[dropcap type=”4″]W[/dropcap]hat on earth do all miracles, modern life and being Catholic have to do with each other? Well for starters they all came together for me a year ago after I found relief from a long and painful affliction because of a blessed encounter with a very special priest named Fr. Alonso de Blas.
But they also all have to do with what it means to have faith in a world that is sometimes ruled by the forces of cynicism and secular despair.
Now any of you who have been reading my column for the last decade-and-a-half know, I am pretty optimistic and hopeful. And I am happy and blessed to know that much of that positivity sprouts from my love of God and the knowledge that God loves me.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t get stressed, get down, and get absolutely flummoxed when the world comes crashing down on me, as it did about five years ago after a particularly bad relationship. I wasn’t sleeping more than a few hours a night. I wasn’t eating right. I was falling behind on my work. And then in the middle of it all I bent down one day to grab something off a store shelf, and it was as if my spine was struck by lightning. Hot shooting electric shocks shot up and down my back sending me into a state of painful panic I can only describe as unbearable.
Once I finally, and painfully, made it home, it was just the beginning. For the next six weeks I couldn’t even sit in a chair, quite the challenge for a writer. I could barely stand. And every type of physical activity I was accustomed to — running, swimming and golf, were off limits.
Over the next several years (yes, I did say years), my life was an endless stream of weekly visits to doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, anyone and anywhere I might find some relief, not to mention constant requests to friends, neighbors and even sometimes colleagues to help.
Now all of those people were kind and helped in some way to slowly lessen the pain. But none had any real definitive answers nor could they bring about an end to the pain. And the cumulative anxiety of this ultimately sent me into a chronic state of stress.
An ‘official’ miracle?
That’s where Fr. Alonso comes into this story. One day while walking through the beautiful grounds of the Franciscan Renewal Center I ran into him. I had known him for years, and I was always impressed with his very unique brand of respectful religiosity mixed with good old fashioned common sense and a nice sense of humor to boot. But most of all, he was always very compassionate, as he was on this day.
“How are you doing, my friend?” he asked sincerely.
And instead of delivering the standard “Fine,” I decided to tell the truth.
“Father, I have been in pain for years,” I unloaded. “And I just can’t really take it anymore.”
After I explained the trouble, he put one hand on my head and one on my spine and blessed me, asking God to relive the pain in my back and the stress and anxiety in my head, freeing me through God’s love.
Now I am not saying I didn’t believe it would help. But living in the world today where we are bombarded with cynicism, even I am sometimes overwhelmed by the mundane powers that be and try to rule our lives. So though I was hopeful, I wasn’t betting I would wake up the next day a new man.
But that is exactly what happened. I woke up pain-free for the first time in five years. And though after a hard day’s work I still get the occasional pings and pains, and keep up with my regimen of stretching and relaxation exercises, I haven’t seen a doctor since that day, and within a month I was running again.
Now I don’t know if this qualifies as an official miracle (Church folks are sticklers about those things). But it was a miracle to me, and one that changed my life. But not just because of the alleviation of the pain, but because it reminded me of the very real value of my faith, of my God and how that faith and that God delivers a much richer and more glorious life and living than living in the mundane world which surrounds us sans faith.
It was a reminder that in God everything is possible. And that the precepts of hope, faith and love are not just words but the greats gifts that our Catholic faith delivers.
Hopefully it reminds you all of their relevance in your own life too.
Can I get an Amen?