Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Amazing Grace

I am on an airplane on my way home from a six day workshop in Theology at the beautiful Arnold Hall in Pembroke, MA.  What a privilege it was to be there.

The 25 women I spent this week with were nothing less than inspirational.  Young and old, from several countries, married and not, professionals and homemakers, both mostly mothers to families of all sizes, these women taught me as much as the dozen or so classes I took on theology.  There are a lot of really good people in this world, doing amazing things in the interest of our nation and our society.  They challenged me to think about what I could be doing better in many areas of my life, though many claimed that it was actually I who was inspiring them through the story I am living out right now.  Imagine that.

We had an excellent priest, Father Bob Connor, give our classes.  He is without a doubt the best-read person I have ever met.  In order to understand theology and philosophy at the level at which he does, he has not only consumed every important work written on the subject since 600BC, but he can quote page numbers and actual paragraphs of the most pivotal ones.  He was a pleasure to listen to, easy to follow through a very complicated subject, and seriously enhanced my view of what being Christian is all about.

It was a lovely vacation for me, with delicious and beautiful meals showing up regularly, only my own minimal laundry to be done, and lots of time to read and think and pray.  With no internet access (other than spotty 3G), I found many different ways to spend my free time, but mostly chose to get to know the ladies that were there.  It was time well spent.  (Although I really missed my family and can't wait to plaster them with kisses upon arrival!)

No matter what your faith, I challenge you to get to know it better in theory and practice, which should be one and the same.  We can't truly understand our faith properly if we are not formed by others before us, which is why things like classes, reading and spiritual direction are so important.  Our Catholic faith is 2000 years old and full of richness--the faith of the Jewish people even older.  There is so much there for us to learn and understand, and yet you don't have to be a theologian to be a great Catholic.  That is the beauty of faith.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Bishop Don Alvaro Named Venerable

To those of you who have suffered through all of my cancer-related posts over the past two and half years, you know that since the very first day I have been asking for Bishop Don Alvaro's intercession in my healing.  

For those of you not Catholic, you may be wondering what this means.  Catholics believe that there are many people already in heaven and that they form the communion of saints.  Since these souls are physically very close to God himself, it makes sense that we would ask them to intercede for us with him.  Of course, God hears us just fine if we approach him directly in prayer, but to have a saint already there asking him for what we need on our behalf can't hurt.  It is just like asking our living friends to pray for us, except these saints have an even more direct line.  We never, ever worship these saints, we just ask for their assistance from time to time and try to live as they did since we all want to become saints ourselves.

The very first day I learned of my Stage IV diagnosis I was at UCLA alone (it was the first day that week Jay did not accompany me because I insisted he stay and work since he hadn't all week).  I had never considered it as a possibility and was totally shocked.  Not knowing what else to do, I walked the short distance to Westfield Residence, a student residence under the care of Opus Dei.  I knew there would be a tabernacle in the beautiful chapel there and it was all I could think to do. 

The residents graciously let me in to pray.  I sat in the oratory in front of the tabernacle and cried and prayed for about an hour before a numerary named Ann came in and silently handed me a prayer card for Bishop Don Alvaro del Portillo, who was St. Josemaria Escriva's (the founder of Opus Dei) right hand man and successor as the Father and Prelate of Opus Dei after St. Josemaria's death.  I had heard of him but knew little about him.  I looked at the prayer card for awhile, considered it must be a delivery from God somehow, and have recited the prayer for Don Alvaro's intercession most every day of my illness.  He needs miracles to become a saint and I need a miracle to stay alive to see my kids grow up, so it seemed to be a good match to me.

I learned a few days ago that Pope Benedict named Don Alvaro "Venerable".   This is amazing news!  There are four stages to becoming a saint.  First comes "Servent of God, then "Venerable", then "Blessed" and finally "Saint".  This step takes him halfway to canonization. I seriously hope to be part of the miracles needed to push him along this path.

For those of you who are interested in learning more about him, visit and click on canonization causes.  Also, below I am including another link (I know I have placed this in my blog before, but it's been awhile) to the very same prayer card I recite daily.

I know many of you have been praying for his intercession along with me, so thank you--I do believe he is listening.  

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Update on Our Miracle

I say "our miracle" very specifically because it belongs to us all.  To all who have helped me through these past two and a half years, all who have prayed for me incessantly and continue to do so even now, and most especially to my family who still have a mother against all odds.  God is so good.

I got my latest PET/CT scan results back yesterday and there was plenty of good news there.  All major organs clear, brain clear, no sign of original tumor.  Nothing life threatening at all.  The only small fly in the ointment is continued and intense activity in the left lateral rib and T9 vertebrae (which could be indicative of healing as I am taking a new bone strengthening cancer drug called Xgeva) and one new spot on my right femur.  My oncologist was pleased with the report and so am I.  The bones may hurt, but they won't kill me.  As long as it stays put things are looking good.

I continue to contend with various and ever-present side effects from the many medications I am on, but I can live (and pretty well, too) with these things.

Jay's friend, a neurologist, commented recently to him that in his entire career he has never seen anyone bounce back from brain mets like I have.  That was wonderful to hear.

Thanks to all of you who are very much on this journey with me daily.