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Discovering Healing Waters on a Summer Day in Central Park

Last week, a friend and I were exploring Central Park in New York City. We stopped to rest by a cool fountain in the center of the park. My sister Mary and my colleague Mary Beth, both battling cancer, were very much on my mind. As we sat by the fountain, I shared with my friend the tremendous prayer and support these courageous women were receiving from their faith communities. The night before my sister’s first chemotherapy treatment, her RENEW group and others gathered in Mary and Doug’s living room to pray the rosary. While I was visiting Mary Beth in the hospital, a co-worker of Mary Beth’s sister JoAnn came to share prayers of mercy and healing. These are just two examples of the daily support through prayers, rosaries, and Masses offered, sentiments of solidarity expressed through social media, calls, visits, and meals delivered and other acts of kindness by those near and far.
While peacefully watching the boats on the lake and listening to the music of a quartet playing on the terrace, I noticed that the large bronze figure in the center of the fountain looked like an angel. I searched Central Park on my smart phone and learned that we were on the Bethesda Terrace and that the figure was indeed an angel, the Angel of the Waters. It was another God moment! The website stated that the four small cherubim at the angel’s feet represent health, purity, temperance, and peace. The short article described the angel carrying a lily in one hand and extending the other hand in a blessing on the water pouring into the basin of the fountain. At the dedication ceremony in 1873, the sculptor, Emma Stebbins, connected the pure water flowing from the fountain with the healing powers of the biblical pool at Bethesda. She quoted John 5:2-4:

Now there is at Jerusalem by the Sheep market a pool, which is called…Bethesda…whoever stepped in first after the troubling of the water was made well from whatever disease that person had.

This biblical story unfolds at the side of the Bethesda pool as Jesus meets a man paralyzed for more than thirty-eight years. Jesus asks him, “Do you want to be made well?” The man explains that he has no one to put him in the pool when the angel stirred the water. Jesus immediately heals the man saying, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.”
My friend and I prayed at the Bethesda pool in Central Park for Mary and Mary Beth, asking God to take away any fear that paralyzes, give them strength as they undergo treatment, and heal them in body, mind, and spirit. We remembered the many people who are daily placing Mary and Mary Beth into the healing waters of Christ’s love. We gave God thanks. We then prayed for those like the paralyzed man in the biblical story who have no one to accompany them during times of trial. The homeless people living in the park are a reminder of the lost and separated—they belong to someone’s family. Lord, have mercy on those who have no one to place them in the pool of mercy and healing. The sojourn into Central Park was another time when God revealed himself in the stuff of life.
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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4 Responses to “Discovering Healing Waters on a Summer Day in Central Park”

  1. Peggy McVetty,OP says:

    Thanks for the “spirit lifter”–I join you with my prayer!

  2. Richard W. Alcorn Jr. says:

    May the healing waters heal my friend who is a minister of God and is paralyzed from neck down with what they call Guillain-Barre Syndrome as the man in the Bible by our savior Jesus Christ . Amen

  3. Gigi Cruz says:

    Sr, Terry thank you for sharing your uplifting experience from the healing waters in Central Park.We are indeed surrounded with so many beautiful and meaningful places to remind us of the presence of God ” YOU ARE THE GOD WHO WORKS WONDERS; YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN YOUR STRENGTH AMONG THE PEOPLES. Psalms 77;14 i will include your sister Mary in our daily intentions for God’s healing grace, You prayed with us at Sloan when I visited Mary Beth May the good Lord continue to bless us with peace, love and good health.

  4. Peggy McDevitt says:

    Thank you Sister for sharing that beautiful message about the healing waters! It always amazes me that when we truly look for God’s messages, they are always right in front of us!

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