Note (18 June 2012): I welcome readers from SpiritDaily.com. May God bless you in the reading of this thumbnail sketch of my story. As some have asked, yes, I do hope to write a book about these experiences. But, no, I don't have a publisher or anything like that yet. So please pray for me that I write what pleases the Holy Family. I want to especially thank Fr. Byron Miller of Blessed Seelos Shrine in New Oreleans who upon my second visit let me hold and pray with Blessed Seelos actual preaching Crucifix. More than anything I want people to know and love the Lord Jesus Christ and to learn about Blessed Father Seelos so they can get to know him and enjoy his friendship from heaven.
When I was still a priest in the Anglican Communion, I was called by the Holy Family (through their sudden appearance in my living room) to enter the Catholic Church. I was not prepared for this. Deo gratias that I found and was very blessed to have a wise and soft-spoken scholar-priest to welcome me and answer my questions. I remain so grateful to Fr. James Moore, the scholar-priest, for his magnificent pastoral gift toward me as well as his catechetical instruction that helped me understand what I was experiencing in such dramatic and unsettling ways. I find people who are coming into the Church are having such extraordinary experiences all the time, and most like me remain quiet about it until it is the right time. I think that the new folks coming into the Ordinariate will have that same wonderful experience with their scholar-Ordinary that I had with Fr. Moore, the founding pastor of Our Lady of Walsingham Catholic Church (Anglican Use) in Houston, Texas.
When I was about to enter the Church I also encountered some Catholic converts from the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada who wanted to be sure that I knew what I was getting myself into. I was told horror stories of other Episcopal priests who had been turned away or whose efforts strangely went nowhere. One man, a judge I knew in Texas, said to me, "Son," (yes, I was younger then) "Son, ya' realize that we're as welcome in the Catholic Church as the mistress at the funeral."
Texans can be very colourful, but they will usually only put up with straight-shooting, as is said. Here was a former Episcopalian telling me the worst of it because he cared about me without knowing me. "Now some will tell ya' I'm a traitor for telling you it isn't all peaches and cream, but those are the rats I want to warn you about." With eyes wide open I listened to what he said and because of him and his openness it cleared the way in my thinking so that I was ready to be received into the Catholic Church long before anyone in officialdom was prepared to deal with me.
Slowly over the course of years I watched the rules change again and again for a celibate former Episcopalian clergyman. First, the Pastoral Provision no longer applied. Then other changes. Then it was decided that we would have to go to seminary for two years. When I had first entered I would have gladly gone back to seminary, but after the intervening years of being jerked around, being treated badly by some Catholic priests who didn't want me coming in (because "we" would take the Church back to the Stone Age before Vatican II), and having my own experiences that could have gone into Good-bye, Good Men, I decided to simply focus on those apostolates with which I was affiliated. I made a concerted effort to live as a member of the laity as taught by Blessed Pope John Paul II in his great work Christifideles laici. I don't think anyone should convert to the Catholic Church before seriously engaging it in thorough study.
Anyone who knew me intimately could not figure out why I didn't go to Orthodoxy or back to Anglicanism. For a time I did retrace my steps and found the friendship and worship of my Orthodox and Episcopalian friends life-giving and soul-sustaining. My problem, if it could be called that, is that I knew through a heavenly visitation that the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph wanted me in the Catholic Church. They told me it would cost me everything, but with my sacrifices offered up to the Lord Jesus, He would make use of them to heal and reunite the Church. I could not refuse, and as I have said subsequently quoting the Apostle "whereupon I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision".
The rewards of being in Communion with the Chair of St. Peter far oustripped any suffering I might need to endure, and to this day I have believed this to be true.
My life has been a series of genuine miracles and heavenly visitations. Consequently, I am not exactly an answer to prayer for anybody in any hierarchy. Such folks like things to be stable, predictable, by the book ... and they want to be the only ones offering a Word from heaven. When I entered the Catholic Church I was shocked to find how many priests loathed Fatima and despised Bl. now St. Faustina Kowolska. I was horrified when I heard a bishop say upon hearing of the death of Sr. Lucia of Fatima, "Well, thank God, that's over." Shepherds should be very careful about what they say. They never know if the sheep are listening. Truly I wasn't surprised by these little bombshells. I knew Church history and the life of Christ Himself and understood the sources of such opposition.
One day after teaching Gregorian Chant to a brilliant group of homeschooled Catholic students I went into the Holy House Chapel in the right transept of Our Lady of Walsingham Parish in Houston, Texas. The Holy House Chapel is a stunningly holy place and a very faithful attempt to reconstruct the Holy House of Walsingham in England.
The image of Our Lady and the Christ Child there once served in the Slipper Chapel in Walsingham, England when their image of Our Lady of Walsingham had to be removed for repairs after an attack by a vandal. As I knelt and prayed before the Tabernacle, the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham and the Christ Child came alive to me. The Little Lord and Our Lady spoke to me asking me if I would be willing to suffer and even to die for some very important things God the Father wanted. I was stunned beyond all words.
Our Lady told me that her shrine in Houston would be vandalised. I began to weep. She said that if I was willing to suffer a great illness a greater shrine would be built to honour her and her child through the offerings and sacrifices of many. Would I do it? 'Yes, Mother, you know I will.'
The Lord told me that a monastery would be started and later move to Ireland. Would I be willing to suffer another greater illness at the same time for a monastery that He loved greatly ... 'Yes, Lord, of course but you must help me.' The Little Lord looked on me with great compassion.
Then the Little Lord and the Blessed Mother both seemed to speak together. Would I be willing to suffer even more and even to die if with the addition of my suffering and death the Protestants would begin to be brought back to the Church and the ancient wounds in her begin to be healed. I managed a Yes, but I could say nothing more. The vision ended. I got up from the Chapel, and I tried to prepare my heart and soul for what would be coming.
