Fonticulus Fides

Thursday, October 16, 2003


I have good reason to believe in miracles. I owe my very life to miraculous intervention, and I share this with you today because it is the feast day of St. Gerard Majella (besides being our Pope’s 25th Anniversary).

When my mother was about three months pregnant with me, her abdomen suddenly swelled to the point where it looked like she was about to deliver. X-rays determined that a fast-growing tumor had appeared on her womb, a tumor the size of a football.

It was 1964, and back then tumor = cancer, and cancer = death and the best hope offered to patients was to go in and cut out every bit of that tumor and as much tissue around it as possible, right away, before it was too late. This is what my parents were told. Immediate surgery was required to save my mother’s life.

My parents were "casual Catholics" at that point. Dad had converted from being an Easter-and-Christmas-only Lutheran in order to marry my mom, who was raised Catholic. But they were never particularly faithful to the Church. They didn’t attend Mass regularly and weren’t teaching their older children much about Christ at all, let alone Catholicism.

But faced with the news that she was about to be operated on to remove both the tumor and her entire female reproductive system (a total hysterectomy was part of the deal), my mom refused. She said she couldn’t have the surgery because she was pregnant, and she believed that it was more important to save her baby’s life than her own.

The doctor told her that the baby very likely wouldn’t live, the tumor would crowd the womb and prevent the umbilical cord from doing its job. Plus the baby might already be infected with the cancer. Mom maintained her reluctance.

My dad was furious. They already had two kids, a boy and a girl. This was an unexpected pregnancy, so it’s not like they ever really wanted this baby. Her other kids needed her. He needed her. She had to have the surgery.

Finally, she asked for two weeks to think it over. The doctor warned her that it might be too late by then.

She went to her mother and asked for help. Together, they did a Novena to St. Gerard Majella, patron saint of mothers and difficult pregnancies.

At the end of the two weeks, the tumor was completely gone. X-rays showed no sign of it. My mom continued in her pregnancy – lots of morning sickness, but no other complication. And I was born on October 15, 1964, the anniversary of St. Gerard’s death and the day before his feast day.

Six weeks later, the tumor grew back, this time the size of an orange and attached to an ovary. My mom had surgery to remove both tumor and ovary, and tests proved the tumor was benign. She and my dad went on to have one more child, my sister Michelle.

Oddly enough, I was never told this story until I was in my late 20s. My mom said she didn’t think it was that big of a deal.

I’m not sure how a couple who experienced such an extravagant miracle could, but my parents did not take the Christian faith more seriously afterwards.

When I was little, we went to Mass on Easter and Christmas, and sometimes we would be read a page out of our Catholic children’s Bible to make up for not going to Sunday Mass. But I never had any formal instruction, and by the time I was in grade school, we didn’t even go to Mass on holidays any more. Eventually, my parents openly rejected Catholicism.

But I believe in miracles. Learning the story of how my very life was saved by miraculous intervention and the prayers of my mother, my grandmother and a Saint I’d never heard of before was very powerful to me. I didn’t become Catholic for quite some time afterwards – more than 10 years – but when I did, I knew there was no reason to doubt the communion of Saints and the continuing existence of miracles.

Yesterday, I turned 39, the same age as Terri Schiavo. Yesterday, her feeding tube was removed. But I believe a miracle can happen for Terri. I believe God can feed her heavenly food. I believe God can restore her brain function. I believe God can change the hearts and minds of the people who would see her starve to death. I believe something miraculous will happen.

Please keep praying. It’s not too late for Terri to experience a powerful move of the Hand of God.



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