Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Swimming to the Netherlands

It was the spring of 2003 and Phil wanted to study for a semester at Leiden University in the Netherlands.  He had applied at Towson University where he was studying for the exchange student program, but had been advised that the quota for students to study in the fall semester at Leiden was full.  He was very disappointed.  We prayed and thanked God in the midst of the situation knowing God knew what was best for Phil.

Not long after, Phil was lifeguarding at Bally's on Baltimore National Pike where he had worked for a couple of years.  This day, it was a particularly slow morning with only one man taking laps.  Phil didn't know the man, but when he was finished his laps they began to talk.  Phil told him he would be a junior the coming semester majoring in English. He also told him about applying for Leiden University without success. 

The man was a professor at Johns Hopkins University in charge of international studies who "just happened" to know Nanda, the person in charge of the exchange program at Leiden. The professor gave Phil her name and e-mail address and told him to contact her and let her know that he had given Phil her e-mail address and see if she could give him a space in the English class he was trying to apply for. He also gave Phil his e-mail address so Phil could let him know if he needed any further help.  Coincidence?  I don't think so!

Phil did get in touch with Nanda, and she was able to get him a slot at Leiden University. However, there was another glitch in the summer as to where he was to live.  Phil tried e-mailing Nanda, but to no avail.  He was getting frustrated since filling out another form and getting his passports required information that only she could give.  Since Phil and the JHU professor had e-mailed each other, he e-mailed him and told him of his problem of getting no reply from Nanda. After a couple of days, the prof e-mailed Phil advising him that he was attending a conference in South America along with other heads of international exchange student programs.  Nanda was attending as well, and he would tell her about Phil's situation. 

Nanda did get in touch with Phil, all the forms were filled out, and Phil got to Leiden and loved it.  He met lots of people from all over the world.  Thank you, God, for the professor from Johns Hopkins University and the help he gave to Phil.

Why Jesus Didn't Heal Me Of My Measles In Time For First Communion

It was the month of May a long time ago.  I was so excited.  I was going to make my First Communion with my first grade class the next Sunday. In those days you made your First Communion when you were in the first grade.  My dress had been made by a friend of the family, and I had my veil which I just loved.  I even had new white shoes and socks.

On the Wednesday before the big day I was tired and grouchy. My mom said, "You aren't acting right."  She felt my head and I had a fever and was sent to bed.  The next day I woke up with spots.  I had measles.  

Oh, how I cried.  "I am missing the last rehearsal for the First Communion Mass," I wailed.  I was so upset.  I had to stay in a darkened room and no one but my mother and father could come in to see me. I had a younger brother and a younger sister, but Mom didn't want them to catch measles from me.  That night when Daddy came home from work he came up to sit with me in my room.  I said I was so sad because I had measles but maybe they would be gone by Sunday and I could still make my First Communion with my class.  Daddy said we could pray and ask Jesus to make me better by Sunday.  We did that, and I was sure I was going to be able to go to church on Sunday.

When I awoke on Sunday I looked in my mirror and the spots were gone off my face. I got so excited and called to Mom and Dad who were still sleeping since it was very early in the morning.  Mom came in and she saw that my face had cleared somewhat, but she pulled up my pajama shirt and my back and tummy were peppered with spots.  She told me she was sorry, but I would not be able to make my First Communion this Sunday.  That morning I sat by my bedroom window watching the girls and boys make their way to the church, wondering why Jesus hadn't healed me of my spots.

I did get to make my Communion on June 6th with a few other boys and girls who missed the class communion day.  I remember still being disappointed that day, but I also remember as I went up to receive the Eucharist saying the prayer that Sister Eileen Marie had taught us to say.  It was a simple prayer: "Jesus, come into my heart."

When I became a grown woman and had received Jesus many many times at mass over the years I was thinking about my First Communion during my time of prayer.  I told Jesus that I really thought He was going to heal me after Daddy and I had prayed.  Why wasn't I healed? I wondered.   

A thought came into my head immediately.  The words were, "I wanted you to say the prayer asking me to come into your heart. If you had made your Communion with all the other children you would have been too distracted and would not have prayed the prayer.  I wanted to live in your heart."  Tears of joy came with these words and I could say "Thank you, Lord Jesus, for not healing me then, but loving me so much that you wanted me to ask you to come live in my heart."
Now, when any of my
children or grandchildren are making their First Communion, I urge them to pray the prayer that Sister Eileen Marie taught me: "Jesus, Come Into My Heart."

Monday, January 30, 2012

From Highrise Office to Home Child Care

In 1997, I was working at HTR, a computer school located on the 15th floor of the building at Light and Pratt streets overlooking the Inner Harbor. The view from the windows was spectacular, as evidenced by this photo I took, along with a prayer I always said at breakfast:

I worked from 8:30 AM to 12.30 PM five days a week. The salary was good, and I had a paid parking place in the garage attached to the building. My job was to register the students coming for class and to make coffee, hand out the books for the class, and collect the fees from the students if they had not paid at the time they called to enroll.  I loved my job.

