Holy Saturday and Prayer, Prayer, Prayer

My friends, please pray for me.  Please pray very hard.  The recovery is going better every day.  I have been blessed with so many wonderful people surrounding me.  In particular I have been blessed in the form of a friend with whom I have recently become even closer (thanks to pages and pages of email correspondence).  He is a remarkable man and I have promised my prayers for him as well so please join me in praying not only in thanksgiving but also for his intentions.

Today is Holy Saturday.  This is a day of waiting.  This is a day of reflection.  It’s always reminded me of the day after a funeral.  We just buried someone and now it’s time to try to begin the process of picking up the pieces and getting back to some semblance of normal.  If you’ve ever lost someone close to you than you know what that day is like.  If not, chances are that you will experience it in your lifetime.  There’s no rush to get there.  It’s not a contest to see who can grieve more.  I was talking with Wilma during the week and we both said the exact same thing.  I mentioned why I love Holy Week and the Easter Triduum in particular…  “To me,” I said as she joined in, “It feels as if you’ve just lost your best friend!”  Yesterday we commemorated the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.  Tomorrow we will celebrate His resurrection.  This day in between has to exist because without it, things would move so quickly we wouldn’t have time to process His death.  No, today is the day we simply wait.  We wait and in that time of waiting, we could do no better than to keep watch and pray.  Remember, He promised us He would rise again?  It would have seemed like a magic trick if He had simple died and then jumped off the cross!  He had to be in the tomb those three days (as Jonah had to be in the belly of the whale).  It shows us that His death was real.  And as we know, there can be no resurrection without death.

So pray today.  Pray very hard today.  If you’re stumped, pray the Psalms and then read through the Passion in the Gospels.  Then, stop and remember that we have a God who loves us so much that “He sent His only begotten Son so that all who believe in Him might not perish but might have eternal life.”  (Jn. 3:16).

God bless you and don’t forget to pray for me.  Very special intention…

This Looks Great! Prayers, Recover, Confession, and Gratitude

My spine complete with new hardware!

My spine complete with new hardware!

So, friends, today was the big six week check-up following my second spinal fusion.  How’d it go, you ask?  It was beautiful!  I had been asking prayers (even posting to Facebook an urgent request as Wilma was parking the car at the doctor’s office).  First I saw my friend Maria, the nurse.  She is so sweet.  She looked me over — including my abdominal scar, a bit personal, but I guess it’s her job — and determined with a smile that everything looked beautiful.  Then the big guy himself entered the room.  That’s right, Wayne Newton himself, right there in my doctor’s office!  Wait, sorry…  No, my surgeon came in and also examined my scars.  He too found them “beautiful”.  I was starting to get creeped that not one but two people had just complimented a five inch long red line running from my belly button downward.  No matter, I was now given my next set of instructions to follow before the next check-up which is in eight weeks.

  • I can start ditching the walker as I feel comfortable.  Not sure I’m there yet but it’s coming.
  • I am to ween myself off the back brace.  This happens by breaking the day into two eight hour segments and removing the brace for increasing amounts of time during those segments each week.  In other words, let’s look at the day as running from 8AM-4PM and then from 4PM-Midnight.  So each day during the first week I will remove the brace from 2-4PM and 10PM-12AM.  Also, I am allowed to sleep without the brace now and I can go swimming if I want!  Well, it’s not quite that warm here in Texas yet but we can dream, can’t we?
  • I am to continue taking my painkillers as needed.  Even picked up another script for Percocet.  By the way, I have reached the point with my insurance that I am no longer paying for anything.  Wilma picked up my hydrocodone a few days ago and it was literally a no-charge affair.  Could life get any better?
Saw this in the doctor's office.  Perhaps it's a "sign".  LOL.

Saw this in the doctor’s office. Perhaps it’s a “sign”. LOL.

