Friday, January 15, 2010


Today someone sent me one of those cheering emails with a heartwarming story that ends with a list of encouraging affirmations. One of those affirmations was

If not for you, someone may not be living.

This statement struck me. It is true. There was a time about fifteen years ago when one of the weekday Masses was interrupted by a woman who entered the church carrying a bouquet of flowers, and came down the aisle crying. Although I hadn’t seen her for a very long time, I recognized her at once as a woman named Kathy whom I had met when she was a waitress at a restaurant I had frequented.

She gave the flowers to me and said that I had saved her life. I didn’t know at the time that that was what I was doing; I had merely paid attention to her, encouraged her, and helped her with a personal problem she had. Eventually she gave her life to Christ and was baptized and confirmed on October 8, 1978—my last Sunday at St. Anselm’s Church in Garden Grove before coming to Blessed Sacrament. When she gave me the flowers she told me that because of her personal problem she had been hopeless and suicidal before I met her and was planning to take her life, but that I had turned her in another direction. After a long time she had been moved to seek me out and come to thank me for my ministry to her.

There’s more. The above statement could have been sent to a man named Terry McLaughlin, and he might think of me. He saved my life when I was about seven. I was swimming in a round pool at a friend’s house. The pool had its deep end in the middle, and there was no clear demarcation between where I could stand and where it was too deep for me. I got too far toward the middle and was drowning. Terry, only a year or two older than I, pulled me out.

Life. Fragile. Always a gift. God connects people to one another in marvelous ways, many of them we don’t even know about. Because of Terry, Kathy lives.