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Proof that 'Miracles Do Happen'
The following was first published in the Summer 2000 issue of the Bulletin, now Marian Helper magazine.
By Patrick Novecosky
Father Ron Pytel has had some big days, but few were as important as Divine Mercy Sunday 2000. "After my ordination, it was the most emotional day of my life," Fr. Ron says of standing alongside the Holy Father on April 30 and hearing him declare Sr. Maria Faustina the first saint of the Great Jubilee.
"I've been blessed by the Lord with a wonderful healing through Sr. Faustina's intercession. My healing became the canonization miracle. So it was awesome to see her become a saint. And now, more people than ever will hear of the message of mercy," he says.
It has been nearly five years since doctors gave Fr. Ron three to five years to live. At that time, he was extremely thin and pale with a badly damaged heart.
"I suppose I probably shouldn't be around anymore," jokes the 52-year-old pastor of Holy Rosary parish in Baltimore, Md. "But I'm living proof that miracles do happen."
The miracle is not only that Fr. Ron is alive, but that his permanent heart ailment is gone. As a matter of fact, he says he is in better health today than he's ever been.
'His Heart Touched Mine'
On Oct. 5, 1995, the feast day of St. Faustina (who was then a blessed), Fr. Ron and some friends gathered for prayer at Holy Rosary Church, which is also the Baltimore archdiocesan Shrine of The Divine Mercy. After a time of prayer for the healing of his heart through Sr. Faustina's intercession, Fr. Ron venerated a relic of St. Faustina and collapsed. He felt paralyzed, but was completely at peace. A subsequent visit to his cardiologist showed that his heart had been healed.
Although he was healed through St. Faustina's intercession, Fr. Ron is quick to point out that Jesus healed him. "I know in my heart that Faustina put in a word with Jesus, and His Heart touched mine. It's as simple as that," he explains.
After almost three years of examining Fr. Ron and his medical records, doctors and theologians from the Congregation for the Cause of Saints concluded an exhaustive investigation of the healing.
And on Dec. 20, 1999, Pope John Paul II ordered publication of the fact of the healing as a miracle through Sr. Faustina's intercession, leading to her canonization on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 30, in St. Peter's Square.
Blessed with Peace
When you meet Fr. Ron, the first thing you notice is how radiant he is — and that he's a man completely at peace. And when you hear him speak, his enthusiasm for St. Faustina and Divine Mercy is infectious.
"Personally, I'm still in awe," he says. "Sometimes I wake up and ask myself if I've just had a four-year dream. Spiritually, my prayer life has intensified tremendously.
"I've had a peace that has been with me through everything that has taken place," he explains. "I've also been blessed with a calmness, a gentleness. I think it's made me more open to the struggles of other people."
Ministering to Others
People have sensed that openness and have come in droves to the Baltimore shrine. The number of people visiting Holy Rosary Church for daily Mass has also increased. On the second Sunday of every month, the parish holds Divine Mercy devotions.
"There are so many more people coming to this Mass. We usually have more than 50 people stay after Mass to receive the Anointing of the Sick and venerate St. Faustina's relic," Fr. Ron says.
"There's a real hunger for the Lord's healing touch in people's lives. So I'm doing a lot of counseling as more people come for prayers and healing. I'm also receiving many requests to speak.
"This whole experience has changed my life drastically — especially in the number of phone calls I receive," he laughs. "In one day, I normally get 20 to 25 voice messages. I've done literally hundreds of hours of spiritual direction over the phone."
Accepting God's Timing
During the investigation of his healing, Fr. Ron says he was hoping for a quick decision from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. However, as the case dragged on, Fr. Ron became more willing to accept the Lord's timing.
"And as it turns out, God's timing was perfect," he explains enthusiastically. "She's the saint of the millennium! She's being held up as the model for us. And the significance of the date on which she was canonized is perfect. On April 30, 1926, she received her habit and her name — Faustina. And 74 years later, she has a new name — St. Faustina!"
Editor's note: After his miracle healing that led to St. Faustina's canonization, Fr. Ron Pytel died from inoperable kidney cancer Nov. 3, 2003.