Do you have a defining moment in your life?
If so, has it transformed you? Has there been healing and ONGOING conversion?
I do and it came on March 18, 2015, exactly three years ago today. You see, I did not feel right for at least a week. I was 50 years old. I was having a feeling of pressure in my middle left upper chest area and by the late evening into early morning I was feeling clammy and looked ashen after looking at myself in the mirror. I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I finally got out of bed early in the morning walked into my living room and sat in my favorite chair for which seemed like a very long time and prayed asking God’s help and direction and thinking I should just call and ambulance.
I finally decided to drive myself to the emergency room of the closest hospital which was about 2 miles away. I got in my car and I drove right past the hospital. I was incoherent. I pulled to side of road feeling slightly nauseous and looked up the address of hospital and entered it into my phone’s GPS and made it to the hospital where I parked and sat in my car which again seemed like a long time debating whether I should walk into the emergency room. I finally did and walked up to the window where a woman sat behind. I didn’t speak and she asked if I was okay. I think I replied , I don’t think so. She replied what is the matter. I blurted out I think it’s my heart.
She immediately got a nurse to take me to a room and sit me down and take my BP and start process of asking questions and admit me to hospital.
I was admitted to a hospital room in the cardiology section. IV inserted and nurses checking all my vital signs. It was Wednesday morning. I wasn’t asking questions or talking much but felt peace to be in hospital and under proper care.
The day passed with me walking around hospital and feeling pretty good.
Thursday came and I was visited by a cardiologist in the afternoon who said I needed to undergo some tests.
The weeks leading up to my entry into the hospital emergency room were marked with very low level pressure in my chest but if I jogged or walked fast I had to stop after about a 100 yards because I was out of breadth.
I knew I needed care and set up an appointment with my primary physician to get a physical when he returned from vacation on March 24, 2015 but I couldn’t wait hence I went to emergency room on March 18.
Heart disease was prevalent in my family. My father was diagnosed with stable angina at age 39. My brother and only sibling died suddenly from a heart attack at age 37 on December 28, 1997 so I was aware I should not have waited so long to see my doctor or admit myself to hospital at the first signs and cannot even explain why I did not.
After a series of tests while I was in the hospital the doctors determined I needed to have a stent inserted into the circumflex artery of my heart and the procedure would take place on Friday March 20, 2015.
Please note, the Feasts of St. Patrick are on March 17 and St. Joseph on March 19. The dates spoke to me and I believe both saints were interceding on my behalf along with my father and brother who had previously passed on from this life to the next along with Our Lady of Chastity, The Blessed Mother and the multitude of angles and saints in the heavenly host.
I provide more details about this in my book, Walk By Faith To Live Joyfully.
I was prepped for the procedure. I would not allow my rosary to be removed from my hand during the procedure so against the wishes of the hospital staff my rosary was taped to my left hand.
The procedure took place through an artery in my left wrist.
I was groggy and remember the nurses and doctors putting me at ease and making me laugh as I drifted off into groggy state but not totally under general anesthesia during the procedure which takes about an hour.
When the procedure was completed, my left wrist was clamped to stop blood flow and I was carted into post op. Immediately I felt intense pressure in my chest and lost feeling in my right foot. I told the nurses; they immediately carted me back into the procedure room and opened my right wrist artery to complete job before I knew what was going on.
It felt like in no time I was back in post op and feeling better.
I had suffered a mild heart attack during the first procedure but was told there was no permanent damage to my heart and with the stent inserted into my circumflex artery I would be much better off now.
My upper torso was bruised and covered with paddle boards and electrodes. Both of my wrists were now clamped and I was told I had to hold my arms in the air for a while to help the blood from coming toward my wrist area.
It was near to the end of lent. I was offering all this up to our Lord for His greater glory and for Him to use it as he sees fit for the benefit of others.
Here I was with an upper body that was covered with much hospital stuff, bruised and with both wrists pierced and and holding my arms in the cruciform position for a long time and now my arms getting tired.
Was God speaking to me?! No doubt! No words can describe what I became as a branch grafted into the vine!
I call it stigmata in miniature and it was an incredible honor and blessing! There was no pain, only peace!
For at least 5 years leading up to this heart event I was leading a wayward life after marital separation and using; like drinking too much alcohol and smoking cigars and being overwhelmed by lust to the point it affected my health, not to mention trying to keep up with a highly stressful sales position all while trying to be the best father I could be and trying to grow in my faith which I always practiced and never left or walked away from throughout my life.
If you remove the t from heart it spells hear and if you remove the h it spells ear. We must hear the ear to our heart.
Boy, did I hear the ear to my heart during these 4 and half days in hospital.
It was like a mini retreat.
God called me clearly , even though He had been calling me since I was nine years old on Good Friday.
Our Lord grafted out the lust and smoking and excessive drinking alcohol and everything else that was leading me to a path of physical and spiritual death and destruction and thankfully because I willingly desired He to live in me and take possession of every aspect of my life I cooperated.
Because I had always practiced my faith and because I started meeting regularly with my spiritual director, Fr. Jim Hutchins starting in 2008 when my father was dying of cancer and my marriage was deteriorating and because I joined the Saint Simon and Jude Eucharistic Adoration team in early 2014 where I visit my Eucharistic Lord and Savior Jesus Christ every Sunday night from 9-10pm, not only did my God never let go of me, but as my spiritual director told me – Charlie, you never let go of Him. I am grateful and thankful I didn’t let go of Him and I am grateful and thankful for our Lord’s generosity!
I encourage all to find a spiritual director and devote a holy hour a week in Eucharistic Adoration with our Lord.
I was also blessed to receive what I now call the trifecta of grace in that hospital on the night of the feast of St. Joseph when another priest I knew and who was chaplain at Cardinal O’Hara high school , Fr. Ugo Piasentin came to administer the sacraments of Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick and Eucharist.
I am blessed to have multiple priest friends. Go to the priests people. These men are Christ’s representatives on earth. Talk to them. Meet with them regularly. Take them to breakfast, lunch or dinner. Thank them for their priesthood!
During this hospital stay with all that was going on around me, nurses and doctors doing there things for me; visits from my loving family and friends; even with all this I was resting in the loving arms of Jesus and at peace.
In addition to the illumination of conscience God granted me during this hospital stay whereby my Lord showed me many good as well as sinful things I had done since age 9, here is what he said to me over and over in a strong interior call deep within me – “Charles, come follow me! Go forth and share your faith and love for me! Love them unconditionally”!
This has been His call to me over these last 3 years, but this call came many years ago, but I could not or would not hear the ear to my heart until then. God is very patient and continuously draws us to himself.
I have connected the dots and still do. But it’s not me! It’s Jesus living in me.
Everything I do now is for Jesus. I am husband, father, son, friend, worker for, in and because of Jesus.
I want to be like the saints before me. The apostle and saint Paul said “imitate me because I imitate Christ”! St Dominic , when he opened his mouth was either speaking to God or about God.
I am called to be a saint and so are you. It’s called the universal call to holiness! you and I are not just called to imitate the saints and imitate Christ; we are called to be saint as God made us and we are called to be Christ to others! We are called to be Eucharist as St. Ignatius of Antioch wrote about to the Christians of his day.
You and I are called. What are you called to? Are you giving everything for Christ?! We are called to different things. Are you giving of your time, talent and treasure? All three! And are you giving the first fruits of all 3 to God and His Church and His people?
Do you have a defining moment in your life? I ask you to prayerfully reflect on it. Ask God to help you by opening the ear to hear your heart. Find a spiritual director to help you on the way and sit with our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.
If you do, you will walk by faith to live joyfully!!!!