“Blessings and Miracles”, Vignettes from a Secular Franciscan’s Discovery of His Vocation

I was born in the shadow of the Cold War. Not at all far from where the Wright brothers built experimental flying machines in their bicycle shop just fifty years earlier. In fact, my parents met at a factory named after Frank and Orville Wright that later became the General Electric Aircraft Engine factory. But I was not concerned with the ways of wider world.  I relished a much smaller world mostly created by my own imagination. My earliest memories are of helping (watching) my father doing small projects around our house. I was fascinated with a very large rock which he located and used as a front step up to our porch. Later he covered it with concrete while I watched. With me watching he also built a small front garden enclosed by a short stone wall. We hauled the earth and rocks needed for this project in out 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air station wagon from a small parcel of land we owned nearby. I really enjoyed the bumpy ride down a dirt road crossing the railroad tracks and crossing a field near the bar and restaurant my family owned by a small lake. They had named it Hideaway Lake and he, my mother, my grandmother, Aunt and Uncle served lunch and dinner to the workers who visited from the General Electric Aircraft Engine factory. They never made much money. My mother explained to me later that my extended family drank many cases of beer and “drank up” all the profits.  I have fond memories of all of them there. It seemed to me to be a happy time of extended family togetherness.

We lived in a small pre-fabricated small house in Sharonville, Ohio. My father bought it half finished from his uncle. It was close to the Hideaway Lake lodge. He finished himself. My mother worked a just a few miles away at the General Electric aircraft jet engine manufacturing facility. Her mother and father had also worked there before her. It was a very large plant and I remember riding along as my Father drove my mom to work and picked her up afterwards. All seemed well. I have no bad memories. My Dad attempted to make a living doing small jobs with his dump truck and bulldozer while my mother worked at General Electric. My two sisters were born with the next couple of years and later a brother.

St. Gabriel Window - St. Margaret MaryChapter 2 – Going to School and Meeting God the Father, Jesus his son, the Holy Spirit and the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

Up to the point of going to kindergarten I have no recollection of knowing God intellectually. I had always felt a loving and protective divine presence but I did not contemplate it or understand its origin. I took the overwhelming presence of God’s love as provided through my parents completely for granted. It was a force of nature without any known beginning or with any thought of an end.

I began to attend kindergarten in the fall of 1958. I think it was there we first began to learn the pledge of allegiance. We called by God name but did not discuss him. I am still not sure when and where my initial understanding of God originated but I am sure that I first began to be instructed about God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit at St Gabriel School in Glendale, Ohio when I began attending first grade in the fall of 1959. I had a nun as my first grade teacher and we also met Father Montanus the pastor. We had class on the Catholic Catechism and we began to the learn the basics of the Catholic faith. When I arrived on time, I also attended daily mass at St. Gabriel church. The mass at the at time was in still in latin and I did not understand what was being said until I received my St. Jospeh’s missal for my first Holy Communion. I did understand we were worshiping God and felt his presence in the church.

St Gabriel church had beautiful stained glass windows that depicted important events in salvation history including the annunciation when the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she had found favor with God and that she would conceive and bear the Son of the Most High. Another window depicted Jesus as a child in Joseph’s carpenter shop. Yet another beautiful window depicted God the Father, Jesus His Only begotten Son both enthroned with the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove.

On the right and left sides at the front of church stood statues of the most Blessed Virgin Mary holding the child Jesus and St. Joseph. In a small stain glass window above altar Jesus hung on the cross in the somber darkness of Good Friday. To enter St. Gabriel church was enter the God’s house and to be in his presence. As I progressed through these early years at St. Gabriel School and attended mass I experienced the unconditional love and guidance of Jesus and Mary and felt their presence very close at hand. I now realize I took their love very much for granted.

I have recollection of my sins as a child that still grieve my heart to this day. My first recollection of serious sin occurred one Sunday when my Father asked me if I wanted to go to mass with him as we normally did every Sunday. I think I may have been 7 or 8 years old. For some reason that I can no longer remember, (probably because I wanted to go out and play with my friends), I told him I did not want to go that day. My mother was no longer attending church with Dad at this time so he had to go alone. He seemed saddened but after asking me again several times he left for church without me.

