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A Well-trained Tongue

(The true story and the basis for the preceeding tall tale...)

Not so many years ago, as I sat, watching television late on Sunday night, I felt incredible pain in my head and passed out for a few moments. When I came to, I found that I had difficulty walking and talking. Naturally, my wife helped me go to a hospital for some tests to try to discover what happened.

A day or so later, I could walk just fine, but I stammered and stuttered so badly that I could barely talk. I saw specialists who xrayed and ct- scanned my cranium until I'm sure I glowed in the dark. Yet, they could discover no direct evidence of what caused my speech impediment. The next obvious conclusion was that the problem was caused by stress or some other mental ailment, so they tested me for days with batteries of psychological tests - none of which revealed any underlying cause for the ailment. The final conclusion was a vascular migraine - a physical problem - and the speech therapy began.

I regularly read at Mass, and this problem put a real dent in my desire to be lector on Palm Sunday 1986 - the first regular Mass at the new Sacred Heart Church! Father Casper, after many halting requests, agreed to let me read -despite my obvious problem. My speech therapy was having some success and my speech was better, but still it was frustrating to listen to me try to read anything because of the stuttering and stammering. However, Father Casper understood my need to read and agreed...

As Palm Sunday approached, we all prayed that I could get through the readings with a minimum of difficulty. I practiced and practiced and nearly called Father Casper to tell him to find someone else. Yet, I felt such a strong need to do the readings that I kept my own council and awaited Sunday with the dread only felt by those about to be truly embarrassed in public.

Palm Sunday dawned, sunny and cold, and I prayed to God that I could just get through the readings without causing too much pain for the congregation. I climbed to the brand new podium, said just one more prayer, cleared my throat, and began the reading with these words, "The Lord has given me a well-trained tongue..."

My voice rang out clear and strong with never a hint of stutter or pause. I fought back tears of joy as I continued to speak God's word with a clarity and strength I had never before achieved! I looked at my wife, reading shock on her face and tears in her eyes, and we knew another of those small miracles had happened - the kind that tend to occur when the Holy Spirit moves through one's life. Father Casper could hardly believe it, nor could all my friends who looked as if a stranger were reading to them. It was wonderful!

Later, the doctors called it a "spontaneous remission" and said "it happens sometimes in these cases." I just smiled at them, with the smile of one who knows he has been touched by the hand of the Almighty and who has felt the Holy Spirit move through him. I still smile when I think of it and I still say that simple prayer when I read at Mass: "Lord, give me a well-trained tongue, that I may read your Word as you would have it read."

Story by Mick McKellar