by Fr Richard Heilman | April 23, 2018 3:47 PM
Pool of Bethesda and My Uncle’s Miracle
One of the greatest inspirations for my priesthood was my uncle and Godfather, Father Donald Murray. His joy and love and humor and dedication all impacted me throughout my life. It led me to want what he had, and I have never looked back.
So, it goes without saying that, when I heard he was hospitalized with an abdominal aortic aneurism, I was devastated. It was bad. We were told that he bled out, internally, almost completely. The word got out throughout the area that a priest needed blood, and many came to donate their blood. But, the loss of blood took its toll on my uncle. In the days and weeks that followed, there was no response … he was in a coma, and it didn’t look like he would ever awaken.
This occurred while he was vacationing near Wisconsin Rapids, WI. So, he spent several weeks at the hospital in Wisconsin Rapids, while we traveled back and forth from Madison, WI to see him. We became very close to his doctor who was a strong Catholic man. His doctor wanted to do anything he could to make him well, but it looked like there wasn’t much left anyone could do.
After many days, his doctor asked for two neurologists to examine him (he wanted more than one opinion). Both doctors confirmed that he had no brain activity, except for a little brain stem activity. He was diagnosed as officially brain dead. After we received this prognosis, we made arrangements for him to pass, naturally, by removing any extraordinary means for keeping him alive.
We decided to all meet up at the hospital on the next weekend, to say our good-byes, as they would remove these machines that following Monday. Still, his doctor didn’t seem to want to give up. He said, “If we could get him to respond to any stimuli, it would be a sign that something is still there.”
I remember taking some time by myself, outside the hospital, as I was quite emotional. During that time alone, I remember making this prayer, “God, if you heal him, I will go on an amazing retreat and get as close as I can to you.” I don’t know why I chose a retreat as a kind of “bargaining chip” with God, but I did.
Right after that prayer, somebody said they asked him to move his finger, and they thought he did … almost imperceptible, but they thought he did. The doctor was relentless, and he decided not to remove the machines just yet. It was still one in a million, but that was enough for him.
That evening, after I arrived back home, a very good priest friend from back in my seminary days called me up out of the clear blue. He said, “I don’t know if you are interested, but I got this brochure in the mail offering a priest retreat in the Holy Land.” My jaw dropped, and I said, “We’re going!” Recall I had just offered this “retreat bargaining chip” earlier that same day in a prayer to God.
A few weeks after that, we were off to the Holy Land. It was amazing! We saw everything. But, it was at the Pool of Bethesda that something incredible happened. First, here is the story from the bible …
Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked (John 5:1-9).
While we were standing in the excavated area where the Pool of Bethesda once was, I reached down and grabbed two stones and put them in my pocket.
When I got back from this priest retreat, I was notified that a parishioner – a wonderful mother of two young girls – found out she was full of cancer and was given a short time to live. I went to see her and anoint her, and I gave her one of the stones. At her next doctor’s appointment, they told her that, remarkably, there were no signs of cancer.
The second stone I brought to my uncle. He remained in a vegetative state – he had been that way for many weeks now – but I talked to him like he could hear and understand what I was saying. I told him where I found the rock and how I believed God would heal him. I placed it on the nightstand next to his bed.
The next time I went to see him, he was sitting up in bed and, as I walked into the room, he said, “Hi Rick, good to see you.” THAT’S RIGHT!! HE WOKE UP!!
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