I can remember regretting my decision immediately after he left and resolving never to do it again. I also remember feeling a darkening of my spirit and understood my selfishness at disappointing my Dad, Jesus and Mary. I don’t have any specific memories of not attending mass with my Dad from that day until my high school and college years,

I remember very clearly my first day at St. Gabriel School in September of 1959. My Mother gave me a handful of change and packed my lunch. I gave all my lunch money away to the other kids on playground at lunch trying to buy some friends. Later on that day a nun handed me an envelope and told me to give it to my mother when I got home. In the envelope she had placed the money I had given away and a note explaining what I had done. I also remember that I did not play with the other kids on the playground. I preferred just to walk around the roots of large tree and watch the other kids play. When the church bells rang at noon we stopped everything to pray the Angelus. It still amazes me to remember how all the teachers, nuns and children would stop whatever they were doing to pray. You could feel God’s holy presence when when we prayed. First grade seemed to pass very quickly.

In second grade we continued our study of the Catholic catechism and prepared for our first confession. I remember Father Montanus visiting our class one day and telling me that he knew my parents. He was a very humble servant priest and  wore a frayed back cassock which sometimes unbuttoned at the top in the hot weather to expose an old tea shirt.  I remember him cutting the grass himself and performing some of the maintenance activities for the school.

I also remember my fist confession to Father Montanus. At that time we confessed in the confessional booth and you did not see each other face to face as we have the option to do today. I remember Father Montanus slid open the wood panel between the priest and confessor compartments in the confessional. I recognized his voice and the smell of pipe tobacco. He was truly a holy and humble priest who was giving himself completely to his beloved spouse, the church. I don’t remember what I confessed but I do remember feeling being cleansed of my sin and much closer to God after receiving absolution.

On Friday mornings during lent I remember that there would be large trays of cinnamon rolls fresh from the small bakery across the street. They were delicious. On the day of Halloween we would all dress in costumes and march in the circular driveway in front of the  priests house. Father Montanus would come out and wave to us from the front porch. On Valentines we would all bring valentines to exchange with the other kids in our class.

Chapter 3 – The First Miracle

As I entered second grade in the year of 1960 it seems that the pace of everything in the world was quickening. John F. Kennedy was our president and the cold war appeared to getting warmer. I remember we continued our studies in religion, reading, spelling, math. I struggled with leaning my multiplication tables so my mother bought some flash cards and worked with me at the kitchen table in the evenings. My father was traveling salesman selling toys and hardware and had some exciting new toys and was making a much better living. I continued to attend daily mass and go to church with my father on Sundays. I had received a bike for my birthday and occasionally rode my bike to school. I also continued to feel a very close and guiding presence of Jesus and Mary. It did not really understand how precious it was at the time and mostly took it for granted. It was like the guiding presence of a holy father and mother always close at hand and watching over me but the dialog was interior and without spoken words. Their close friendship was so precious and I did not want to do anything to offend them. But still I did fall in even in some of my initial trials.

In the spring of 1962 I had my first holy communion. It was gray, chilly and blustery day in May which was not unusual for Cincinnati. My great uncle Earl and aunt Ethel had visited and gave me a first communion card containing a $20 bill. I am remember leaving the house to play and meet one of my friends and then returning to find my Earl and Ethel just getting ready to leave. As I thanked them for their very generous gift I reached in my pocket to find it was gone. They could see I was upset at losing it and I could see by the looks on their faces they were very disappointed that I had lost it so quickly. At that time $20 probably represented at least one full day of work for Earl who like his father before him was a house painter. I felt terrible. I began to pray very fervently that somehow I would find the $20 as I sat on our living room couch. I had already retraced all my steps and had not found the $20. I don’t recall how long I prayed but I think it was at least 20 minutes of very fervent prayer when I turned and looked out the front window of our house. It was a very windy and raw spring day and the branches of front bushes were being tossed around by the wind. I noticed a $20 bill caught in one of the branches of a small shrub directly in front of the picture window. I was truly amazed and rejoiced that God had answered my prayers. I ran out and grabbed the $20 and showed it to Uncle Earl and Aunt Ethel. They also rejoiced. God had answered me prayers. I knew he would and he did! I knew how much he loved and he had proved it by answering my prayers on the very day of my first communion. God loved me and I loved Him.