One Sunday in February, I went to Mass as I always did and knelt down to pray before Mass started to prepare myself for the Eucharist. Down the aisle came a woman walking a little Chinese girl about a year old.  She was a cute little one. We had several single women in the parish who had gone to China to adopt little girls, so seeing this one was not something new for me. As I turned my attention back to my prayers I heard inside my head these words, "You will take care of this one." That shook me up. I did not want to do child care. I had been taking care of children for a very long time, what with the ages of my six kids.  I remember saying, "If that's you Lord, You will have to give me a whole lot of peace about that. Right now, I don't have it."  I had known the girl's mom, Kathleen (Kathie) Kelly, from a parish Renew group that I had been in a year before but we were just casual acquaintances, and on that Sunday I hadn't spoken to or seen Kathie for quite some time.

As I drove to work, I would pray for my day at HTR, and often the memory of those words I'd heard that Sunday morning came to mind.  I would just pray for peace. I did tell my Bible Study group and Larry about what I heard, wondering if they would take me to a psychiatrist.  No one suggested that, but one of the women in my group said that Kathie had child care. "Thank God," I thought.

Well, in mid-May, I received a call from the main office of HTR located in Rockville, Maryland.  My boss advised me that they might be closing the Baltimore office. I  was very sad to hear that.  However, she said they might try to keep the office but at another location.  Would I stay on if they found a suitable space in the Security Boulevard section?  Yes!  That area was close to home for me.  For the next couple of weeks she had me meeting with real estate agents and looking at places that could be converted into classrooms.

I was scheduled for my vacation the last two weeks in June. Even though I had found two places I thought suitable for classrooms, the director of the company finally decided that the Baltimore office was to close with the last classes to be held the end of July.  I told my boss that I would stay until the office closed in hopes that the powers that be would change their minds.  I went on vacation, and when I returned to work I was told that several of the companies who had scheduled classes for their employees had cancelled and that the office would close the week after July 4th.  I stayed and helped close up the place, and I was given a
luncheon and some gifts on that last Friday.

The next day I went to Mass.  It was Saturday morning and not too many people were there.  However, Kathie Kelly and her little girl, Theresa Mary, who was at this time about 19 months old, were seated in the front of the church.  I was in the back.  After Mass, as I was ready to leave, I heard Kathie call, "Wait a minute."  I am not sure she remembered my name.  She said, "Would you be interested in taking care of my little girl?  I've just gotten a new job and the caregiver I had lives too far away for this new job.  I've been having difficulty finding someone to care for her and my new job starts this Tuesday." Kathie is a nurse practioner and had been practicing at Jessup Prison, while her new job was at Johns Hopkins Hospital.  I was shocked at the request but at the same time knew that God had arranged all the circumstances, including giving me months notice of what He wanted me to do and having companies cancel classes at HTR so that I could be available to care for Theresa Mary.

Taking care of Theresa Mary (also known affectionately as "Tee," while she called me "Abi") in my home was a real gift from God to me.  I received so much love from her and had such a good time playing with her. Thank you, Jesus, for taking such good care of me and doing what was best for me.

"You Are Being Looked After And Cared For"

My brother-in-law Sam Deramo had gone to be with the Lord on December 1, 1991.  He was only 47.  Lots of people mourned his loss besides his wife, daughters, relatives, and friends.  Sam was an accountant, a real estate agent, a tax consultant, and financial counselor to many people, including Larry and me.

About a year after Sam's death, I was worried about our financial situation, what with tuition for Thom and Phil and other money concerns.  One night I had gone to bed fretting about the money and where it was to come from and was having difficulty getting to sleep.  I thought I was going to have to go in to take a bath, as the warm water often relaxed me enough to go to sleep.  I must have fallen asleep and began to dream that I had gotten into the bathtub and was soaking and relaxing when I saw a very bright light coming from our bedroom.  It was so bright in fact that it made the room look as if the noonday sun was shining in the windows at night.  I got out of the tub and wrapped in a towel to see what was going on. Where was that light coming from?  As I turned to go into the bedroom, Sam came out, but passed me by.  He did not look at me or speak to me. 

I was at first stunned, then as he proceeded down the steps, I began calling to him. "Sam, Sam."  He looked ethereal and still didn't seem to hear me. He went down another step or two, then turned around, looked me in the eye, and said, "You are being looked after and cared for," and then was gone. I began to call him loudly and found myself sitting up in my bed, putting on the light looking for him. Then I knew I had experienced a very vivid dream, the most vivid one I ever had.  At the same time, I knew in the dream I was given a message that God wanted me to hear. "You are being looked after and cared for."

