I have never seen a person before or since. He looked horrible -- horrible -- his nose was laying over, and He had this enormous crown, not this little crown like you see. This thing was like a big bird's nest. That quickly it lit up again and I saw it again."
Vance wasn't alone. Others in her group were astonished to witness the same thing. The mountain is known for a wide array of phenomena -- although this particular type we had not previously encountered. It is the cross where the Blessed Mother says she prays each day.
A woman next to Char said, "Did you just see Christ on that cross?"
Char felt "totally zapped." She now knew without a doubt that God and the Blessed Mother existed. When she got back, she had to go to the doctor for x-rays. She went in the waiting room "and all of a sudden the technician comes out with all these x-rays and he says [in a loud voice], 'Charlene Vance, you've been healed, you've been healed!'"
"You should have seen the people in there with their People magazines!" she jokes.
But it was true: the nurse ran in too, and then the doctor arrived -- gracing them with his "presence." "When's the last time you saw a doctor come into the waiting room!" she recalls with a roll of her eyes. "The nurse said, 'Did you hear about?'" The doctor said he had to take a look at it. It looked like there was bone growth! He asked Char to slowly try to see if she could move her toes. She could do more than that. She could rotate her whole ankle! She was with her mother. "I started dancing around and saying, 'Ma, ma, I can walk, praise God I can walk!' He runs out and brings out another doctor and they look at the x-rays and my mother says, 'Doctor, doctor, what is it,' and he says -- direct quote -- 'There's absolutely no correlation in her x-rays before she went and when she got back. There's total bone growth everywhere.'"
Jesus is the same as He was 2,000 years ago, she tells those who see her. "Miracles do happen. Believe in miracles. Expect a miracle. Miracles do happen," says Char, who now helps produce videos for Focus International, headed by retired Archbishop Phillip Hannan. "The real miracle was when God healed my head with the gift of faith. Miracles do happen, but they happen in God's time and in His way."
Char had some medals from Medjugorje and started walking all around and passing them out to the people in the waiting room. "Have a medal! Have a medal!" She walked out of that office and never needed crutches like they said she would need crutches and never received a day of therapy.
And of yes: Charlene Vance became a Catholic six months to the day that she had climbed the mountain.
[Footnote: she also was to learn that Theresa Neumann, the stigmatic, had been born on Friday, April 8, which is Char's birthday -- in fact she too was born on a Friday -- and was injured trying to put out a fire in a barn. It was her ankle that was injured, and the mystic was healed a year later!]
[Resources in the Spiritdaily Bookstore: Char's video is No Phones in Medjugorje; see also Our Lady Speaks From Medjugorje, Medjugorje and the Church, and Queen of the Cosmos]
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