St. Raphael's parish surprised Carol this past Sunday with a prayer quilt. It's an interesting church ministry called Prayers and Squares that I'd never seen before coming to St. Raphael's, but it's evidently quite common and his its own Web site. It works this way: A parish's quilters (we have several) make small quilts about 30" by 40". At each corner of the quilt squares is a knot with two threads about 3" long left free. Before the quilt is presented to its recipient (often while they're still in the hospital) it is placed at the rear of the church or in the parish hall, and people tie a knot in one of the pairs of threads while saying a prayer for the recipient. There's enough thread so multiple knots can be tied at any given corner, and thus the quilt is never "full."
It's a sign to people who are in the hospital that the parish is thinking of them and that they are not alone. Carol was not in the hospital all that long, but she was touched by the gesture, and later that afternoon while she rested on our bed, she put the quilt over her. The Pack stood guard, and vowed to shred any squirrel that dared attack her. (Aero is actually in the photo, but he went undercover to Carol's right, so as to surprise any squirrel who managed to get past the others.)
In the corner of the quilt is an insignia with Carol's name and the date the quilt was presented.
Religion as a concept is taking a lot of flak these days for various reasons, but few recognize the force for healing and comfort that religion can be when it remains true to its purpose. Small as it is, our parish does all sorts of things that might be listed under "aid and comfort," including a food pantry that was recognized last year as the best in the Colorado Diocese. Nobody talks it up, nobody brags. They just do it.
Carol puts the quilt over herself every night, and I suspect she will long after her illness is just a memory. Whether or not you believe in God, I think it's always possible to believe that helping others is the highest good that we can aspire to, and an awful lot of that happens where nobody but those involved ever notice.