These words I have repeated to myself often, and they bring me peace. Thank you, Lord, for your reassurance at a time that I really needed it. And thank you, Sam, for being the messenger in the dream.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Heron of Hope

I was going back to work full time.  I had been doing some part-time work cleaning and working for an optician, but now I was starting a full-time job with Coca-Cola.  Just a few days into my third week at Coca-Cola, I received a call that Philip may have broken his leg playing soccer in the school yard and was on his way by ambulance to St. Agnes Hospital.  I left work immediately and headed for the hospital.  I thought on the way there that probably in a couple of days, we'd have to keep him from racing around on his crutches.  

Not so!  When Larry and I were shown the x-rays, we saw that Philip had two three-inch breaks, one in the tibia and one in the fibula of the right leg.  Slowly, as we received more information from the doctors, we realized that Philip would have to be in bed or a wheelchair with his leg extended for two months and would need help. We tried to find help that we could afford, but after two weeks, I knew that I would have to stay home.  Unfortunately, the company would only hold my job for two weeks, and I still had no one to care for Phil.  So, I would have to leave my job.
I was glad to stay home with Philip, but I was concerned about how we would get enough money together to pay both boys' tuition now that I couldn't work for the months of October, November, and December.  I was concerned, too, because the unemployment rate was rising and jobs were getting much harder to come by.  Also, the tuition rate for Mount Saint Joseph was very high.

Philip had been in a cast for two weeks, and the next day I had to go to Coca-Cola to clean out my desk and take home my personal things.  It was so final and my money-worry level had risen quite high. Larry was at home when I came back, so I told him I wanted to go to the library for awhile. My local library was my respite spot.  I forgot my troubles for a few hours while I browsed, but as I got into my car, the worry was there again ready to nestle in my head. I drove from the library and stopped to make a right-hand turn onto Edmondson Avenue when I saw what seemed an enormous shadow pass over the car from where I was stopped. Believing my eyes were playing tricks on me, I pulled over and looked into the yard.  There sitting at
the edge of a goldfish pond was a blue heron, and he was about to catch dinner.

I was amazed.  A blue heron in the middle of a busy suburb!  I wondered if the people in whose backyard this bird was fishing was aware of his dining at their pond.  When I arrived home, I told Larry about the bird. He said it had probably come from the state park, about four miles away. Last summer, he had seen a couple of blue heron fishing in the Patapsco River.

Later that evening, my son found another book that needed to be taken back to the library so as not to pay a fine. The next day as Phil napped, I drove to the library.  This time I was just dropping off the book and was in a hurry when a young mom I knew stopped me on the steps. "How is Phil?" she wanted to know.  I explained his injury and then she asked about my job, having heard that I had started back to work.  I shared I had just cleared out my desk the day before and was feeling anxious about tuition money. "Well," she said, "just remember Corrie Ten Boom."  (Corrie was a Christian Dutch woman, who, along with many members of her family, was placed in a German concentration camp for hiding Jews during the invasion of Holland). My friend continued, "When Corrie's days were the darkest in that awful place, God sent a sparrow to land in the prison yard. Corrie saw the sparrow as a sign of God being with her and she took hope." 

I was in such a hurry that I am afraid her words of encouragement failed to penetrate until I stopped at that same stop sign where I had seen the blue heron the day before.  As I sat waiting for the traffic to pass, I laughed at God's humor.  For Corrie, He sent a sparrow. For me, I needed a huge bird not normally seen in the city and someone
to speak words of hope.

Philip's leg did heal, I got a part-time job, and the boys' tuition was paid on time. Thank God for those blessings, including signs of hope.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Consider The Odds

This tale has a few twists and turns, but what a delightful ending.  Or should I say beginning?

Mary had finished high school and was drawn to the young adults group at St. Michael's Church in Overlea.  A young seminarian named Tim Higgins was assigned to their group.  He and Mary became good friends, and sometimes Tim would come to the house for dinner.  He had a great personality and we all enjoyed him.  Mary and some of her friends from the Young Adults group went to Tim's home in Portland, Maine one summer and traveled around the beautiful coast of the state.  

The following Christmas, Rob came home from his two-year tour of Korea.  He had a month's leave with us, and then left for his new assignment at Loring Air Force Base in Maine, not too far from the Canadian border.  We had prayed that God would put Rob at the base God wanted.  Rob wanted an assignment at a base in California. He had been in North Dakota and then Korea, and was hoping for a base in a more mild climate. But, now he was being sent farther north.  God's ways are mysterious.

The following June, Mary received an invitation to Tim Higgins' ordination in Portland, Maine, his home diocese.  In the meantime, Rob had purchased a new car and had a stereo from his old car that he wanted to give to Mary.  He had a long weekend break, but unfortunately, it didn't coincide with Mary's trip for the ordination.  So Rob and Mary decided that on his next long weekend, he would take the car stereo to Tim's house in Portland for Mary to take back to Baltimore after the ordination. 

