My friends, I have to share a most amazing story with you. This is one you NEED to read. This is one I HAVE to tell. So many of you have been so generous in your prayers for me over the past few months as I’ve battled with what I can only describe as a nightmare, a hell to be faced down. Only the power of Almighty God could truly sustain me and the grace freely bestowed through His Son, Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit could keep me from at times losing my mind as I fought my body in a seemingly losing battle against chronic, debilitating pain and near-paralysis.
Let me start by explaining the title. You are by now aware that I was blessed to make a trip to Denver this past weekend to visit my old friend Dan. On Sunday morning we found ourselves cutting a path toward the Front Range just west of the city of Denver proper in Dan’s Tahoe. Our destination was a shrine to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. “Quick, what comedy movie mentions Mother Cabrini?” asked Dan. I begged for a clue and he said something about the movie involving babysitting. I gave the only reply that came to mind, Adventures in Babysitting, which was wrong. A further clue involving the late John Candy and I correctly guessed Uncle Buck. Apparently a drunk clown shows up to a kids party and Candy’s character (I only saw this once many years ago) chides the clown who replies “Who do you think you are? Mother Cabrini?”
Ed. note: In an effort to empty my “drafts” folder, this post is being completed now, June 23rd, 2014 at 3:26PM. It was originally begun on June 5th. See earlier post from today about tying up loose ends.
So let’s talk about Mother Cabrini for a moment, shall we? Long story short, Cabrini was an Italian immigrant to these shores who had founded a religious order of sisters. She had wanted to be a missionary to India (the East) but was obedient to Pope Leo XIII when he saw a need for her ministry skills on the shores of these United States (the West). She passed through Ellis Island and became a naturalized citizen. In the ensuing decades she traveled extensively and everywhere she went she built a school or an orphanage or some other house of refuge and outreach. Though her major shrine is in the Fort Washington neighborhood of Manhattan, she also has shrines throughout the country — one such shrine is in Golden, CO. And our trip up the mountain was an opportunity for me to do one of the things I love best. Get your minds out of the gutter, I love to visit saints’ shrines. Dan-o is certainly a very prayerful man so it came as no surprise to me that he was the one who suggested the trip. What did come as a surprise was the amount of walking, and up steep hills at that.
After driving to what I thought was the summit, we parked the car and entered the gift shop. Always check the gift shop at a shrine first. It’s a pretty good indication of how well you’ll enjoy the rest of your stay. At the shrine of another American saint — St. Katherine Drexel (just outside Philadelphia) — the gift shop contains Phillies paraphernalia. Apparently Mother Drexel was a fan of the NL East. But there wasn’t much of note here and we soon found ourselves out in the parking lot again. I was starting to feel bummed that we had driven all this way for nothing. Then we read on a plaque that there was a heart made out of stones that Cabrini herself had arranged on her last visit to this place in 1912. It was still preserved. We just had to find it.
Reorienting ourselves in the parking lot we noticed a number of people heading up what appeared to be the beginnings of a flight of stairs. “That must be where it is,” I said. “You up to a few stairs,” came my friend’s reply. “Sure…” So we started walking. It looked like about thirty steps in front of us and then the stairs disappeared. Remember, the air is already thin up there. Turns out to have been a landing. And upon reaching that landing I turned left and saw… 8000 more stairs! Holy cow. Dan, ever the fit former fireman (and clearly used to the mountain air unlike his sea-level-attuned pal) simply took one step after another. I don’t know that he broke a sweat. “OK, you can do this…” My back was starting to bother me as were my legs. I had to stop to catch my breath. I noticed that the groundskeepers had erected the stations of the cross on the side of the staircase. “Great, there are only fourteen of them. They appear to be every ten feet or so…” Got to the last one and turned another corner. Now the statues on the side of the stairs were of the mysteries of the rosary. Not sure? There are 20 of them. I was beginning to wonder if the points of the Nicene Creed would be coming next.
At long last we reached the summit. I sucked in as much air as I could while we looked around. We saw a magnificent view of Denver in the distance and I found that heart of stones (only now it was under plexiglass). Also on the summit was a thirty foot tall statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We looked around and each of us (me, Dan, and his son) took a moment in prayer before heading back down.
And that’s when I first began to notice it. My pain, though not entirely gone, was very different now. There was a certain feeling of peace associated with it. Was there still a twinge of muscular-nerve irritation? Yes. Did my incision still bother me? Sure. But it didn’t seem to matter now. For some reason, everything felt “fine”. It didn’t dawn on me until a day after I returned (when I originally started writing this post) to ask. I called him up and inquired whether he had said any kind of special prayer for my healing up on that mountain. “Sure did,” he said. “OK,” said I, “just wanted to know whom to thank.”
That’s really the whole story right there. Not much if you don’t have faith and nothing out of the ordinary if you do. I just had to say thank you — both to my friend and to Mother Cabrini. Who does he think he is? Wait…