July 10-11, 2000
volume 11, no. 119

SYMPHONY OF SUFFERING column for July 10-11, 2000

part one

Renaissance of Resistance

    My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, it has been a very long time since I've been able to write to you via The DAILY CATHOLIC. Yet, there are so many things to share with you from our family pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi, Florence, Siena, Nice, Lourdes, and finally Paris, that the Holy Spirit prompts me to write, and has even given my hands and fingers a bit of relief from the fibromyalgia so I can give witness to the Glory and Majesty and Mercy of Almighty God. Because of its length, I will break this up into several columns over the next few weeks.

    Where to begin? I will do my best to condense my words, praying that they will be of some inspiration to you through the grace of the Holy Spirit…for nothing is achieved without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. I knew this before the pilgrimage, but during the trip I received many, many graces that clarified in crystal detail just what the indwelling of the Holy Spirit means to me, and to all of you.

    We arrived in Rome on May 10th, our 19th wedding anniversary. Our hope was to attend Mass early at the Vatican, then be present at the General Audience (held in St. Peter's Square) later. To our dismay, the Vatican was closed till noon because of the Holy Father's audience, but we accepted it and turned our attention to the General Audience where, through the Holy Spirit, we had been given special seating up on the platform. In fact, my husband Michael was only three rows behind the Bishops and Cardinals…so close to Pope John Paul II he felt truly blessed. This excellent primary seating had been arranged so graciously by Archbishop John P. Foley, who heads the Pontifical Council for Social Communications for the Church. The children and I opted for seats further back behind the statue of St. Paul where we would be protected from the brilliant sun. It was extremely warm in Rome during our stay there- in the nineties - and with humidity almost as high.

    Halfway through the audience our oldest son Kevin collapsed from heat prostration, and I was able to get him to the First Aid station that is to the left of the Vatican as you look at it, and it is underground, and air-conditioned. The staff quickly summoned a doctor, and after checking him out thoroughly, ordered him to return to his hotel, to drink gallons of Gatorade, and to rest the entire day. The Holy Spirit guided Mike back to us, and we followed the doctors' orders.

    The following day, May 11th, before we were to move to another hotel where our fellow pilgrims were arriving, Mike made a presentation of The DAILY CATHOLIC in various languages to the Papal Household, and then to the offices of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, as well as to the Pontifical Council for the Laity and Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. Because of this we were allowed, as a family, to go behind the Vatican, where very few go. It was hot, stifling hot, and the cobblestones were not easy to walk upon. Michael was so thrilled, as we all were, that he took many digital footage with the new digital camera we had been able to purchase for this trip. (Our other camera was stolen in 1990, and we had never had the means to replace it). We walked a long way, we explored everyplace behind the Vatican for future photo ops. It was a long time of standing and walking in very hot conditions. After we returned to Casa San Alberto (where our pilgrimage group was staying), and while the boys and I rested, Michael took the opportunity to explore Castle Sant'Angelo which was open on the Roman side, but closed on the Vatican side. Yes, he was able to take tremendous digital shots of this seldom seen castle that once had been used to help the Pope escape the Vatican when it was under siege.

    By the time he returned to the hotel, his legs and feet were so swollen that I was deeply alarmed. Even more alarming were purple blotches on the feet and ankle areas of both feet, and the deep pain in his calves. My beloved Mother Dolores had suffered from phlebitis her whole adult life, so I knew without doubt that I was looking at blood clots in my husband's feet and legs.

    The next morning, instead of going on a bus tour of the Major Basilicas, Kevin went for the family, while I summoned a doctor who came to our hotel room. His diagnosis was not good. Michael definitely had blood clots and the doctor was so alarmed that he wanted Mike to go immediately to the hospital for a Doppler exam of the legs. He told us that it would be a three month stay in the hospital, possible surgery, etc. The other choice was to get on the next plane home. Needless to say, we were not about to abandon the pilgrimage, for our goal was Lourdes. With much discussion, the doctor finally agreed to allow Michael to continue, provided he had a wheel chair, and on the bus he had to take over the back seat, where we could prop his legs up for the lengthy bus rides. He was not allowed to walk for more than ten minutes, and could not stand for more than twenty minutes.

    From May 12th to our arrival in Lourdes in the evening of May 18th, the boys and I pushed Michael where we could in the wheel chair, and watched him carefully so that the blood clots did not break off. It was hard on Mike, who had so much wanted to tour Assisi again, taking footage not only for ourselves to remember, but to share with everyone in The DAILY CATHOLIC. Our older son, Kevin, rose to the challenge, and it was he who took the tours, walked the long distances required because during the Jubilee Year the buses are not allowed into the towns, but drop their passengers at the outskirts, and the pilgrims have to walk the entire distance of the tour, meeting up with the bus on the other side of the town.

    We were blessed to have Mass in Assisi in the Chapel of Peace which was underground. It was a long walk for Mike, and I forced him to sit during the Mass, for he always kneels during the consecration. Our stay in Assisi was so special. There is a peace there that can only come from God. The presence of Saint Francis and Saint Clare remain there, and truly the spirit of St. Francis is realized not only by the pilgrims, but also by those who live there. There are few words to describe this incredible peace, which inundates the heart and lifts up the soul into the realms of Heaven. We were sad to leave, for this was our second time in this blessed city, but we still had many, many miles to travel (by bus), and our next stop was Florence.

    Again, Michael was confined to bed, with feet elevated and the blood clots did not look any better, nor the edema, nor the pain in the calves. Kevin took the tours, took all the pictures Mike so wanted, and for that may God be praised, for Kevin really undertook a massive job all on his own. Kellin, our youngest son, and I took turns watching over Mike. We were there over night. It was to be our last night in Italy as we headed to the apex of our pilgrimage - Lourdes. But we were still nearly a thousand miles away and it seemed like it would take forever.

Next week: Healing hearts and health

July 10, 2000
volume 11, no. 119

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