My Life with St. Joan and St. Thérèse - Chapter 8
A miracle for me on St. Joan’s day of July 17
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2006, The Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania
"You must be the one from Illinois we were expecting!"
The middle-aged woman sat behind the table in the seminary vestibule just beyond the couch where I had slept for an hour and a half. She was cheerful and obviously better rested than me. The table, which I had not noticed at 5:30am while walking past in a daze, now seemed alive with activity and, notably, a person who looked like she could help me. This was the registration desk. Registration was now open. It was 7:00am on July 17, 2006.
I looked and probably smelled like a dog.
"Yes! I drove all night to get here, about thirteen hours. Got here around 5:30 this morning. I didn't know what to do, so I just slept on the couch."
"Wow," she exclaimed, "The Lord will really bless you for the sacrifice you made."
Thankfully, the kind woman wasted no time showing me my room and the necessary facilities. We started with the chapel around the corner and then to the cafeteria. From there, we ascended a staircase to the dormitory area. She emphasized where the showers were located. Finally, she instructed me how to get to the conference room where the week's first full meeting would begin at 9:00am. With that, she smiled, waved, and disappeared down the staircase.
After settling in my room, I walked out into the narrow hallway. It appeared that I was at the end of the hall. A door faced me, next to my room. I opened it. To my delight, a small balcony with a chair overlooked the beautiful chapel sanctuary. It was a fabulous and unique view. I was standing above and even with the altar and tabernacle below. I could come out of my room at any time of day or night, sit on the balcony chair, and adore the Eucharist. A very tall and lovely statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stood directly ahead of me against the far wall. I was amazed. Things were looking up. I stepped back into the hallway and closed my "secret door" to the chapel balcony. Then, I was off to that much-needed shower.
After a day of stimulating spiritual reflections, silent meals, and awkward smiles to people with whom you were not supposed to speak, the priest giving the retreat, Fr. Bill, held confessions. I waited for about half an hour and finally had my opportunity. I sat in front of Fr. Bill and poured my heart out. After my act-of-contrition, he absolved me from my sins and blessed me. I went directly over to the silent, serene chapel. After walking to the front toward the altar, I genuflected and crossed myself before the Eucharistic tabernacle, which now held the real and substantial Body and Blood of Jesus Christ after the day's Mass, and then walked over to that beautiful, tall statue representing the Virgin Mary.
When I did, something happened. I don't know what it was, but something happened. In my heart, I felt these words the moment I looked up:
"I have always been with you. You have always had the Holy Spirit. I am the channel of the Holy Spirit for you."
At that moment, the Beast was destroyed. The Beast was dead. The Beast, the one that no doctor, spiritualist, psychoanalyst, or pill had ever been able to kill, was dead. I was a free man, most genuinely and profoundly. The chains of Hell dropped from me that evening.
The next day while in the second-morning conference, Fr. Bill read scripture to us. Four words resonated in my newly emancipated mind:
"Seek first the Kingdom…."
Those four words consumed me for my week at the retreat. They continue to consume me to this day. Seek first the Kingdom. I had my marching orders from the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had been healed through the power of the Holy Spirit and the infinite merits of Jesus Christ's incarnation, life, passion, death, and resurrection, but not so that I might run back out into the spiritual pigsty of the world's kingdom, but so that I might find life in Christ's Kingdom. Seek first the Kingdom of God.
So began my journey to Seek first that Kingdom. Seeking first the Kingdom would be the process by which the Virgin Mary, with St. Joan and St. Thérèse, would tend the garden of my soul with its newly broken, plowed, and pulverized fertile soil, twenty painful years in the making. Seeking first the Kingdom would be the process whereby the rose of grace Our Lady had given me in Guymon in exchange for my roses to her would burst forth and reach upward to the warmth and life-giving radiance of the Son.
It was sometime later, several years as a matter of fact, before the full significance of the date, July 17, hit me. I knew something remarkable happened on my drive to freedom on July 16, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, precisely twenty years after my consecration to Mary. Our Lady and Thérèse united their hearts with mine through the Carmelite spirit. One day, however, the notion came over me to reflect on July 17. I could not be sure what it was. I was inspired to pick up Hilaire Belloc's book, Joan of Arc, from my office bookshelf. When I opened it, I read:
"The Sunday, the seventeenth day of July in the year of Our Lord fourteen hundred and twenty –nine, the Dauphin Charles rode in with company for the crowning… with strong and many tears (Joan) said: 'High-born King, now is the will of God accomplished. For He it was who ordained that I should free Orleans and bring you here to this city of Rheims for your sacring…'" (Belloc, p. 61)
Joan's day of victory was July 17. On that day, the otherwise impossibly defeated Dauphin of France, against all odds, and after a lifetime of defeat, was crowned King of France through the powerful assistance of Joan of Arc.
I was no Dauphin and indeed no King of France. But I was given victory, against all odds, and after a lifetime of defeat, on that same day. I have cherished the inspiration that led me to this insight. I love it as a beautiful message from the Holy Spirit through Mary that St. Joan of Arc was intimately involved in my healing on July 17, 2006. From that day forward, St. Joan and I have been inseparable.
I drove to victory on the day of Carmel. I was healed the following day, Joan of Arc's day. St. Joan and St. Thérèse were then going to lead me along the path of the Dogmatic Creed, the goal of such a journey being the center of the Immaculate Heart of Mary where Christ reigns in all His glory. The goal is the full flowering of Mary's rose of grace, the most beautiful color in the Heavens, the rose of the combined spirituality of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.
She desires me to carry this rose with her to Jesus. That rose of the "most beautiful color in the Heavens" finally broke upward out of the new fertile soil of my soul through the intercession of St. Joan of Arc and St. Thérèse of Lisieux with the Heavenly maternal assistance of the Virgin Mary.
That rose must now continue to reach upward.
Check out the Heroic Hearts podcast on Substack, Spotify, or Apple. Heroic Hearts is a podcast about healing, enchanting, and elevating our hearts through the stories and spirituality of St. Joan of Arc and St. Therese of Lisieux. Co-hosted with Amy Chase.