Chapter 4 – The Times They Were A Changing

I don’t remember anything specific about third grade except for dear mother helping me study my multiplication tables with flash cards at the kitchen table. I was not a particularly good student but I loved going St. Gabriel School and attending the holy sacrifice of the mass before school. This was before the changes in the mass resulting from the Vatican II council and the holy sacrifice of the mass with Father Montanus was like a foretaste of heaven. There was a profound reverence for the living and eternal sacrifice of Jesus to His heavenly Father for our salvation and His presence in the Holy Eucharist. For those who did not have the great privilege of participating in the offering of the Holy Latin Mass it is difficult do describe how subtle and yet profound the differences are in the prayers and liturgy from the Norvus Ordo. Even to this day I prefer the traditional latin mass and receiving the Holy Eucharist on the tongue while kneeling. I am very grateful to Pope Benedict XVI for allowing the Latin mass to be offered again. As a boy the early 1960’it seemed to me to be a very blessed time to be a Roman Catholic in the USA. Unfortunately, it seems that things since then have headed in the wrong direction as also indicated by the steep the decline in vocations to the priesthood, religious life, sacramental marriage and church attendance (but I digress).

By the third grade at St. Gabriel school, I began to expect and to appreciate the changes of the seasons. In the fall we looked forward to Halloween. Halloween was a real treat in Glendale because of all the very old homes set back off the street. One could easily imagine ghosts walking up to such places. I also recall watching the fireworks in Glendale from our back porch on the fourth of July while eating watermelon and spitting the seeds over the side. On Friday’s during lent cinnamon rolls were provided in school cafeteria. I think I may have become a Cub Scout at about that time and enjoyed wearing my uniform (it a strange how while writing this I can still smell the Cub Scouts accessories as I opened the boxes. I can remember having several Cub Scout pocket knives which I quickly lost and were replaced by my parents. In the spring I planted a vegetable garden in the back yard and was amazed at how the vegetables grew by the hand of God.

During this time I was continuing to attend mass and be instructed in the Catholic Catechism. At one point I recall being so deeply in love with Jesus that I refused to fight back against a boy in the neighborhood who picked a fight with me. When I explained to my parents that Jesus had said we should “turn the other cheek” they were very disappointed and told me to never to do this happen again. I took their advice and from that point on I did let anyone bully me without defending myself.

In the fourth grade we began to prepare for the sacrament of confirmation. We learned that with the receiving the sacrament of confirmation we would become “soldiers of Christ”. This sounded like a very important job to me but at the age of nine I wasn’t sure who or what we would be fighting. I had not yet had any significant spiritual combat but shortly after my confirmation I would be tested in battle.

My families and financial situation was also changing during this time. My father was a traveling salesman and had joined a new group of salesman who had several very popular lines of toys including “Mr. Potato Head”, “Flubber” and “Silly Putty”. My father was now making more money and he began to take me to Kenwood where he had purchased a small wooded lot behind All Saints Catholic School where he planned to build a new larger house for our family. I was happy in our old lower income neighborhood and loved St. Gabriel School. I did not want to move.

As winter turned to Spring in Glendale I completed my confirmation in the Catholic Church. I took the confirmation name of Michael after St. Michael the archangel. The Bishop presided over the ceremony and the Knights Columbus were also present with their colorful uniforms and swords. My parents had a party afterwards and I received gifts from my relatives. I remember that spring in Glendale as being especially beautiful. I felt so much a part of St. Gabriel school and I did want to leave but I enjoyed the rest of the year as much as I could but with an ominous feeling about the potential move to Kenwood and to All Saints School.

My father had started construction of our new colonial two story house in Kenwood. The house to me at the age 9 years old appeared to be quite impressive and much larger than our small house in Sharonville. It was also close enough to All Saints School that we could ride our bikes to school each day (although I had also ridden my bike to St. Gabriel). My parents seemed to be so happy about the move from the smoggy industrial valley where Sharonville was located up the hill to Kenwood but I knew that things would never be the same. I had been completely comfortable and happy in our humble little house in Sharonville with the beautiful little village of Glendale just a few miles away and definitely did not want to leave. I resigned myself to the move and hoped for the best.

