Fr. David Lord, MIC

Stockbridge, Massachusetts

His smartphone in hand, Fr. David Lord, MIC, sits at the dining room table and opens an app that's become dear to him. It's designed to help with pronunciation of common words in the English language.

"Achieve," the app's computer-generated voice says.

"A-cheeve," Fr. David repeats, at first a bit shakily, but improving through repetition. "A-cheeve. A-cheeve."

He smiles.

"You see?" he says. "Not bad, right?"

Yes, no doubt, an achievement.

Four years ago, on June 12, Fr. David was about to proclaim the Gospel at the Saturday evening Mass at Our Lady of Peace Catholic Parish in Darien, Illinois. But he suddenly looked disoriented. He wanted to speak, but it was clear he couldn't form words. Then he collapsed. He had a massive stroke. His doctors said the stroke should've killed him.

What the stroke did do was leave him frail. He now uses a cane. It took away his speech. By slow degrees, he's gaining it back. It also took away any spiritual doubts — specifically about Jesus and the promises He makes to those who turn to Him in total trust.

"David has come back so strong and with a strong will and faith," says his younger brother Mark. "He still struggles with effects of the stroke, but he never gives up. I am so honored to be his brother."

Now living back in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he once served as rector of the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, Fr. David, 56, finds support in his fellow Marians. He works on his walking, works on his speech, and engages in the two activities most important to him in his priestly life: Holy Mass, which he concelebrates with fellow Marians, and praying before the Blessed Sacrament, which he does daily for two hours.

"The thing I love most is the Lord," Fr. David says. "The Lord, you know, He had to suffer, too."

He remembers how he used to give homilies about how suffering is necessary for the salvation of the world. "I used to speak the words," he says, "but now I truly, truly know those words are true."

When riffling through papers, he sometimes comes across the text of homilies he delivered, pre-stroke. He says it's as if his past self is preaching to his present self, assuring him and comforting him.

For instance, in a homily he gave at the Shrine years ago, he spoke of Mary's "yes" at the Annunciation — her "yes" to the divine plan to give birth to the Redeemer, her "yes" to offering herself as an instrument of God, unanchored to possessions and obsessions of the material world.

"She shows us how, through possessing and desiring nothing but God, one can be blessed with the riches of salvation," Fr. David said in his homily. "In a selfish, materialistic world filled with violence and isolation, we must say 'yes,' as Mary did."

His hero remains a modern saint who, too, followed Mary's lead. Saint Pope John Paul II, whom he met five times, "would say 'yes,' would say 'Be not afraid,'" Fr. David says. "And you know that towards the end of his life, he couldn't speak either, due to the Parkinson's disease."

Father David remains devoted to St. Faustina, through whom the Lord promises great graces to those who entrust their lives to Him.

"Jesus keeps His promises," Fr. David says. "He keeps His promises."

Father David believes God allowed him to survive the stroke in order to gain the grace of total entrustment to Lord. He also believes God wanted him to be around for his brother Mark, who is enduring his own suffering.

"I love him, and he needs me, and I need him, and the Lord has brought us so much closer," he says.

Father David had successful surgery on July 25, 2014, to reconstruct his right foot from a post-stroke condition called hammertoe.

"It's my miracle foot," says Fr. David, thanking Jesus and Mary for guiding the surgical team.

He presses his app to bring up the next word.

"Special," the computer-generated voice says.

"Spesh-all," Fr. David repeats. "Spesh-L."

He shrugs. "I couldn't say that before. Now I can."

"Dinosaur," the computer-generated voice says.

"Dine-o-sore," Fr. David repeats. "Dine-ah-sore."

He shrugs again. He's delighted. A survivor.