One aspect that has been a tremendous blessing is the invitations I receive to speak at different events. Presenting workshops, leading retreats, and preaching parish missions has enabled me to meet many people along the way. This creates a familiarity that has been humbling. I will share just a couple of anecdotes to demonstrate what I mean.
I was traveling across the state one day and stopped at Wal-Mart to take a break from driving. I was about two hundred miles from home. I walked down the candy aisle looking for a snack. A person walked up behind me and said, "Deacon, I don't think you need any of that." We had a good laugh and shared a brief conversation. I had recently been at the person's parish to preach at the weekend Masses. I left that area of the store and went to the chip section. Another individual walks up and says, "Deacon you are a long way from home to be grocery shopping." It was someone from another parish in town that I had met at a different gathering. (I stopped shopping for snacks at that point and got back in the car.)
A few days ago I went to the doctor to get my blood tested as I do regularly since I am on blood thinners. After checking in at the desk I went to find a seat in the crowded waiting room. An individual seated on the side said, "Hello Deacon." After a brief conversation she asked me to pray for her dad seated next to her. He was going to be having eye surgery later in the day for a detached retina. I knelt down beside his chair and quietly prayed a prayer of protection around him so that the surgery would go well. As soon as I said, "Amen" his name was called to go into the examination room. They were both grateful that I happened to come along at that time and could share a brief moment in prayer with them.
I didn't go to the doctor's office anticipating an opportunity to pray with someone. However, that moment of grace showed up nonetheless. It was a time of prayer and witness for the daughter, her dad, myself, and the rest of the people sitting in the waiting room. God is good!
As I walked out of the doctor's office I uttered a prayer of thanksgiving that my test turned out well. Staying healthy is a priority that I cannot ignore. I missed three speaking engagements in the last year because of heart problems. It is my hope that I have turned the corner and will not have any more cancellations for a while. A priest contacted me a few weeks ago and asked to schedule a parish mission for December of 2017. I agreed to his request but told him that a lot could happen in 20 months time. He said if I died he would let me off the hook. Okay then!
In the title I mentioned four anniversaries. What are the other three? On July 17, 2016 I will mark 30 years since being diagnosed with cancer the first time. On October 16, 2016 I will mark 15 years since being diagnosed with cancer the second time. On October 22, 2016 Margaret and I will celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. (Ordination and wedding anniversaries don't need to be a specific number to be important. Each year is pertinent.) I will address the other anniversaries when the time arrives.
At this point I extend my congratulations and best wishes to all of my deacon classmates. While a few of them are experiencing some health issues, we are all still alive and going. May God continue to bless and strengthen each one of us in our ministry.
Back Row: Bishop Michael Sheridan, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop Edward Braxton