John and Dolores Warwick are Catholics of extraordinary grace and faith. John has been writing to me from Pittsburgh, PA for about five years, and I am proud to say he is a reader and commenter on These Stone Walls. You may remember “Stigmatized,” my post on Padre Pio last September that concluded with Saint Pio’s beautiful prayer after Communion, “Stay With Me, Lord.”
It was John Warwick who sent me that prayer.
And when Pornchai Moontri was received into the Church on Divine Mercy Sunday, John sent a beautiful card enrolling him in the Marianist Spiritual Alliance (www.MarianistMission.org). The card has a stunning white rose on the front. It’s in such stark contrast to the austerity of these stone walls and iron bars that it’s the first thing everyone sees upon entering our cell. The Warwick’s are like that. They leave a lasting impression wherever they’ve been.
Last week John Warwick sent a message that left another great impression on me, as I hope it will on you as well. Here it is:
“We ask your prayers for our beloved grandson, Christopher Warwick, age 16, who just completed his sophomore year at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, PA. Chris was born with congenital heart disease and has undergone three open heart surgeries – the first when he was five days old.
This past year, Christopher has become very weak and fatigued. Recently, after many tests and evaluations, the pediatric heart surgeons concluded that he is in crucial need of a heart transplant. Chris is now in Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital awaiting, with God’s grace, a heart for life.
We thank you in advance for your prayers for our bright, personable grandson. Chris is a young man of vibrant faith who is deeply loved. We send our gratitude to the readers of These Stone Walls for your prayers for this very special young man.”
I would like to ask all the readers of These Stone Walls to lift Christopher and the Warwick’s in prayer, and to make this intention one of your frequent intercessions. I entrust Christopher to the intercession of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina who bore the infirmities of Christ in his own body and knew fatigue and suffering. Let’s assure the Warwick’s of something I know to be true. No matter what the outcome, Christopher will never spend a single moment outside the radiance of Christ’s love and the grace of our prayers.
Stay with him, Lord.
CHRISTOPHER’S NEW HEART
Two days after I wrote the above, and mailed it to Charlene to scan and forward to Suzanne, I learned that a donor heart had been found for Christopher. As I write this he is in the middle of an eight to ten hour heart transplant surgery at Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital. The days and weeks to follow will be of critical importance for this young man. Your prayers are also of critical importance. Please pray for Christopher Warwick, for his new heart, for the heart’s donor, and for the Warwick family.
I received this message from John Warwick:
Thank you for your prayers. Also thank Pornchai. I know GOD listens. Great news about the heart “Created by Our Lord.”Many donor hearts were rejected by the doctor’s these past three months. Then a phone call Tuesday morning to Christopher’s parents, “Come to the hospital, a HEART for Christopher will be arriving”. By 11:00 a.m. Christopher was being prepared in the I.C.U. unit at UPMC Pittsburgh Children’s Hospital.
A solemn praying wait by all the Warwick family until word was received that a plane one hour away from Pittsburgh will be arriving at 11:35 p.m. with a male teenage donor heart. The surgeons began operating at 9:00 p.m. to prepare the transplant when the heart arrives. At 2:30 p.m. the new heart began pumping blood. Praise GOD. By 5:00 p.m. the operation was complete.
The doctors said that the donor’s heart was a perfect match, not only blood type, but the heart was “a good tissue match” that mostly concerned the doctors. A better heart for Christopher could not be found. Thank the LORD. It’s now 30 hours after the operation and he’s still in recovery, but he is sitting and quite alert. Praise GOD. Chris continues to make progress but as you so stated it will be a long recovery. With love and thanks, and a Happy Fathers Day, “Stay with Father Gordon, Lord”
With Love and thanks by all the Warwick family John Warwick, Sr.
ST. MAXIMILIAN’S TRUE COLORS
In my post, “In Honor of Saint Maximilian Kolbe,” I mentioned that Pornchai Moontri took the name Maximilian for his Confirmation name. I wrote that I was not at all surprised by this because the two had been in spiritual dialogue for months. It was Saint Maximilian who was most responsible for Pornchai’s conversion.
It seems their dialogue continues. Pornchai told me something astonishing yesterday. He said he’s designing a ship in honor of his namesake. Some of Pornchai’s magnificent wood carvings are described in my post, “In the Land of Nod, East of Eden,” and vessels from “the age of sail” are his specialty.
Pornchai is designing a ship that he will name “St. Maximilian.” He said his design plan initially called for the hull of the ship to be painted black, but he then changed his mind giving the ship a red and white hull with black trim. I asked Pornchai what made him change his mind about the color of “St. Maximilian’s” hull, and why he chose red and white. They’re unusual colors for a ship’s hull.
“It just seemed right,” Pornchai said. What he didn’t know – what he had no way to know – was the significance of those colors for St. Maximilian Kolbe. When Rajmund Kolbe was a young man, he had a haunting dream in which a lady appeared to him offering two crowns, one red and the other white. In the dream, he had to choose between them, but he could not choose so he was presented with both. Later biographers interpreted the white crown as symbolic of sainthood and the red as symbolic of martyrdom.
In the canonization of Father Maximilian Kolbe, Pope John Paul II bestowed him with the title “Martyr of Charity” for which Maximilian earned both crowns, the red and the white. Pornchai’s openness to his spiritual dialogue with Saint Maximilian is evidence of the new heart God is creating in him through the continuing lifelong process of conversion. When Pornchai’s ship in honor of his patron saint is complete, I’ll have a photo or two on These Stone Walls.
THE POPE AND THE PROFESSOR
Anthony Grafton teaches history of Renaissance Europe at Princeton University. In a recent essay in the New York Review of Books (“The Pope and the Hedgehog,” May 27, 2010) he described himself as a “non-Catholic admirer of the Church.” His admiration for Pope Benedict as a Pope, as a theologian, and as a historian is not at all hidden in his prose. Among a glut of one-sided media commentary about the Pope of late, Professor Grafton’s stands out as measured, incisive, and balanced, and infused with a knowledge and appreciation of the history of the Church.
That knowledge includes an emphasis on the reality that in times of scandal and upheaval, the Church has always raised up saints like St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi to balance the Church’s own institutional human foibles and to offset …
“… the central institutions of the Church that have worked in counter-productive ways, emphasizing the powers and prerogatives of the institution over the spiritual life of the faithful. Again and again, Catholics have proved astonishingly resilient and inventive … “
I made a similar point in my post, “Scandal at the Vatican: Michelangelo and the Hand of God.” From the perspective of two millennia of Church history, the scandals of the current age are as nothing compared with the ebb and flow of human sinfulness and scandal in the long life of our faith. The Renaissance papacy is a prime example. Of Pope Benedict himself, Professor Grafton offers a perspective that many other commentators, including many in the Catholic press, overlooked:
“But it’s worth stepping back for a moment and remembering that Benedict is probably the greatest scholar to rule the Church since Innocent III, the brilliant jurist who ruled from l198 to 1216. He knows how to wield all the tools of historical research and exegetical argument.”
I like Professor Grafton. I like any scholar who views the Church through its most revealing lens, the lens of history. Anthony Grafton crafted this perspective masterfully, and Catholics owe this “non-Catholic admirer” of the Church’s history and spiritual triumphs a debt of thanks.