Dear Crosby and Capuchin Familes, Friends and Parishioners, Co-Workers in CR and Corporation Reps,
When our Founder, St. Francis, wrote his Testament, he urged us to greet people with the words of Jesus: “May the Lord give you peace.” So, as I begin this blog, I repeat the same to you.
I didn’t expect I would begin 2017 writing a blog like this but none of us know the day nor the hour when some of us will hear the words: “you have cancer.” This happened to me the last week of Advent. While I still don’t know the extent of it and my prognosis, my GP has let me know that most people with my type of cancer die within the year of experiencing the symptoms. A CT scan shows I have cancer of the esophagus (four centimeters at the juncture of the esophagus and stomach) that also has entered at least one lymph node; it is lodged in an inaccessible place in the area of the esophagus, stomach and pancreas. I also have cancer of the colon (which is in its initial stages). Because of this uncertainty I will have a PET scan on Friday, Jan. 6. I will then meet with a radiologist and my oncologist.
While studying in Berkeley, I had a very bad car accident. My injuries later turned into blood clots. When the doctor told me I might die, my first reaction surprised me: “That wouldn’t be too bad.” This led me to try to maintain the same attitude if I lived and if something like this would ever happen again. A key element of this involved having no hard feelings in my heart against anyone. It seems this time has now arrived. So, while I am prepared for that day and hour (for which I’m not volunteering) I have no especial desire to postpone it. This gives me great peace.
While I can’t yet answer the question: “What’s the prognosis” I can respond to a question many have asked me since I've received the diagnosis: “How are you doing with all of this news?” Simply said, I’m doing (to my own surprise and gratitude) very well. Not only am I not afraid of Sister Death; I find something deeper is happening in me. And for this I cannot thank Francis of Assisi but the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola.
You may recall that when the Jesuit Jorge Bergoglio was elected Pope, he did not take the name “Francis” to honor the Jesuit missionary disciple, Francis Xavier; rather he took the name of our founder, Francis of Assisi. Well, conversely, I have learned something very important from St. Ignatius. He wrote the Spiritual Exercises; I prayed them for 30 days some years ago and have been forever thankful for the experience.
Many of us who attended Catholic grade school were asked in Catechism: “Where is God.” We dutifully replied: “God is everywhere.” Now that I have an adult faith that response is becoming ever more meaningful. Heaven isn’t a “place” that we “go to” but a way of being in relationship with and connected to God and all God’s people, whether friend or foe, now and forever. This realization led me to adapt something from the Exercises. I greet each day praying: “Loving, Trinitarian God, grace me to seek and find you in everything and to love and serve your Divine Majesty in everyone and everything.”
Now at this time of my cancer, I can thankfully say, I have found God’s real presence in my cancer and all those cell-critters that are fighting the good cells in me. “This is my body” too, another form of the Eucharistic banquet of life to which I now find myself invited. I don’t know if I’d have this assurance without faith and know many without it also find such acceptance in face of their cancer too. But I believe it and it grounds me and sustains me. I also am sustained in this faith by a passage from Exodus (15:2). I read it the other day during the Prayer of the Church shortly after my diagnosis: “God is my strength; this is the God who saves me. This is the God I praise, the God of my people.”
You, good reader, are “my people” and for this I am most grateful. As we continue this part of my journey, I am thankful that we have been able to walk together and hope it will be a long, long time before we part ways here on this earth!
PS. Jack Cannon, who served with me on the Lay Board of FAMRI, already sent a significant donation to Caring Bridge. I see that it invites donations and that’s fine. However, being on the Finance Commission of our Province, if you want to make a donation, I’d ask that you consider our Province, the Midwest Capuchin Franciscans. We still are not fully funded for our retirement and health care (which will be at my service these days) nor for the care of the significant number of men who are now in the process of making their full commitment (vows) to our way of life. You can send anything you desire to St. Benedict Friary, 1015 N. Ninth St., Milwaukee, WI 53233. Thanks for this too!