In the fall of 1965 we started the new school year at All Saints school in expectation of our move into the new house on Paw Paw lane. All Saints School was a completely different experience than St. Gabriel. The school and adjoining church were only about 10 years old and had the new modern and much less ornate style of architecture. I missed the beautiful turn of the century architecture of Saint Gabriel church and especially the beautiful stained glass windows.

It seemed to me that the pace of life had quickened. There was an undercurrent of competition in my 5th grade class with my new teacher Ms. Huesing. We ate our cold lunches in the the auditorium instead of the hot lunches we had at St Gabriel. My father bought us new Schwinn 3 speed bikes so we could make the short ride to and from school each day. We began to hear more about Vatican II and how the “new mass” was coming. We were also beginning to learn the new math. Even as a 10 year old the new changes did not seem to me to be an improvement. I was not comfortable in my new environment and preferred not to socialize. At end of the year Ms. Huesing signed my class picture “We had some laughs, didn’t we?”. I felt like they were laughing at me instead of with me.

I do have some good memories of exploring the large woods and creek across the street from our new house. I received a “Kodak Instamatic” camera for Christmas in 1965 and in the spring of 1966 my sister and I walked the entire creek and I took many pictures. The bottom of creek was limestone bedrock that used to be the floor of the shallow sea the covered the area millions of years before our arrival. It was truly amazing to see all the fossilized shells that used to cover the sea floor. The woods and creak were a great solace to us and we loved to play there. I did not learn until many years later that the land was given to my future wife’s great, great grandfather, John Wall Driscoll for serving a second tour in the great US Civil War in the place of another young man who did not want to serve. Apparently this was lawful in those days.

Chapter 5 – Into Adolescence

The last day of school was always exhilarating. We quickly peeled off the book covers we had carefully placed on each of our books just nine months earlier and cleaned out our desks. Erasers, pencils pens were all placed back into our book bags for the short bicycle ride back down Glenover Drive to Paw Paw lane. The days were long and we played everyday and after dinner until the street lights came on. We spent most of our time in the creek looking for crawdads and salamanders. God’s presence was palpable in the midst of His creation and away from our TV sets. Lyndon Johnson was president and the Vietnam war was raging but we paid little attention. Each day was just play from early morning until dark.

But even in these early years the spiritual warfare had begun as there is no such thing as a neutral place or state of being for human creatures living in the temporal world. The physical realities of the war between good and evil were still subtle. There was an undercurrent of competition and when we watched our TV at night as we constantly being influenced by the shows we watched. As summer faded into fall the spirituality of our nation already appeared to degenerating. There was a sensation of being in the middle of rapidly changing culture. The moral norms of the prior generations were being challenged by the new generation of baby boomers.

As summer turned to fall I reluctantly returned to school at All Saints. Fifth grade had not been fun and I had low expectations for the 6th grade. We had a new teacher who’s name was Mr. Young. He actually was young and seemed to be rather ill at ease and unsure of himself. There was rumor amongst the kids that he was a communist. I am not sure I knew what a communist was at the time but I too felt ill at ease in his class and in the entire school for that matter. I think Sister Rafael may have taken over his class before the year was over. I don’t recall learning anything that year. The bright spots were joining the Boy Scouts and serving as as altar boy.

On days we were scheduled to serve for the daily school mass we would arrive at the church about 7:45 and search the closet of black server cassocks to find one that fit. We would light the alter candles and fill the cruets of water and wine and place them on the small table near the alter. We would assist the priest with washing his hands and bringing bread and wine to the altar prior to the consecration. We would also by ringing hand bells during the consecration and elevation. I remember that once I stood during the consecration when I should have remained kneeling and was so frozen with mortification. I stood for several minutes before gaining the courage to resume kneeling.

During those days we also held the patten under the chins of the children who knelt at the communion rail to receive the most Holy Eucharist. My impression and recollection still today is that there was a feeling of a much greater reverence for the Holy Eucharist in those times. The girls also wore small white lace veils during mass that could be purchased before mass each day.

