Near the end of February, I needed the longest break I have ever taken from this site due to the health needs of Fr. Wang, now ninety, for whom I provide care. As one who dwells on the positive, he has taken good care of his personal temple with exercise, nutritious food, plenty of rest, living a vibrant faith and remaining at peace with God’s Will for his life. Father’s spirit soars as he tends to those God places on his path, all the while preaching truth and imparting wisdom and knowledge from the wellspring of his studies and research concerning the treasures of the faith. His ways of loving profess a bounty of virtues which bless those in his midst and, still, as with all aging people, his body bespeaks that we are heaven bound and, as we move through life, the body weakens. In the health challenges sphere, he’s been treated for hypertension for many years and was diagnosed with type II diabetes some years ago; both of these conditions have precipitated his chronic kidney disease. He’s had some TIAs, hyperlipidemia and was more recently diagnosed with AFib. I share this background of health issues that you better understand how serious this latest crisis was.
In early February, Fr. Wang began experiencing tightness across his chest and was scheduled for an evaluation in the cath lab with the suspicion that there may well be a blockage(s) in the arteries of his heart. Three days before the appointed time, his body crashed in a mighty storm. He experienced extreme difficulty in breathing so we dashed to the hospital, a five minute drive from home. The edema he had been battling during the month now brought swelling so great that his legs seemed elephant-sized and his tummy was as a Buddha. With the acute hypoxemic respiratory failure he also had a mild heart attack, precipitated by only partial blood flow to the heart, and the congestive heart disease with which he has been afflicted now became heart failure. He was swiftly tended to and the ER doc remarked that this event was a major hit to his kidneys. Our good friend, Fr. Cody, responded to my call and came to anoint Fr. Wang. Once Father was set up with IVs and a BiPAP, tests began and he was moved to ICU to be monitored closely while fluid was drained from his body throughout the night.
The next morning, testing continued with an echocardiogram and one of his cardio docs who was present shook his head at the images, acknowledging that there were some verrrry serious problems which would be best remedied via open heart surgery, but this is absolutely contraindicated in a 90 year old person. The next step, then, was departure for the cath lab where his primary cardiologist, Dr. Michael (who, as a young child, had served as altar boy for Father), would perform a procedure that would most likely take about an hour. I waited for more than two hours before this doctor came to speak with me. An outstanding heart interventionist, he had discovered “a mess” which required a very complicated procedure. Again, if Father had been around 50 years old… So, this gifted physician, in his own words: “did what he could” – in the words of his colleague: “spectacular work” – and while employing the Impella System (You can take a peek here at this incredible gift from God’s Goodness.), he placed stents in four of Father’s arteries and, he emphasized to me, that one was a major artery, a serious endeavor. I asked what to expect next and he replied that, particularly given Father’s age, we could have “very, very cautious optimism” and he proceeded to name more than a few complications for which Father would be monitored. Thus, he would remain in hospital for more than the usual 12-24 hours after an angioplasty and stenting procedure. When a completely exhausted and frail Fr. Wang was brought back to ICU, I laid hands on his heart and prayed in a fashion as we had discussed during the conference on healing – put on by the dedicated people from Encounter Ministries – which Father and I had attended last June. That night, I posted a request for prayer on FB (Thanks to TNRS-ASOH team member, Lisa, who posted it to her terrifically vast number of “friends” and “followers” there.), in email to our chapel family, in a comment here at ASOH (Thanks so very much to our own faithful intercessors!) and emailed my first Chinese godchild, Paul, Father’s nephew and our point man on Chinese soil for the evangelization work, so that prayers began rising in Fr. Wang’s land of birth. Still, he continued to have a restless and very difficult time throughout the night.