Yes, I stopped by the St. Jude’s Chapel in downtown Dallas with Wilma afterward to give thanks to God.  There is and still be post-op pain for some time but it is nothing compared to pre-op and it’s getting better.  I walked in, sat in the front pew.  The church was basically empty.  As I sat with my head held up and my eyes fixed on the tabernacle I was temporarily caught off-guard by an old priest who walked right in front of me.  Let me tell you that I had been meaning to get to confession for a while.  I try to go at least once a month.  But I hadn’t been since the morning of the surgery.  It’s Holy Week.  That means that if you want confession you either have to have the super secret codeword from the Vatican or wait on a line for 8 hours.  In those situations you wind up wracking up more sins just from the anger that builds up at the people who are taking up all the time with the priests.  Well, this man stopped, looked down at me, and said “Did you want to go to confession?”  I was taken aback.  Not quite sure how to respond I said: “Um, I wasn’t planning on it right now but could I have a minute to examine my conscience?”  Well you see,” he said, “I was on my way out but we could it right here quickly if you’d like.”  I looked around.  There wasn’t anyone else in the church.  “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…”

I truly felt like Jesus Himself had approached me in this holiest of weeks to personally beckon me to come to Him for the forgiveness He so longs to give each of us.  And it was beautiful.

Oh, and I can drive again!

Prayers. Again? Sensing a Pattern?

A few days ago I posted a story about a novena that my friend Annie and I are starting a novena for the canonization of Venerable Fulton Sheen.  I am sad to say that I quickly forgot and my novena obligation and will be restarting tomorrow.

But…  In that post I put a link the website that posts that and many other novenas online.  I was pleasantly surprised today to find a comment from someone associated with that site.  He thanked me for sharing the post and then he shared with the link for the novena in honor of the impending canonizations for Popes John XXIII and John Paul the Great.  If you’re interested, this is the first time in the history of the Church that two popes will be canonized together.  Also, that novena, starting nine days prior to their actual canonization; which would be this Friday, Good Friday.

Here’s the link.

Now here’s the rest of the story (apologies to Paul Harvey).  I need a lot of prayers for myself right now.  I’m now too proud to beg so please pour them out for me.  Whenever you get a second and you think of it, just drop a Hail Mary or something.  I have my six week check-up today (Wednesday) and it’s a turning point, I hope.  They might let me drive again.  Then again, they might take the X-ray and tell me that the fusion is no good.  God’s Will.  Also, I have many special intentions (one in particular) for which your kindness in prayer would be most appreciated.  I’ve been very blessed to spend lots of time lately emailing with an old friend and as kind as he’s been reading through pages of my ramblings, a small part of me is afraid that I’m taking up too much of his time and he’s just too kind to tell me.  The thing is he really is one of the kindest human beings on the planet so I’d never know either way.  I hope he’s reading this right now and laughing because he knows I’m kidding and our friendship is pretty solid.

So, pray, pray for me, pray hard, and — be kind to yourselves — pray for you as well.  I always am.

Focus on Prayer – Plea for Prayers

Recovery is still going strong.

I’m feeling better by the day.

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he'd pray for me...

It might be in Italian or Spanish, but I bet he’d pray for me…

So what I need right now is a whole mess of prayers.  You see, I’ve been working on an online Master’s Degree in School Administration for the past two years.  I’m in my final quarter.  This is my second Master’s, by the way.  The first one was taken the old fashioned way — in a classroom with a notepad, pen, and exams.  Also, back then we had semesters.  The program I’m in now uses a quarter system.   Every ten weeks I’ve been taking two classes and earning six credits.  Well now I’m in my final quarter, taking three classes.  I’m at the end of week 2 and I’m finding myself more confused about the lessons than I’ve ever been.  Truth be told, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  By the grace of God, I should add, I have a perfect 4.0 average.  PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE pray that the remaining weeks prove stressless and the work proceeds quickly and that I keep that average.  I greatly appreciate it and even more so if you would spread the word and get others to pray as well.  I know it seems trivial.  But to me, this is so important.

Speaking of prayer, I managed to work in an extra fifteen minutes of prayer tonight!  Now that seems trivial.  But I was realizing tonight that I’ve been blessed with tons of free time thanks to my surgical recovery.  This is time that I should have been using to draw nearer to Our Blessed Lord during this holy season of Lent.   This is time that I have NOT been using wisely.  True, I’ve been recovering thanks to the extra prayers of everyone else.  But I’ve squandered a good portion of this time.  Lately, especially, I’ve felt the need to ask the intercession of my patron St. Rita and another favorite of mine, St. Joseph.