It was also during this time that the persecution from some of my fellow classmates began (who most likely did not even know they were under demonic influence) began to become more aggressive. Two girls in my 8th grade class named Marilyn and Maureen began to wait for my return from my short bicycle ride home for lunch and to mock my name when I returned to the classroom. This turned daily into a pattern so I soon learned to delay my return to school until the last minutes before the bell rang. There was also a boy named Barry who would walk on the opposite side of the street and mock my name on the walk back to school to school. After several weeks of the treatment I finally lost my temper and wrestled him to ground and punched him in the face. This was end of the trouble with him but still I felt guilty about loosing my temper. Others were to follow.

There was Jim who lived down the street and took advantage of my weakness and weight loss after my tonsil and adenoid removal to beat me up. It was just a few months later after I regained my strength that my mother cheered me on as I returned the favor. Apparently he held a grudge because a year or two later, he threw a stone from behind me and hit me in the back of the head.

These was also Dan who lived directly across three and threw a large chunk of rock and clay down on me from the side of excavation of a large storm sewer during the construction of 1-71. It hit me in the upper chest just as I heard him call my name from above the ditch when I looked up at him. My chest ached for weeks.

Finally there was Steve who was Jim’s close friend who also mocked my name for several weeks before I lost my temper. I also knocked him down and pummeled his face and head so hard that I broke my knuckles. I did not see him for several months after that as I wore a cast on my right hand and forearm until my knuckles healed.

But there were also good times during these years. It was during this same period of time that every so often I would take a day off from school to accompany my father on his sales trips. I would drive along with him from our home in Kenwood (a suburb of Cincinnati) to places like Lexington Kentucky and Richmond Indiana. I did not realize at the time that these would become some of the best memories of my dear father who tried so hard to raise me up in the Catholic faith, which was handed the him by my dear grandmother Catherine.

My dad was a sales rep for multiple small companies and sold hardware and toys. His car at that time was a blue 1966 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. He often had to tinker with the engine to get it started before his road trips and typically drove it on bald tires with very little money in his pocket. He said he got better mileage with bald tires.

It was quite a comical scenario to watch him struggling to get it started in the morning. His ritual was first try to get it started by pumping the gas and cranking the engine but on many days the engine would get flooded with gas and would not start. The next step was to remove the air filter to expose the carborator so he would them flip the air valve of the carborator to the open position so he could be sure the necessary mix of gas an air was getting into the cylinders and then try to crank the engine again. This usually produced the positive result of at getting at least one the cylinders firing, and then a second and finally each of the remaining 8 cylinders while producing a large cloud of dense blue smoke the filled our backyard and slowly drifted towards our neighbors houses.

On one of these trips I had a very memorable experience where I got the meet the “vice president”. After driving to Richmond Indiana we called on a small distributor of toys and hardware (I think his was name was John Cris). We entered his small warehouse. He was quite friendly and his son (the vice president) was sitting on the counter. The vice president appeared to me to have been a thalidomide baby with the birth defect of extremely short legs. It was quite impressive to see how quickly and joyfully the vice president would effortlessly scale the high shelving of small warehouse to fetch an item requested by his father. On parting his father sadly told us “I worry about what will happen to him when I am gone”. It is memories like this of my dear father and our road trip adventures together that I treasure most dearly.

Communing with God’s creation at the Boy Scout weekend camp outs as also a great solace. We always arrived after dark and had to setup our tents by flash light. I can still remember the smokey smell of our pup tents and hammering the tent steaks to to secure the corners and the twine to secure the poles at each end. I would roll out my Boy Scout poncho as the ground cloth and then roll out the sleeping bag on top. I was always very careful to inspect the inside of the tent and especially the inside of my sleeping bag carefully before attempting to go to sleep.

Building campfires as a big part of every camp out. As new Boy Scouts we became very proficient at building fires quickly. Bringing dry kindling, kitchen matches and gathering various sizes of twigs and branches was a big part of the process. Those of us who did not bring dry kindling had a challenging time building a fire during a rainy weekend. Once we got a fires started we were very reluctant to let them go out and would try to gather larger and larger pieces of wood. Of course we were always very careful to clear the area around our fires and we would often put a ring of stones at the perimeter.

Cooking on our campfires was also a great adventure as you can either put the food a stick (like a hot dog), hold the pot of pan in which you were cooking the food over the fire, or find a way to rest the pot or pan in a stable position on the fire. While cooking you were almost always getting smoke in your face and eyes.