When I returned to his bedside in the morning, Father was nauseous, weak and exhausted. Meds were given and he tried to settle into napping. My mind went to Jesus’ commission and promises – the same yesterday, today and forever – to His disciples, then and now, such as in Mark 16:17-18:
“And these signs will accompany those who believe… they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
And John 14:12:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
Frankly, I had entered into a somewhat numb zone as we were headed to the ER which only deepened as I continued to absorb the reality of the odds and risks which Father faced as I accompanied him on his Via Dolorosa. Believing Jesus, I simply prayed – from the heart with all the faith this heart could hold – in the same ways the Lord had prayed when He walked the earth; I prayed in His Name as He commanded us to do when asking anything from our Father in heaven. Jesus laid hands on those whom He healed, so I laid my hand over Father’s hand – the very hand raised, innumerable times, to absolve me from my sins, the hand that, daily, holds the host he consecrates and, then, extends to feed me Our Lord and God – as he drifted off to sleep and I spoke to each person in the Trinity, thanking and glorifying Them for Their goodness to Father throughout his life and for the tremendous good They had accomplished in him as he gave his FIAT, his whole heart and soul for the Kingdom. I softly, gently sang songs of praise to Abba, to Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit as Father slept on, unaware. I appealed to Our Lady’s intercession and then I hushed in the Sacred Silence before the Great I Am, with faith and trust as a little child before her Perfect Father. I recalled how Jesus often said to those He would pray over: “What is it that you ask of Me?” In response to that question, I prayed by gazing through our Heavenly Father’s Eyes as I looked upon this dear, old and holy priest. Knowing his current status pointed to the reality that this dear one was standing at the threshold, possibly to be born to Eternal Life, and, as I spoke from the depths of my heart, I mentally gathered in my prayers the many who also love Fr. Wang. I expressed to God the Father what He already knew, yet I said it again, for such as this is an act of humility, a way of saying that I know we need our Heavenly Father and from Him ALL Goodness flows: I acknowledged that Fr. Wang would be so very happy to enter His House and I proclaimed in whispers that if this was His Plan, at this juncture, why would we ever fight with Abba’s Love poured out in this way *and* I expressed that we would be most happy to have more years with His faithful servant, if only it pleased Him to give such a gift. Thanking Him for His Holy Word, I also recalled aloud to Abba his Son Jesus’ sweet and mighty teaching: “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” For three and a half hours, I remained immersed in prayer, basking in the Father’s Love, asking for more life *and* affirming that whatever He chose, I knew it would be perfect and it would come from Pure Love.
When Fr. Wang awakened, he was alert, feeling rested and renewed, with his usual facial coloring restored and the doctors who visited expressed amazement at this remarkable change in recovery status. All Glory to Jesus! To His Abba and ours! And to the Holy Spirit! No doubt that every prayer offered from every heart mattered. They did. And there were many praying for Father. There is also no doubt that the Lord had moved through Father’s body during those three and a half hours. Still, the doctors, in prudent caution, chose to monitor the patient just in case any surprising complication should arise. We spent the rest of Thursday giving thanks to God for His gift of healing and Fr. Wang was discharged the following day. Of course, Father will continue to need time to rebuild strength as he finds his new normal. Some days are tougher and some are better. Determined to continue serving the Lord, Father will accomplish his duties as an ever-aging man, carrying on in his winter years, preparing to go Home, sooner rather than later. Still, each day is a gift with gratitude that never ends. And as Fr. Wang’s body recuperates, his eyes are sparkling, dancing, as thoughts of advancing the agenda for the Chinese evangelization project fill his heart, mind, soul and speech. He thanks you so very much for your prayers offered for him and asks you to keep the evangelization work in your prayers as well. The newly inspired dream is to target specific regions of China, over the next two years, by distributing three of Fr. Wang’s small catechetical books: Spiritual Light on Human Life – written for intellectuals, Chinese Culture and Christianity – written specifically for the Chinese people, and, the “little red book” – the Biography of Jesus Christ. The distribution efforts are being accomplished in a manner which bespeaks the fulfilling of what Charlie was shown. The two leaders in this effort are a Catholic and a Protestant. May the Unity that God desires become a reality!
This personal story is a springboard to bring to your awareness the good works of Encounter Ministries. Because of my studies with their material, I was prepared to act in new ways in this crisis. And I see that the Lord has His Hand on this apostolate as the leaders and teachers work to equip people to walk through both personal storms and the great Storm of our times, closely connected to the Holy Spirit that we better respond to His promptings, given and spoken in myriad ways and whispers, and that we, God’s ambulances, become fearless in taking next right steps, invoking Holy Spirit’s power into every kind of care for the needs of those in our midst, while evangelizing the truth of God’s Love for each one. Encounter Ministries – certainly not the only means, yet as certainly, a potent means for preparing people to evangelize well – exists to teach and encourage people to live the fullness of the Gospel with a special emphasis placed on invoking Jesus’ healing power because He commissioned us to do so as a vibrant sign that He IS alive and His Kingdom is here!
After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest… Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” (Luke 10: 1-2 & 8-9)
Perhaps many of you are natural born evangelizers. Not I… but I y.e.a.r.n. for the fearlessness to proclaim Jesus in respectful, effective ways that touch people deeply, leaving them with an awareness that HE is the Answer to their needs and He Alone will satisfy their seemingly insatiable hunger. Dr. Mary Healy – Encounter School Curriculum Advisor (whose father, Nick Healy, reads our site and has participated in the Storm Dinners initiated by TNRS-ASOH team members, Doug and Lambzie) – is a beloved professor at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, was appointed to the Pontifical Biblical Commission and is an international speaker and writer who affirms, in a video clip here, that we have the compelling truth of Jesus’ teachings to proclaim, yet, what is missing in these times of desperation for too many is an accompanying demonstration of God’s Power, the Power of the Holy Spirit.