So tonight, after mass, I slipped into the Eucharistic chapel at the parish and prayed my St. Rita novena.  I prayed for so many things.  I prayed for the intention I asked all of you to pray for above.  I prayed for my wife and children, for peace in the homes of my loved ones, for my friend Dan and his family .  He requested some prayers but I would have done it anyway because he’s a good guy.

I’ve been thinking of the fact that it’s Holy Week.  I’ll try to write more about this later in the work.  As a lifelong Catholic, I am intimately familiar with the liturgies of Holy Week.  Especially during the Triduum — the three day, ongoing liturgy from Holy Thursday to the Solemn Easter Vigil on Saturday night.  It draws me in.  I always truly feel like I am present at the death of a friend who has given up His life for me.  Perhaps it’s because I am.  The raw emotion of entering a church on Good Friday to a bare altar and an open, empty tabernacle is something words cannot describe.  Stick with me, friends.  I promise I’ll try to capture it for you later in the week.

For now, though, please pray for me; not only for the schoolwork but for several very special intentions.  Dan knows what I’m talking about but to everyone else, they shall remain “special intentions”.  I love you all.

A Recovery Boost From My Students

Continuing the theme of updating you on my recovery I wanted to share a beautiful story about my morning.

I was meant to be on the big screen...

I was meant to be on the big screen…

Two days ago, the dean of students at the school where I teach (when I’m not on disability) tweeted me.  We tweet each other.  The kids think it’s hysterical.  These two “old guys” use Twitter.  Anyway he’s been so kind to check in on me, to see how I’m doing.  He uses technology in his classroom almost as much as I do.  Because he’s also a dean, he only teaches one class, a US History class.  But, because he teachers juniors (as do I) we have a great number of students in common.

This morning I woke up, got showered and dressed, and moved my laptop to the kitchen counter.  I made sure I had a nice backdrop behind me.  Why’d I do all this?  Well, within minutes my laptop “rang”.  It was my friend, the dean, FaceTime’ing me from his class.  And like that I was on the big SmartBoard projector in his classroom and he had turned his iPad around so I could see the class.  For the next twenty minutes I caught up with my kids.  I fielded questions about my recovery and how the past month has been.  Told them how I had missed them and listened as they told me pretty much the same thing.  It was so much fun.

So was my Terrier.

So was my Terrier.

And then, as if on cue, Buddy the Dog walked into the kitchen and hopped up on my lap.  You know what happened next.  I don’t think the dean ever got to finish teaching his class — a lesson on the Civil Rights Movement.  But I know about 25 people and one Jack Russell Terrier who really didn’t care.

And that, my friends, is how recovery is done.

Keep praying.  Pray for me, yes, but pray for the good men like my dean who set that up and for my students who miss me.  Pray for Buddy the Dog who, I am sure, had no idea he briefly became a Twitter sensation.  And pray for more good days like this.

Your Daily Sheen

Continuing on the theme of my “recovery blog” I will say that I woke up in almost no pain this morning.  Let me repeat that.  I woke up in almost NO pain this morning!  That’s big news!

This is news that is so big it deserves a prayer of thanksgiving.  I have prayed my prayers today, been to mass, gave thanks.  My friend Annie and I communicated via email today regarding some novenas.  She keeps me in the loop about upcoming “universal” novenas.  For instance, there is a novena that close to 100,000 people worldwide have signed up to pray in unison in preparation for the upcoming canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII.

The man himself, +Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

The man himself, +Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

In keeping up with the positive theme of this blog I want to point out that this is one of the truly good and beautiful uses of the Internet.  This is a way to bring people together in prayer.  As Annie noted “Where two or three are gather in my Name…  Can we be gathered online?”  I sure think so.  But we can definitely be gathered in spirit.

After learning of the papal novena mentioned above, I asked if there was one we could pray for the canonization of one of my favorites, Venerable Fulton Sheen.  I love that man.  On the off chance that any of you want to join in, Annie and I just started praying it tonight.  I’m including the first day’s reflection and the link below.  Perhaps you can offer it for my complete recovery.  As for me, I have my own, personal intention to pray for but I am also and always praying for each of you.

God bless!