It is funny how now I can not remember the year of my last Boy Scout camp out. In retrospect, I see now how the demons carefully plotted their attacks on my childhood innocence. How they used all the tools at their disposalbut in spite of all their work Jesus, Holy Mary and Padre Pio had other plans for me that would take many years to unfold.

Even so, by 1967 the who had been stalking me demons had already achieved the loss my innocence. By the spring of 1968 they dealt me a severe blow that would take me many years to fully understand and to recover from. After getting excellent scores on my high school entrance exams, I was the only boy from my graduating 8th grade class who was not accepted to attend either of the boys Catholic High schools my class mates were attending. Why would they work so assidiously on my destruction? Only time would tell the whole story. Before I entered my first high school class I had been beat-up and mocked on many occasions. All parents should be aware of how the demons will attack their children who they have worked so hard to raise up in the faith. They must also remember that many children easily fall prey to the influence of the demons who incite them to attack their friends and classmates.

Chapter 6 – Into the Darkness

By the summer of 1968 I knew I would not be attending either Xavier or Moeller High Schools with my 8th grade classmates but would be attending Sycamore High School. I could see it across I-71 and the Cross County highway from my parents second story bedroom window. It had always appeared to be an ominous place to me. Although I did not know what to expect I was not looking forward to it. I did not fully understand at that time that because the US Supreme court (under the influence of the fallen angels) had ruled that public prayer not could performed in public schools that all public schools were now the domain of the demons who could only be impeded by prayer, religious objects or holy water which were now prohibited by law.

I dreaded the arrival of the new school year all summer long and when the first day of school arrived I was there at the bus stop with the other kids who had been attending the public middle school. Margie was there I can’t remember who else. We were the first stop in the morning and the last stop in the afternoon. We made the bumpy, noisy ride through all the other stops in Montgomery in all the glory of September 1968. The world was in a bad state. The Vietnam war was raging. The only thing that seemed good to me at the time was the music. The Beatles, The Byrds, Crosby, Stills and Nash and The Who were some of my favorites at the time and I enjoyed the music but the message seemed to calling our generation in the wrong direction.

In the foolishness of our youth many of us thought we could change the world through music and rebelling against the norms of our parents. We did not understand the fundamental nature of the war between good and evil. Between the Mystical Body of Christ and the fallen angels seeking the eternal destruction of all human kind. We did not understand that the only true and eternal was hidden in the tabernacles of the Holy Catholic churches around the world and being called down upon their altars during the holy sacrifice of the mass. If human kind could only perceive the eternal beauty, love and perfection hidden in the most Holy Eucharist, they always would seek to be in his presence and and never to leave it.

Freshman year at Sycamore High School was even worse than I expected. We were the first bus stop in the morning and the last stop on the way home. The bus arrived in the morning at 7:10 and got to school at about 7:45. For first period it was Algebra I with Mr. Savage. During the dreary winter months it was dark until well after we started class and I did not even start to wake up until class was half over. Second period was Biology I with Mr. Emerson. If I am recalling correctly we had a study hall for third period. I can’t recall the rest of the day except for Gym with coach Kock and Spanish with Mrs. Grant.

In my sophomore year and I had geography with Mr. Rudisell who was truly great teacher. Mr. Rudisell was in constant motion from the very beginning of the class each day, running back and forth across the front of the classroom like a teaching version of Mick Jagger, flipping maps and spinning the globe until the bell. He taught us geography with such great enthusiasm that we were never bored. Mr. Rudisell was a true hero as was Mr. Thomas who made the Canterbury Tales come to life in my junior year. These two teachers stand our as bright spots during my downward spiral into darkness during my high school years. They were like two lights shining through the darkness of that time and place but there were others who shone even more brightly.

Chapter 7 – The Light Shining Through the Darkness

Even in the darkest times God still make His holy presence known to us. One of my greatest consolations during high school years was my dear and holy grandmother, Catherine Stansbury Meier. Sometime between 1966 nd 1968 my fathers career fortunes as a traveling toy and hardware salesman began to wane and mother had to return to work.

Although my grandmother Catherine had always been a frequent visitor to our house, it was usually for Sunday dinners and to babysit for us kids when my parents had a party to go to but during my high school years when my mother was working she became a more frequent visitor. She was a very special lady and I treasured her visits. Dad would pick her up and drop her at our house while he went on the road for the rest of the day to make sales calls.