The trip from Loring to Portland is about an eight-hour drive.  Rob planned to drop the stereo off, see a little of Portland, then spend the night at a motel before heading back to the base.  When he got to Tim's home, Tim's mom insisted that Rob spend the night there, even though Tim and Rob had not met before. That evening, Tim took Rob out to see Portland and they enjoyed each other's company. The next day, Rob headed back to the base.  A week or so later, Mary came up for the ordination, and after the celebration she brought the car stereo back.

Two weeks later, the now Father Tim called to let Mary know his first assignment was to be the Catholic parish in Caribou, Maine, the town next to Loring AFB.  The family in Baltimore was delighted, and we quickly passed the news to Rob, who was also pleased.  After Tim arrived in Caribou, he and Rob would get together for some R&R.  That December, Mary went to Caribou to visit Tim and Rob, staying at the rectory.
In February, Rob told us about having met a girl named Julie from Caribou.  A travel agent, Julie had seen Rob come into her agency on occasion and thought he was very handsome. However, she didn't really meet him until one night at a club across the Canadian border in Grand Falls, New Brunswick, and he asked her to dance. They began dating, and in the summer of that year Rob asked if he could bring Julie home with him when he came on leave.  He wanted us to meet her.  Wow!  This was serious!  Of course, we wanted to meet her! In August, Julie came home with Rob and they were engaged.  We liked her immediately.

Julie shared with us that she had converted to Catholicism the year before because she was engaged to a local young man who was Catholic. But, just at the time Fr. Tim Higgins arrived at the parish, Julie had decided that this man was not right for her and had broken the engagement. It was a traumatic time for her, and to make things even more difficult, the priest who had instructed her in her new faith had been reassigned. He did, however, introduce her to Fr. Tim, who counseled her for a time. So, God prepared Julie and then set the wheels in motion for Fr. Tim to be at that parish at just the right time Rob was there. 
Loring AFB would close for good in 1994.

Fr. Tim officiated at Rob and Julie's wedding in December 1988, and he not only knew the people from Caribou, but most of us that came from Baltimore. It was a lovely wedding ceremony and mass; Fr. Tim made it so personal.  As he said at the wedding, "The chances of all this happening as it did is like a million to one shot. This should make a believer out of you."

In 1991, Fr. Tim would also officiate at Mary and Christopher Gleason's wedding at St. William of York Parish in Baltimore.  Since then, Fr. Tim has left the priesthood, gotten married, and started his own family.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Pray For Those Who Steal Your Bike

Thom and Phil asked for bikes as Christmas gifts, so Larry bought two of them second hand.  He painted them and bought new seats and handle grips, so the guys had the bikes they wanted.  They were some form of dirt bikes.  I remember there were no gears and they were small-sized bikes.  At the time, this kind of bike was "in" and the boys were very proud of them.  Of course, when you give gifts of bikes at Christmas, kids can't use them as often as they would like because of the cold and snow.

By the first week in June, the neighborhood pool was open.  The kids were out of school, and Thom's friends were biking there.  He joined them, but didn't bring a bike lock since the bike rack was inside pool property.  Unfortunately, the location was not a deterrent to someone who saw the bike and decided he wanted it. When Thom came up from swimming, he saw that the bike was gone. He called home very upset. 

Larry happened to be home that day and went down in the car to pick Thom up.  Together, they drove up and down the streets of Ten Hills and Westgate looking for the bike.  After quite a while, they returned home without the bike.  Thom was very discouraged, and so was I.  We all sat down and decided to pray.  We asked God to give all of us the grace to forgive whoever stole the bike and help us to let go of it.  We were all still feeling down. 

Larry felt like he and Thom should go look around again.  He prayed before they left, asking God to lead them.  He drove through Ten Hills again, hoping that whoever took the bike may have just discarded it.  Still no bike.  He continued on to Frederick Road and on the ball fields behind Mount St. Joseph.  He and Thom looked around and saw a few kids playing ball, but no bike.    

They were ready to leave when Larry spied something red and shiny glinting in the sun just under a bench at the far end of the field.  He walked over, and there under the bench was Tom's bike.  When Larry confronted the boys playing ball about the bike, they all said "so and so" took it.  The boy named was there, but denied taking the bike.  Larry spoke to him, but did not press charges.  He and Thom were just happy to have the bike back. When they came home with the bike, I was astonished. I realized that God had lead them to the ball fields and had answered our prayer.  

However, something still seemed unfinished in my mind. The next day, I sensed that I was to  pray regularly for this boy and his family. I hope that they have been abundantly blessed.  I also began to wonder if there are people I don't know who pray regularly for me and my family.  Someday, in the next world, I may find out.