For us, who surrender to being formed, by our Mother and Her Spouse, to become more like Jesus, I ponder how each ordinary life brimming with Christ’s healing power would look. One may only be called to bring His healing to family members and neighbors. How beautiful! The mission for another may be more expanded. Again, how beautiful! Foremost in contemplating God’s healing power is the truth that we do not and could never ply the Hand of God, directing Him in what to do. No. Never. We listen to Him; we ask in humility; we allow Him to lead that we may follow, acting and praying in His Holy Name, only striving to bless and magnify Him in what He is doing in His Will for those to whom we minister.
Should Encounter Ministries come to your locale, I invite you to consider attending their presentations – the weekend conference schedule is ever expanding throughout the country – for their work is solidly grounded in Church Teaching. Fr. Mathias Thelen – Senior Leader of Encounter Ministries and pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Brighton, MI – along with Patrick Reis – Director of Encounter Ministries – have insisted that this be so. Equally stressed and fostered is an ever-deepening growth in our relationship with God, for the Lord is calling US back too. Each of us is in need of ongoing conversion and purification. And this work of evangelizing with God’s Word and Power is not about “being somebody.” Rather, it is a call for every ordinary person, with purity of heart, to live the fullness of Christ’s Gospel. Our desires must be rooted in Love for God and for His people; any self-adulation or self-glory-seeking would fiercely interfere with God’s Purpose in using us to bring the lost Home to Him.
Speakers at the big annual conference for Encounter Ministries have included national teachers and leaders, both clergy and lay people. Most inspiring, for me, has been becoming a “partner.” For whatever monthly contribution a person makes, that one becomes a “partner” who has access to the presentations which have been uploaded to the Encounter Ministries website found here.
From talks given at the 2019 conference, I learned that Blessed Elena Guerra, founder of the Oblate Sisters of the Holy Spirit in Lucca, Italy at the end of the nineteenth century, urged Pope Leo XIII to lead the Church back to the Cenacle/Upper Room. From 1895 to 1903, Sr. Elena was led by the Holy Spirit to write twelve confidential letters to the Pope, requesting a renewed preaching on the Holy Spirit.
Kim Catherine-Marie Kollins writes more about this here and notes: In her many writings to the Pontiff, she exhorted him to invite the faithful to rediscover life lived according to the Holy Spirit. On the promptings of Sr. Elena, Pope Leo XIII issued several important documents concerning the Holy Spirit. First, in 1895, he wrote an apostolic letter, Provida Matris Caritate, which he ended by asking all the faithful to celebrate a solemn novena (nine days of prayer) to the Holy Spirit between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost for the intention of the reunion of Christianity. A second document was an encyclical letter on the Holy Spirit in 1897, Divinum Illud Munus, again he ended by drawing the attention of the faithful to the solemn novena he had requested in 1895. He stated that the novena was not to be limited to a only one year but was to be a perpetual novena, done every year between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, again for the same intention of the reunion of Christianity.
Unfortunately, Pope Leo XIII’s writings and efforts fell on virtually deaf ears in the Catholic world but look what God did with Christians outside of the Catholic Church on the very day this Pope invoked the Holy Spirit in the name of the whole Church: Another important event, again at the request of Sr. Elena, took place on January 1, 1901. Pope Leo XIII invoked the Holy Spirit by singing the hymn “Veni Creator Spiritus,” in the name of the entire Church. Also on that very day, halfway around the world in Topeka, Kansas, at the Bethel College and Bible School, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit occurred which is generally accepted as the beginning of Pentecostalism. Then the Azusa Street revival of 1906 led by the Afro-American William J. Seymour propelled Pentecostalism across all continents within two years.
Struck with awe and wonder was I while considering the seeds of Unity already being planted by the Holy Spirit through Blessed Elena and the inspired response from Pope Leo XIII!
Most likely, Encounter Ministries brings to mind, for many of you, the Charismatic Renewal which the Catholic Church has acknowledged as a spiritual movement within the Church. Encounter Ministries does not claim to be Charismatic in spirituality. Rather, they simply say we NEED the Holy Spirit. We always have and we always will for, after all, He IS God. You can read in more detail, at the site, about the Vision and Mission of the apostolate. There is a mighty emphasis on the Eucharist and on Christian Unity. I encourage you to explore the site. You could actually sign up as a partner for one month or a few months in order to taste and see if the offerings provide you food which vivifies your evangelizing skill set.
Lord, Send Out Your Spirit and Renew the Face of the Earth!