On a normal school day, when I got off of the bus after school and would come home to an empty house, my heart would sink and often I was so depressed I would just go back to bed but when grandma was visiting she has a very special presence. She was a cheerful worker and would hum and sing while she did the laundry and ironing. To come home to hear her in the house was always a joy and lifted my spirits.

During those days my Dad tried many creative ideas to earn some addition money. Even when he did make a big sale it often took the toy manufacturers he worked for months to pay him his commission. It was during this time that my Dad found a three dimensional puzzle he decided to try to make at home and sell to make some additional money. I am not sure where he found it but decided call it Crazy Blocks.

During my late grade schools and early high school years we all tried to help build and assemble the Cray Blocks including my dear grandmother. All the necessary cardboard pieces came pre-printed and cut just needed to unfolded, glued and assembled in the box.

Chapter 8 – The Second Miracle

In the years between 1976 and 1982 I worked during the days and went to the University of Cincinnati Evening college at night. I was a grind for sure but it gave you the feeling of making progress in the right direction. Just a little smarter every day or that was what I believed at the time anyway. I had traded my dreams of being rock star drummer in the style of Keith Moon to being a computer programmer. I traded my drums for an acoustic guitar.

I started each and every day with a cup of coffee, a bowl of cereal and a bowl in the bong. Day after day, week after week and year after year this was my routine. The mornings went quickly, the afternoons drug on and by the time I left evening college at 9:20 PM I was very tired, but still not to tired to stop for a Sky Line Chili or a UDF shake on the way home.

I can’t recall the exact date of the second miracle but it was sometime between 1976 and 1978. During this time I was working during the day and going to evening college. I had met my dear wife Joan although we were not yet engaged. On one night when I was feeling completely worn out and depressed from the daily grind and the prospect of several more years of the same, Joan began to pray for me without letting me know that she was doing so. As she was praying, I experienced the second miracle which was truly wonderful. It started as a tingling feeling in my feet which moved slowly up through my legs and into my upper body and exited from the top of my head. The whole process may have only taken 5 – 10 seconds but afterwards every worry and anxiety that I had been suffering that night was gone. Within a few seconds I went from being miserable to elation. It was most definitely a miraculous gift from God who is so merciful to those who call upon him. In this case it was Joan who pleaded my case before God and He answered immediately! The power of prayer can never be fully understood of overstated. I have witnessed this so many times but in the rough patches doubt still creeps in. Those who have the great faith of a trusting child will never be disappointed.

It is so strange to think back now about how I had these great moments of awakening to the truth of God’s love and yet forgot so quickly and fell back into my old bad habits. I was now in my mid-twenties and had experienced two miracles but was still not completely converted and still had not been able to purge serious sin from my life. God continued to grant me so many blessings and so much mercy. I married Joan in 1981 and graduated from Evening College in 1982. It was not until my daughter Nicole was born and 1985 that I began make better spiritual progress.

Chapter 9 – And The Baby Makes Three and a Real Family

I broke both my wrists in a tennis match with my managers less than a week after Nicole was born. My boss demanded I return to my Systems Analyst job just three days after the accident. I found it difficult to key in the code for my programs and it took me a few weeks to learn how to change a diaper with casts up to the elbow on both arms.

A new house, a new job and a new baby with two broken wrists was a stressful situation but the nothing could overcome the great joy of a new baby daughter in the house. In just a few short months my wife had to return to work an as RN at University Hospital and I soldiered on in my new system analyst job. Our great joy was an was our daughter who put all her trust in her parents.

After Joan went back to work we had to find a baby sitter for Nicole for the 3 week days Joan and I both had to work. We went through several before finding one Nicole seemed to able tolerate. It is such a heartbreak for new parents to have have to leave the small child in the company of a stranger. Looking back I realize that it would have been better to rent a small apartment than to buy a house and have to leave your child. We had been trying to have a baby for several years and we finally bought a house because we did not how long it would take or if would ever happen. But just a few months after putting down payment on our first house, my father stood up at our family Thanksgiving dinner, and announced the Joan was pregnant (although neither Joan nor I knew it at the time). Imagine prophecy by your father at the family Thanksgiving dinner. Needless to say we were both quite surprised and hopeful to hear this and wanted it to be true but I do to recall if we believed it 100% that night. But sure enough we found within the next week that we were finally going to have a baby.