How God will judge my life I know not, but I trust he will see me with mercy and compassion. I am only certain there will be three surprises in Heaven. First of all, I will see some people whom I never expected to see. Second, there will be a number whom I expect who will not be there. And – even relying on God’s mercy – the biggest surprise of all may be that I will be there. When the record of any human life is set down, there are three pairs of eyes who see it in a different light. 1. As I see it. 2. As others see it. 3. As God sees it. –Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Find the Original Here: http://www.praymorenovenas.com/fulton-sheen-novena/#ixzz2yMRelfDM

Dan the Man

My dear friend and most prolific comment-poster Annie suggested to me today that, at the very least, rather than cut back on my posting, I post updates on my recovery.  Sounds like a great idea to me!

The weather here is so volatile.  Fortunately, every storm passes and today God blessed me by showing me the light beyond the gray skies.

The weather here is so volatile. Fortunately, every storm passes and today God blessed me by showing me the light beyond the gray skies.

So first, here’s how things are going.  I have been waking up in less and less pain lately.  This I see as a very good sign.  Perhaps I’ve turned the corner and the fusion is really setting.  Now I’m not saying that I’m ready to toss my pills or step outside without my walker just yet.  I figure at the six week check-up the doctors will clear me for all of that.  That’s just three weeks away.  But…  I have been feeling better.  And more importantly, I’ve been feeling more upbeat.  I started my final quarter of work towards my second Master’s degree and I have, with varying degrees of stress, a focus for a better portion of my day than simply watching TV and waiting for 5:30 mass to come along.

Now I’d like to say something else; something important.  This is something that pertains to my recovery.  I have been incredibly blessed by the prayers of each and every one of you who’ve been stopping by these pages.  You see my prayer requests and you’ve taken them to heart.  I can tell.  Our Blessed Lord is strengthening me, healing me.  It’s taking time but it’s His time, not mine.  He has also blessed me with the most remarkable wife (whom I hope is reading this so she sees how much I love her).  She’s been so loving in her care and so lovely to behold as she cares for me.  Almost seven years of marriage and I have only recently come to realize just how special she is to me.  “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife and the two become one flesh…”  Thank you, Lord, for ordaining it so.

Sonny Boy writing his word list and showing how much he loves his Daddy's favorite ball club.  Let's go Mets!

Sonny Boy writing his word list and showing how much he loves his Daddy’s favorite ball club. Let’s go Mets!

He has blessed me with two wonderful children who’s smiles and laughter and playfulness brighten every minute of my time with them.  This evening we sat at the counter with Disney princess Play-doh then had music time.  Baby Girl played the piano and Sonny Boy played the violin.  They know Daddy has been hurt but they’ve been so good to me.  Baby Girl loves to be my “nurse” and fetch things for me while Sonny Boy has enjoyed reading to me.  Oh yes, he’s been learning to read.  I’ll admit Al, a story about an alligator who gets mad at a man boarding a bus because he won’t hand over his hot dog isn’t the most riveting tale.  But told by my boy it’s better than Gone with the Wind.  Oh and Al contains only monosyllabic words.  In rhyme.  How the authors (yes there were two of them) made a man-eating reptile into a friendly hero by the end of those 16 pages is amazing.  Also, Sonny Boy, Baby Girl, and I have had more fun these past few days laughing at our new favorite TV show.  Daddy discovered that re-runs of Mr. Ed air on the Hallmark Movie Channel on Sunday morning.  I know of the show but had actually never seen an episode.  I DVR’ed five episodes.  Today, when the kids were at school…  I actually watched an episode by myself.  Don’t tell anyone.  It’s pretty funny stuff.

He has blessed me with my dear Mom and my wife’s dear Mom.  Funny, I was on the phone with my mother this morning, catching up, and we were talking about Wilma (wife’s mom).  “You know,” she said to me, “If I could have picked the perfect mother-in-law for my son I would have picked Wilma.”  That’s love and I love the both of them.

Baby Girl, fresh from her bath, forgot to put her glasses back on.  I asked her to smile for me and she obliged because it "would make you feel better, Daddy!"  Buddy the Dog was oblivious to my camera.

Baby Girl, fresh from her bath, forgot to put her glasses back on. I asked her to smile for me and she obliged because it “would make you feel better, Daddy!” Buddy the Dog was oblivious to my camera.