My spiritual director helped me review all of this and bring my mind to a place of peace. The illnesses came one on top of the other and confined me to my bed for years. A hurricane completely destroyed my home. The doctors told me they didn't know how I was still alive. And then for a while I tasted clinical death and the fulness of the Kingdom of God.
I then experienced the most painful experience of my life as I was placed back into my sad, suffering, bloated body. The return was impossibly painful for me and I wanted to go back to heaven. I seemed to start fading away again, more There than here. But as everyone began to expect that it was time for me to leave for good, a friend from childhood arrived having been prompted by God to come see me.
|Bl. F.X. Seelos, CSsR|
He brought with him a First Class relic of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, the cheerful ascetic priest of New Orleans. As I held the relic and we prayed, I prayed for a happy death. My friend on the other hand prayed for a miracle of healing for me. I felt wave on wave of warm energy wash up from my hand into my brain... my poor brain that had been catastrophically wasting away. I felt a surge of alertness in my mind and a sense of well-being touch me that I had not felt in many years.
After that I was able to travel by car for the first time in some five years. We went to New Orleans to give thanks for the graces and favours I had received in my healing. I was now able to walk with a the help of a walker or a rollator, and I was over the moon happy. While I was there a Helper named Tim prayed for me in the Shrine as I stood in between Blessed Father Seelos' relics and his beloved statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. He prayed for me with a Redemptorist preaching crucifix embedded with a major relic of the Blessed.
After he prayed for me, without thinking of it I stepped away from my rollator and walked on my own toward the prayer desk in front of the large reliquary of Blessed Seelos' remains. For the first time in perhaps six years I knelt down at the prayer desk all by myself. Prior to this kneeling would have been impossible with my untreatable psoriatic arthritis that had developed. Strangers who were in the Shrine at the time who knew nothing about me were pointing toward me with tears rolling down their faces. I looked to my friends who likewise had tear-filled eyes and expressions of total shock on their faces.
I really didn't understand what was going on at first, but I felt the overwhelming Presence of the Lord Jesus and my soul, my heart felt light as a feather, and I was filled with such joy that for me that Shrine was the happiest place on Earth. It was the place where my friends lowered me through the roof to see Jesus... my old friends and my new friend Blessed Seelos.
It was such a shock to me and all of my family and friends to see that I no longer needed assistance. In short order over a hundred pounds of weight dropped off my body. There were no signs of psoriatic arthritis. No signs of suspected lupus. No signs of several other things. I had my first normal EEG since suffering a stroke in 1999. My brain no longer was listed as severely atrophied, but as moderately so. Where the great Dr. Rosa Tang had found so much evidence of unidentified strokes, there was no visible evidence of those strokes.
Now for the really amazing part. I became well enough that I could undergo two unexpected surgeries. One removed my gall bladder at nearly the last minute before it ruptured. The other removed my left and right breast a pre-cancerous threat. And then three small polyps were removed in a colonoscopy that were pre-cancerous. I never could have survived these things without the healing I received. In this fashion it seems to me the Lord wanted to show the value of the healing arts in addition to His miraculous power to heal.
During the scans at the time of the gall bladder surgery, a CT scan showed three tumours in my lungs. I had never had tumours there, but I had been given two dreadful drugs that had the side-effect of encouraging the growth of tumours and cancer. It seemed to many that the victory of my healing was being erased, but privately Blessed Seelos had come to me in my bedroom and told me to have no cares about it. Jesus would take care of everything.
I had another high resolution CT scan in anticipation of surgery, but there were no tumours to be found. My Muslim pulmonologist was convinced he had witnessed a miracle. My Catholic rheumatologist was likewise impressed by the miraculous events in my life that had turned me into a completely new person. Nature had been reversed.
However, not everything had been healed. A cyst in my spinal cord remained leaving me functionally disabled, and I still suffered from syringomyelia though the pains of it were profoundly reduced. I asked the Lord why he wouldn't heal me completely, and I heard His Voice say outside of my own mind, "Who said I was finished healing you?"
I have become grateful for what he did not heal because it has kept me grounded and close to Jesus. I am able to do most anything I want or need to do, but I still need to be careful not to overextend myself. He also showed me that he intends to heal some of the effects of the stroke from 1999 that beset me interiorly. No one who sees me can believe that I endured so much save for the people who witnessed these things happen to me.
For some the most telling of all was seeing my hair having grown back in after having fallen out for no apparent reason.
What I have written is merely a sketch in thumbnail, but it is clear that even so it will give encouragement to those who need it. I can direct others to seek the intercession of Blessed Father Seelos and to go to his shrine to pray with him to the Lord, the healer of our souls.
I also hope by sharing all of this to encourage those who have not yet come into the Catholic Church to do so. This is the real Church in all of its fulness with the real Lord Jesus Christ and all of his very real friends and family. As Fr. Benedict Groeschel would tell you, mindful of all the frailties and faults of the human beings in the Church, 'Come on in! It's awful!' Yes, some things are, but it is surpassingly the Kingdom of God on Earth where the most miraculous things happen to the lay faithful every day.
And the greatest miracle for us all is our Lord's daily Real Presence in the miracle of the Holy Mass and His abiding presence in the Tabernacles of the Church, the very Living Bread which came down from heaven. I give thanks to Blessed Father Seelos for his intercession, to the Holy Family for their direct guidance in my life, to Blessed Pope John Paul II for his prophetic vision which made such a wonderful place of homecoming for me at the Parish and Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. But above all praise be to Jesus Christ for simply being who he is, my Lord and my God. Laudetur Jesus Christus!
+Hosanna in excelsis.