Vignette 10 – Transition To The Marian Years

To the best of my recollection the start of Marian era began in the summer of 1993. It was clear that my seven year stint as a Senior Systems Analyst at a Cincinnati manufacturing company were approaching an end. The company was facing new competition and the owner had decided he was spending too much money on Information Systems. The writing was on the wall and my mid-life crisis was approaching. I had talked my dear dad into trying to start new business in Costa Rica but the partner we had picked was not up to the job. During my dear wife’s bout with cancer I turned to prayer with all my heart (sometimes all night long) and now that the need for a career transition was looming on horizon I remembered how the age of 19 the Blessed Virgin Mary had interceded for my rescue from the demonic attached when I had fallen from grace and experimented with transcendental meditation (no my friends transcendental meditation is not prayer). Now I turned to her again for her intercession before Jesus Our Savior.

Although I had fallen away fell away from the practice of my faith during my high school years and early college years, I always had a strong devotion to Holy Mary and Padre Pio (now St. Padre Pio) and would pray hail Mary’s during times of trial. During his time of trial at the age of 39, I had the great blessing seeing an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer newspaper about a local woman who reported receiving apparitions and messages of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the article it said that a miracle would performed at St. Joseph’s Catholic church in Cold Springs Kentucky on on August 31 of 2002. Mostly out of curiosity,  I was determined to get to St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Cold Springs, Kentucky that night and with many hundreds of others prayed the rosary in the church . Upon leaving the church and heading back out towards the parking lot, I saw what appeared to me to be many people taking pictures and many camera flashes. As I tried to understand what they were taking pictures of, I noticed that what I thought were camera flashes were actually small patches of moving light, almost like fireflies. I could see these small flashes of light moving through the trees under which I was standing next church but these were not fireflies and there were no cameras flashing. I recognized I woman I had met while praying the rosary after mass met at Immaculate Conception Church and asked where the miracle was an she told me that small flashes of light was the miracle. This wonderful night was the beginning of a very powerful conversion experience.

In the months that followed the visionary reported that Mary would appear and give her a message on the 13th of each month. I attended these each month and witnessed several additional miracles including the appearance of an image of Holy Mary in a Polaroid picture taken at the farm in Falmouth, Kentucky as well as the small flashes of light at a night time apparition at the Holy Spirit Center in Norwood, Ohio. It was during these apparitions that I met Sandy the visionary who held my hand.At one of the apparitions also met a woman who recommended I read the “Mystical City of God” by great Franciscan mystic Sister Maria of Agreda. This period of my wife was part of a very deep conversion experience and I began to by but many spiritual books. I bought book about Padre Pio and discovered he was a Franciscan. From that point on I thought I had a Franciscan vocation but did not know how to fulfill it.

Of course we all know the dreams of a child are very precious. Our daughter trusted us completely and did not seem to mind at all that I changed her diapers with rough fiberglass casts on arms up to elbows. She was not well for the first few months until we found she could not tolerate her formula with dairy milk but once we switched her to pre-digested milk she did much better. We also moved her crib down from her upstairs bedroom to our first floor bedroom after hearing noises we could not explain over her baby monitor (parents need to be vigilant!). Things seemed to go much better after we made these changes.

As as RN at University Hospital, Joan had to work every other weekend so this was daddy and daughter bonding time. Watching a tiny baby grow into a toddle was such an amazing experience and we did so many things together but many young families know stressful it for two working parents to raise child. But we must remember that we and our children belong to Jesus and he offered himself body, blood, soul divinity for our salvation.

One morning my daughter, who to the best of my recollection was about 6 or 7 years old at the time, came into my bedroom early in the morning and described a vivid dream she had the night before. She was in a church praying in front of some votive prayer candles. One of candles went out and in the plume of smoke that went up the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared. She described seeing the Immaculate Heart of Mary glowing within the apparition of Mary. While praying before the apparition of the Blessed Mary she was transported to another place which described as a convent or school where she had responsibility for the children living there. She described looking out a window and seeing sheep grazing and walking though a garden where there was statue of Jesus carrying his cross with water streaming from his eyes.

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