He has blessed me with the rest of my wonderful family.  My brothers and sisters, in-laws, and a whole slew of people I recently bade farewell to on Facebook have been tenacious in their desire to prop me up and see how I’m doing.  I love them all and I’m sorry I had to get off of Facebook.  I hope they understand it was just time.  I may, in time, activate a newer, smaller account just for the closest of them.  I say that because I’m also currently taking a class in social media and education and I’m pretty sure having a Facebook account is a requirement.  Should have seen that one coming.  Anyway, thank you to all of you and I do love you.  My recovery is a tribute to you, all of you, and your prayers, love, and support.

So what’s up with the title of this blog?  “Dan the Man”?  Tonight I want to single out a man who means a great deal to me.  OK, there are two guys and I’m going to embarrass them both (if they’re reading this) by gushing about my admiration for them.  First up is my dear friend Dan (the Man).  I’ve written about him before.  We met when we were both students in a college seminary.  He went over that wall long before I did, met and married a woman almost as remarkable as my wife, and fathered three beautiful children.  There was a time when we had lost touch but many years ago we got back together.  Over the past few years our friendship has manifested itself in occasional visits — we’re in Texas and he’s in Colorado so it’s not that often — and even more infrequently, texts.  Very rarely do we speak on the phone.  But do you know what?  Around the time I was realizing that I was on a fast train to another surgery Dan seemed especially concerned for me.  As any true friend would do, he quietly stepped up his contact, genuinely concerned for his old pal.  Just yesterday, after an hour on the phone, we started exchanging texts.  My God, I can’t repeat any of those texts.  It was one of the funniest conversations I’ve ever had and it made me laugh so hard I actually felt myself getting better.  The conversation went from our kids’ hobbies to the pain of taking a fastball in the absolute worst place a man can get hit as well as the true reason I don’t play contact sports.  He’s laughing right now.  You know what else?  One night a few weeks ago I made a crazy suggestion that he find some time, use his miles, and come for a visit.  I was (sort of) joking.  Dan responded within seconds with a promise he’d try to make that happen.  I believe him.  And even if he can’t, the thought that he’d be willing to leave his own family behind to come keep company with a cripple like me warms my heart.  I love this guy.  He is a brother to me (and I don’t toss that one around for anything).

The other guy I wanted to mention is a friend named Jim.  He and I worked together for only one year and that was a while back.  Again, there was a time when we lost contact but, happily, we linked up again.  His life and mine share many parallels.  We were married a few weeks apart, had been in a seminary, each of us had a son within nine and a half months of our weddings.  Our second child was a girl — for both of us.  Jim and I don’t stay in as close touch as Dan and I do but we have a very meaningful relationship.  We don’t talk on the phone ever, hardly ever text.  No, we email each other.  It’s like the old art of letter writing just through Gmail instead of with a pen and paper.  The only criticism I’d ever offer is that he’s not too quick to reply (he’d admit to that) but our conversations are always honest and very funny.  I remember one time writing him a recommendation letter for a teaching job he was looking into.  I sent a glowing letter to his prospective employer.  But to Jim’s inbox I sent the dummied-up copy wherein I described him in terms no employer would care to hear.  We got a good laugh out of it.  Lately he’s been working late nights.  He’s the faith formation director for his parish and he’s been planning retreats and such.  Every time I see his online status I use the opportunity to strike.  Usually an hour later he’s realized he hasn’t gotten any work done; but we’ve had a good laugh.  I had reason to email him over the weekend with some reflections of a more serious nature.  Tonight he sent me a most thoughtful and faith-filled reply, reminding me how blessed I have been to know him and grateful I am to call him a friend.  He too, is like a brother to me; though I don’t think he’d be found dead on a flight to Texas so that’s why I said “like a brother”.

You know, throughout the past few weeks I’ve worried that I may have been a big bother to the people in my life and at times wondered how much of a burden I’ve been.  As I start to feel better those thoughts are diminishing, thank God.  Today was a day wherein I must have been filled with the Spirit and given a moment of clarity in order to begin the process of sharing my gratitude.  Thank you, Annie, for your request that I update you on my recovery.  You see, the recovery is going fine.  But the man who is recovering is blessed beyond belief by the people in his life and I am going to use these pages to tell you about them.

Up next: Gary and his family.  You’ll love “meeting” them.