The Helper Catherine Marshall

Catherine Marshall The Helper

“When we try it on our own, we are seeking to usurp the Helper’s place. The result of attempting in the flesh to convict another of sin is wreckage-defensiveness, anger, estrangement, loss of self-worth, defeatism, depression- whereas, when the Spirit does this corrective work, it is “good” hurt, the kind that leaves no damage, that never plunges us into despair or hopelessness but is always healing in the end.”

Catherine Marshall, The Helper, Chosen, 1978,  pp. 214-215.

Over forty-five years ago when our medical practice at Children’s Hospital was just starting, my husband and I were not as busy and were able to go downtown for lunch and then perhaps browse Cokesbury Bookstore before returning to the hospital. One day I saw a book, The Helper, by Catherine Marshall on the front sales table for two dollars. I had remembered that she had written A Man Called Peter about her husband who was a Scottish immigrant who became the chaplain of the United States Senate but died an early death. I particularly loved the movie, so could not resist the bargain. I paid the two dollars, and it changed my life. I had no concept of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly I was presented with a part of God that I could relate to who was always with me. I had had great difficulty relating to God the Father and Jesus. One was a kind old man with a beard in the sky and the other was some kind of television evangelist flipping Bibles who wanted to save me.  For years, I held on to the Holy Spirit, the comforter, the helper who was always beside me guiding me if I chose. This sustained me for years until I was able to have a deeper relationship with the other two parts of the Trinity. I am constantly amazed how God, the Holy Spirit works: a Presbyterian minister’s daughter I would never meet who was raised in Keyser, West Virginia, with my father, the son of the Methodist minister in the area, a slow time in our practice, a Methodist book store, a bargain table, a New York Times best seller, a movie, and two dollars.

My favorite quote by Catherine Marshall was about answered prayer. She prayed for patience, and God gave her the slowest possible housekeeper.  I wept when I heard about Catherine Marshall’s death at age 68 in 1983 just before Holy Week.