Photo: Felix Carroll
Ed Gordon's Long Journey Back
Here's me with my holy card of St. Faustina, including relic.
By Ed Gordon
When I was a child, my parents dragged me to our local Catholic church. I didn't want to be there, and as soon as I moved out of the house, church attendance would not be on my priority list. I went on for years to live a sinful life, though occasionally trying out different denominations.
I joined the Navy. While I matured in many ways, my world did not include God. In retrospect, God must have chosen me for better things because my Guardian Angel was very busy. In the Navy, I met Protestants who were fired up for the Lord. At first, I didn't understand them. Finally in 1975, I associated with them enough so that in Key West Baptist Church I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. Unfortunately, the evil one still had a hold on me, and I soon returned to my secular and sinful ways. As we headed for Desert Storm in 1990 in an aircraft carrier, there were definitely more Christians aboard than I had ever seen in my life, which was surprisingly comforting to me. I can tell you this much: Prayer works.
I married Paula in 1982 in St. Monica's Church in Sussex, New Jersey. We had a good life as a Navy couple. Eventually, we became regular church-goers, mostly non-denominational services. For some reason I developed a bad attitude toward the Catholic Church and wanted nothing to do with it. I retired from the Navy in 1999, and by 2003 we found ourselves living in Virginia, and we attended the Presbyterian church. Make no mistake, the pastor and congregation are blessed people. But I still was not dedicated to it. I had developed a Protestant perspective on forgiveness — that through our personal relationship with God, we are forgiven when we repent to Him in prayer. In the Catholic Church, we repent before God in the presence of his priests. The priest acts in the person of Christ through the Sacrament of Penance.
As for my private life, as with most people, we had good times and bad times. I had some financial difficulties as well as other obstacles in life, and I earnestly prayed to God that He help me get my life in order.
Paula and I, by the grace of Divine Providence, found a Catholic parish in 2006. It reminded us of our old-time Catholic upbringing, and we both felt like we returned home.
Now in 2015, at age 60, I'm going to backtrack. At age 54 or 55, I attended Mass during Easter. Our priest discussed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and St. Faustina. I was amazed to learn of the unfathomable graces Jesus promised through St. Faustina to those who pray the chaplet. Our priest had planted one of the larger mustard seeds of faith in me, no doubt. As a government contractor, my customer was the Navy. I was able to walk the walk and talk the talk with sailors, so I excelled at my job (at least I thought I did). It wasn't until I was age 55 that I bought my copy of St. Faustina's Diary. I had a month of heavy travel, which gave me plenty of time to read the Diary. I soon realized that St. Faustina was a 20th century saint talking directly to me. She was talking directly to me! Through Providence, I started saying one Hail Mary a day. This eventually led up to a full Rosary. I guess the door with no doorknob on my heart was being opened to Jesus. Things started to happen.
While on one of the Navy ships, I shared a stateroom with two Harrier pilots. They were both Catholic and noticed what I was reading. We shared some fellowship. I finished the Diary, and it was as if there was "a bonus CD" in the back of the book. The "bonus" was that St. Faustina stayed with me. I'm not going to say "apparition," but I will say "heightened spiritual awareness." I had this sense St. Faustina was with me. I attended my first Divine Mercy Sunday Mass that year and completed the novena prior to that. I was able to venerate and kiss a first-class relic of St. Faustina.
It was about this time, in May, that I was coming home from work. I pulled in my driveway and was gathering my wits when I heard an interior voice — a woman's voice — say thank you. The voice was so beautiful and melodic. It could only be associated with Our Blessed Mother. I paused and took it in. Hopefully, I said a prayer. I don't remember, but I probably did. Within weeks something else happened. During my early morning commute to work I sensed a hand on my right shoulder. I turned, and a dark figure — not evil, it was a nun — was standing over me. There was only one nun in my life, and it had to be St. Faustina. I didn't see her face, but I had the "heightened sense." It was her. She just rode with me. I can't tell you a time period, but it was after this event, possibly months, I had a dream. I dreamed I had a view of a hospital room. I couldn't see myself, but I saw the room. I saw a nun get up out of a chair and come to my bedside. I don't recall if she said it in the dream or I sensed it later, but St. Faustina communicated to me that she'll wait for me at my death.
Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. As I write today, I vividly remember these events and will take them with me always. Saint Faustina's passport portrait was her best photo of her as a young lady. I prayed to find a holy card of it. Not only did God deliver, He also provided a third-class relic that was attached to it. At my second Divine Mercy Sunday, it was an honor and a blessing to have my relic on display for the congregation. What a blessing. A friend of ours, a Lay Carmelite I met through the Legion of Mary, was dying of cancer, and the announcement came at about 3:20 p.m. that she had died. We all knew the Lord Himself took Pat that day. That previous Wednesday I was able to see Pat in the hospital and say the Divine Mercy Chaplet for her by her deathbed. I was filled with tears. I can't believe that the Lord had brought me to do something like this knowing the life I lived. Three different priests anointed Pat. Her Carmelite prayer group also said the Chaplet for her that Thursday. There was no doubt in my mind who had her soul.
These days I dedicate my commute to praying two Rosaries and a Divine Mercy Chaplet in the morning and one Rosary and a chaplet in the evening. I stop for Eucharistic Adoration on Friday afternoons to begin my weekend. I'm now with the Legion of Mary, and I give a confession weekly. It is easy to slack off on prayer during the weekend, but God has revealed to me, within my interior voice, the following: When I didn't say my chaplet on a weekend sometimes someone I knew passed away. My sorrow made me pause because I didn't pray a chaplet that day for their soul. Now, by July of 2012, the Lord has made it known to me that the chaplet must be said every day for the sick and the dying. There is no greater comfort now to know that I have at least said my Rosary and a chaplet knowing someone somewhere has passed on to judgment. Christ said to St. Faustina, "When they say this Chaplet in the presence of the dying, I will stand between My Father and the dying person, not as the just Judge but as the Merciful Savior" (Diary, 1541).
My faith has to be like that of a child, and what Jesus says is the truth and the light, and I believe it as a child would. While I was at the bedside of my dying friend, I was praying the chaplet in a low voice because I didn't want to disturb her. At the top of her voice, Pat found the strength to shout "LOUDER." Now when I pray the chaplet, I always hear Pat's voice shouting "LOUDER"!
With my colleagues in the Legion of Mary, we have learned through the writing of the Legion of Mary founder Frank Duff that prayer is the answer. We are making efforts to be in constant prayer and to keep God as our focus. This is where I am in my life. It is challenging, but all things are possible with God. Imagine a journey toward sainthood for this lowly sinner. It starts with one Hail Mary. Time is funny. God bless you all. And may God bless the United States of America.