This is a story of a miracle of the most important kind.
My father is near the end of his life. He is 79 – born in 1940. He has been in a hospital bed for several weeks in extraordinary pain. To give you a sense of who he is, about ten years ago he broke his collar bone and didn’t go to the hospital. He is a self-made man. He was born in poverty because his father deserted his family for women and alcohol. He rose out of poverty due to his hard work and a favorable economy under Reagan. Even without a college degree, he came to prominence through industrial construction and high-rise parking structures in Los Angeles. He retired at 45 and hasn’t worked a day since then – other than to do what he wants with his projects at his home and ranch in Montana.
He’s doesn’t live as a wealthy man. He has always driven a dirty Chevy pickup and worn flannel shirts and cargo pants. At the ranch, he lived in a trailer. At home his house is nice, but he has always lived with a kind of simplicity that was contrary to his means. He has always had a very strong sense of self. Though he never rejected God, he once told me that he thought religion was a crutch but that he was happy it was helpful to me. My response was, “Dad, it is way worse than a crutch. I am in a hospital bed. Without Christ, I am nothing.”
Now to this past week. I visited him at his hospital bed and prayed I would have the opportunity to share the Gospel with him one more time. This is extraordinarily difficult with a man of such accomplishment and strength. Even so, now he is in a hospital bed. He can do nothing for himself. He can’t even walk. God willing he will walk again.
After several days the opportunity didn’t come, and I didn’t know how to connect with him on this level. He was in too much pain. Then, last Thursday, the Lord woke me up around 1:30 am and told me to go to him. When I arrived at the hospital, he was wide awake – struggling between bouts of groaning and saying, “Help me, Danny! It hurts!” Then the pain would subside, and we would begin to talk. The moment gently emerged. I was on my dad’s right side, and my middle brother, David, was across his bed intently looking on.
I said, “Dad, I want to see you again when this is all over. I want you to see Linda.” Linda is my sister who died in her 30’s. His eyes got big, and he said in his unusual but serious way, “That is deep.” I said, “Dad, you are a good man, but your goodness doesn’t solve the problem of your sin.” I continued, “Our sin separates us from God. This is why Jesus came. He lived a perfect, sinless life and was crucified to save us from our sins and repair our relationship with God.” I asked him, “Dad, do you want your sins to be forgiven?” He said with resolve, “Yes I do. How do I do that?”
I said, “Just ask God to forgive you of your sins.” He said again, “How do I do that?” I told him to pray, “God, please forgive me of my sins.” He responded, with eyes open and emphasis in his words as if to be very sure and deliberate, “God, please forgive me of my sins.” He didn’t stop there. He repeated with emphasis, “God, please forgive me of my sins.” Then again a third time as if directed to each person of the Blessed Trinity, “God, please forgive me of my sins.” At this point, I glanced at my brother through my tears and he was weeping.
Prior to this moment, I had asked my father on two occasions if I could ask a priest to come to visit him. Both times he said, “no.” So, in this moment I knew that I had to be the one. I asked him, “Would you like to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?” He said, “Yes, I would.”
I went to the sink and filled a plastic cup of water and took it to his bedside as my brother looked on quietly. As he lay in the bed, I said, “I baptize you in the name of the Father” and I poured water on his forehead. He said, in a tired voice, “Wow.” Then, “In the name of the Son,” and I poured water on his forehead again. He said again, “Wow.” And finally, in the name of the Holy Spirit. His response again, “Wow.” He drifted off to sleep, but not his final rest.
I walked out of the room, and my brother said in a fatigued stupefied tone, “That was a miracle. Every word was perfect. There was so much peace. That was amazing. I can’t believe that just happened.” Then we all settled in and dozed off to sleep again.
When we all woke up several hours later, to further seal my comfort, my dad asked with energy, “So does this mean I am a Catholic now?” I smiled and responded, “Yes, Dad, you’re a Catholic.”
I had to fly home that morning, just last Friday. I called the local priest, Fr. Kenney, and talked with him. He was encouraging and said he would be happy to visit my father as long as he had his permission. So on Sunday night I called my brother and said, “Call me when you guys are alone again, and Dad is coherent.”
My brother’s call startled me out of sleep. It was dad. I asked him how he was, and he was still hurting, but a new hope had arisen in him. I asked if he would allow a priest to come pray for him, confirm him and give him communion. He enthusiastically said, “Yes.”
Early the next morning I received the call from him and he told me that he had been confirmed and had received communion and the anointing of the sick. He said, “It was awesome.” He told me his confirmation saint was Saint Christopher because his much-beloved wife, Lilly, had given him a medal and it was the only saint whose name he knew. I told him, “That’s great dad.” We talked more until he was too tired and then we hung up. God is so very kind.
I am sharing this story with you for two reasons. The first is to ask you to pray for my father and my family. The story I have told you here is the most important, but many others could be told about conversations with all those who all love him so much that his hospital room is filled 24×7. Even my atheist uncle proclaimed, “We need someone in the prayer corner on this one.” Another uncle asked me for some time, and we talked of something we have never talked about before – faith. He told me that he felt peace being alone with me and every time he was in a Catholic Church. God is moving, but we must be His instruments – His means of pouring out His grace of prayer and guidance.
The second thing I am going to ask you is for your help. The bottom line is that my life is dedicated to helping anyone who desires, like my father, to come to know Christ or to know Him more fully in and through His church. If I had my way, every waking hour would be filled with this kind of eternal conversation. As it is, it requires a team of people to help me do what we do through SpiritualDirection.com, the Avila Institute, Divine Intimacy Radio, writing, public speaking, our High Calling Seminary preparation program and all we do to help His people to Him. I really do need your prayers and your help.
You are the backbone of the Avila Foundation. Your monthly donation (even if you could only afford $10 a month), ensures that the Avila Foundation has the opportunity to continue to proclaim the gospel and the mystical wisdom of the Church. With your monthly donation, we have the opportunity to continue to grow and serve you. The Avila Foundation relies solely on your monthly commitment to pay our monthly bills and we need you more than ever as we continue to grow.
Please pray for my father and please help me to extend our heavenly Father’s love to the world – to all who so desperately need Him.
Yours in Christ,
Avila Foundation, home of SpiritualDirection.com, Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation and Divine Intimacy Radio, is an exempt organization as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; EIN 27-3714084.