Whenever I’m asked to pray for someone or when I hear about people in distress, I turn to God with great confidence. I know that he is near and is ready to do something for them. But I wasn’t always so aware of this. My journey into deeper faith really started in May 1983, when God did something very special for me and my friends Tony and Pete.
A Friend in Need. The three of us met in the early 1960s, when we worked as Boeing engineers and had offices in the same building. We soon became close friends. All of us were Catholics, but Tony had fallen away from the church.
In February 1983, Pete and his wife went on an island cruise. When they came back, he said they had thoroughly enjoyed themselves but that he had picked up what seemed to be a slight cold or sinus infection. The problem lingered, so Pete went to see a doctor; he diagnosed a sinus problem and a possible inner ear infection.
Despite treatment, Pete did not get better. He began to experience attacks of dizziness—vertigo, along with nausea and vomiting. Soon he was having an attack every forty-eight hours, with each one lasting about four hours.
Pete’s lifestyle changed drastically. Sometimes he would have an attack while driving to or from work; he had to pull over until it passed. If it happened at work, he would close his office door and tell his secretary not to let anyone disturb him. If it happened at home, all he could do was lie down until it was over. Since the attacks came without warning, Pete could no longer plan ahead for anything—not even family events with his wife and five children.
He consulted a specialist, who gave him a battery of expensive tests and then offered two possibilities: Either Pete had an infection, which would clear up with medication, or he had Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder for which there is no known cure; in this case, his attacks would worsen.
Prayer Partners. Pete was devastated and soon became dejected and depressed. I stopped by his office every day and noticed that, on his desk calendar, he was keeping track of the length and frequency of his attacks. I also noticed that he would share this information readily if it seemed promising but that otherwise, he had a hard time admitting it. “I must have made a mistake recording the time,” he would tell me. I think he just didn’t want to believe he was getting worse.
One May day, I walked into Pete’s office just after one of his attacks. I knew he was discouraged, but he really startled me when he said he was contemplating suicide. “I can’t go on like this. My life is over,” he said. I had never heard anybody talk about suicide and mean it, but clearly, Pete was serious.
Shocked and deeply saddened, I went right to Tony and told him how poorly our friend was doing. Though Tony hadn’t been receiving the sacraments, he immediately responded with “Let’s have a special Mass said for Pete.” It would be a way for the three of us to get together and pray for his healing.
Tony started calling parishes to schedule the Mass and was dismayed to learn that the earliest opening was six months away. “But this man has a serious problem now! He needs help now,” Tony protested. Finally, someone suggested calling Fr. John McFadden, an area pastor who was known to have a healing ministry.
Fr. John said he would be happy to help and told us to meet him at his rectory a few days later. Pete agreed to come. At this point, he was willing to try anything.
“Love Brought You.” Fr. John welcomed us into the rectory chapel and then chatted with us awhile to learn more about Pete’s problem. It was a workday, and I was wondering how long it would be before Mass began, when Father said that he was going to conduct a brief prayer service followed by a “laying on of hands.” What was that? We had no idea.
The priest explained that God had given him the gift of healing—not through his own power but through the power of Jesus working through him. And then he said something that struck me profoundly: “I sense the Lord’s presence with us. And I know he will work in this situation because it was love for your fellow man that brought you here.”
Fr. John went to the altar, read a few passages from Scripture, and then told Tony and me to stand on either side of Pete and place our hands on him. Then, calling on the power of the Holy Spirit, he prayed and anointed Pete with holy chrism.
I can’t say I had any special sense that the Lord was healing Pete. Still, I returned to the office feeling good about our time of prayer. It was the right thing to do.
Graces for All. In different ways, the healing service turned out to be life-changing for all three of us. It brought Tony back to the Lord and the church. Even before we went to the rectory chapel to pray for Pete, he went to Confession and got right with God.
It brought Pete the healing we had prayed for. He walked out of that rectory and never had another attack of vertigo again.
Tony and I took a “wait and see” attitude for six months, just to make sure he was truly healed. After that, we took Fr. John to lunch to thank him and to let him know what the Lord had done.
“Are you involved in any prayer groups?” Fr. John asked me at that lunch.
I had never heard of those, either. And so began my discovery and involvement with charismatic prayer groups, as well as the pro-life vigils, pilgrimages, and other prayer events that Fr. John has led through the years. All these things have brought me closer to God and have deepened my faith beyond what I ever thought possible.
And so, I’m quick to intercede for people now. I write down each name, with the date right next to it, and pray for them daily. I even bring that long list with me each time I go into the adoration chapel. When I look back over my list and see how many prayers have been answered over the years, it really helps to build my faith.
And at the head of it all is what our good and gracious God did for us three friends in May 1983.
Bernard Toth lives in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania.