Amidst the waves, heavenly rest

Doug Balchan needed to get away. "In large gatherings, I'm not always comfortable," he says. And this was a large gathering, held at the house of a friend in Little Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan.

On this particular evening in July 2019, he felt more agitated than usual inside the full house. Unlike at previous parties, simply stepping away from the crowd did not immediately calm Doug. He felt drawn outside to the dock and did not feel truly at ease until he reached it. This surprised him, as his friend's dock was not a spot where Doug usually spent much time when he visited. Standing there, however, he finally felt better. Then he knew it was time to pray the Rosary.

Doug has always had a devotion to Our Lady and to the Rosary. When his children were young, he used to pace back and forth behind the bleachers at football and lacrosse games, praying Rosary after Rosary. People recognized what he was doing and brought their intentions to him. Today, his children are grown and "not very devout," but they still bring intentions to their father.

During those football and lacrosse games, Doug walked and prayed at a brisk pace; he was usually able to say several five-decade Rosaries while his children were on the field. Years later, gazing out over Lake Michigan on that serene summer evening, Doug found himself praying much more slowly than usual. The peace he had felt upon reaching the dock deepened as he began to pray; the steady, meditative recitation of "Our Father," "Hail Mary," and "Glory be" felt "in synch with the gentle sunset on the lake."

Upon returning to the house, Doug found his wife, Jane, and told her he had just prayed one of the most beautiful Rosaries of his life. He also told his host and hostess, a faithful Catholic couple, about his experience and thanked them for the use of their dock. They smiled and understood.

That night, Doug slept through the seiche (pronounced "saysh"), but Jane heard it. A seiche is an immense, powerful wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water, the equivalent of a tsunami at sea. It often arises without warning; the event that caused it - an underwater rockslide, perhaps - may have happened many miles away from the shore where the wave ultimately strikes. Doug and Jane were staying at Jane's parents' house, and they awoke the morning after the party to find the front yard and the neighbors' yards covered in 6 to 8 inches of water. Despite the flooding, there did not appear to be much property damage. Doug and Jane would soon learn that other streets had been hit much harder.

Later that morning, when Doug and Jane stood outside his in-laws' house, the friend who had hosted the previous night's party rode by on his bicycle. He grinned and called out, "Thanks for that Rosary!" Doug, a bit puzzled, replied that it had been his pleasure. "You ought to come see our place," the friend said, and continued on his way. Doug was not sure why he had said this, and did not go right away. A few minutes later, his friend's wife also rode by and echoed her husband's thanks for the prayers and invitation to go see their house. Now Doug was truly intrigued. He and Jane started for their friends' neighborhood.

As they made their way, evidence of the seiche grew more and more dramatic. Boats had been thrown ashore. Docks were twisted and torn apart. The closer they got to their friends' house, the more severe the damage appeared. When they finally reached their friends' street, Doug and Jane understood why their friends had urged them to come and see it. "Every other dock in that area was totally obliterated," Doug recalls. His friends' dock appeared untouched. The whole property stood exactly as it had the evening before, as if the seiche had not happened at all. "Now," Doug says, "could it be that [my friend] had a better dock [than his neighbors]? I don't know. He thinks it was the Rosary. I believe it."

The following year, COVID-19, unexpected and powerful, swept over the nation like a towering wave, hitting some people and areas more forcefully than others, not leaving anyone entirely unaffected. During the lockdown, Doug and Jane took many Rosary walks together. Sometimes they would pray as many as four five-decade Rosaries in a single walk - bathing the surrounding neighborhoods in prayer. Today, they thank Our Lady that they and their neighbors have weathered the pandemic as well as they have.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Star of the Sea, pray for us!


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