March 26, 2001
Dear Cardinal William H. Keeler,
After much consideration and prayer concerning the closure of the Thursday night prayer group at St. Joseph’s in Emmitsburg I feel the moral obligation to share with you the many wonderful things that have happened in my life and in the lives of some of the nearly 100 people I have brought to St. Joseph’s on Thursday night over the past two and a half years. My life has been completely turned around and now I will try my very best to describe all that has taken place. The only way this can be done is to start at the very beginning and work forward. I can honestly say without a doubt this whole experience as it happened to me has been and continues to be the greatest event of my life.
To give you the background necessary to understand how these events unfolded I will share with you a letter I wrote to my family on December 8, 1998 which was 3 weeks after my first visit to St. Joseph’s in Emmitsburg.
December 8, 1998
Dear S.C.C. and C.R.C,
I have decided it is my responsibility to write this letter to you so that there will be a written record of the most profound and unexpected experience of my life. This will ensure that the details of this experience as it happened to me will never completely fade into the depths of time and be lost forever. I hope a copy of this letter will survive for future generations of our family as a testimony to God’s Love and willingness to help even those of us who have done little or nothing to deserve it.
The two most devastating events in my life were the sudden death of my father, D.J.C. on Saint Patrick’s day 1980 and the brutal beating that our son C.R.C. received at the hands of his baby-sitter on August 17, 1992 when he was only 18 months old. I still feel like crumpling to the ground when I think about what could have been the final outcome of this near disaster with out the help I know he received.
During the early summer of 1992 I was at a flea market at Double Toll Gate which is near Front Royal, Va. While there I was rummaging through a box of junk looking for Civil War relics like I always do. At the bottom of the box I came upon a small brass crucifix that for some reason I felt an instant attraction for. There was just something about it. I bought it for $2. The crucifix had an inscription engraved on the back that reads “Shrine of the Little Flower Royal Oak Mich”. At that time I did not know who the Little Flower was. When I got home that evening I noticed a picture of C.R.C. and I remember thinking “ That's a perfect place to keep the crucifix”. I placed the crucifix between the frame and the glass of the picture for the protection Jesus on the Cross could offer to him. It was just a few short months later that C.R.C. was the victim of a brutal beating received at the hands of his baby-sitter that could have taken his life.
As you remember the baby-sitter offered some half baked lies as to how C.R.C. sustained all of the bruises, knots and lumps but they were not good enough to keep her from being convicted in a court of law. I will never forget as long as I live sitting in that emergency room and the doctor describing just how severe a beating C.R.C. took.
After returning home from the hospital about 11 o’clock that dreadful night I noticed the picture of C.R.C. and the crucifix sitting on a cabinet in the relic room and I clearly remember thinking out loud “ Thanks for nothing”. This vile thought was not pre-meditated but more the result of an involuntary reflex. Suddenly, and without warning the most warm tranquil, peaceful feeling I have ever experienced overtook my entire body and soul and I instantly knew the protection that C.R.C. so desperately needed was indeed granted at a time he needed it the most.
Upon realizing this I knew my life was in no small way changed forever and nothing I could ever do could repay the debt of gratitude I owed. It was about this time I made my return to church after about a 10 year absence.
One night a few years later I was sitting down thinking about all of these events and how blessed we all were that things turned out the way they did. I decided it was time to find out about the Little Flower that was inscribed on the back of the crucifix. A little research turned on a flood of information about Saint Therese which has had a profound effect on my life. I have come to realize without a shadow of a doubt that not only did Jesus and Saint Therese intervene through the Miraculous Power of that Cross and provide the help C.R.C. needed but also what I needed. A push in the right direction.
This did not all happen overnight, it has taken 6 years for all of this to come into plain view. The best way I can describe it is, its like a huge mountain, if you are standing up close to it, you can’t see the whole thing, but as you step back and get further away it comes into better view until you have the entire picture. In my case the entire picture shows me there were no coincidences involved here at all. I am convinced the sequence of events starting with the purchase of the crucifix up to this point are the direct results of the intercession of Jesus and His wonderful Saint Therese. This has made me believe that something good can rise from the ashes of something as vulgar as the beating of an innocent child. I have also come to realize that God has given us the gift of powerful saints such as Therese whom we can call on and sometimes such as in my case they come looking for us such as the day at the flea market and the sudden attraction to the crucifix.
I feel it is necessary that you understand the best you can what I am thinking because it would not be right for me to accept graces from Saint Therese and Jesus and then keep them all to myself. They should be shared with others who share or have the potential to share the same love and devotion for Them.
Six years have passed and during that time there has not been one single day that I did not thank God for the outcome of the events of August 17, 1992.
On Friday July 3rd of this year as I was traveling to Gettysburg, Pa. for the annual Civil War relic show that I go to every year , I was distracted by the tall golden statue of our Blessed Mother that graces the National Shrine of Our Lady in Emmitsburg, Maryland. I felt compelled to stop and spent the next several hours there.
Once inside the grounds you follow a walkway, stopping at each Station of the Cross. At the end of this walk you enter the Grotto of Lourdes which is so beautiful by feeble words can’t begin to describe. There is another walk that leads up to the Crucifixion scene. When you leave this area you come to a small chapel and behind it stands a statue of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. In the chapel there is a beautiful statue of The Virgin Mary holding the Child Jesus. When you exit, you walk down Rosary Lane, stopping at the many beautiful statues along the way. One of the statues you come to is a full life size statue of Saint Therese the Little Flower.
While gazing at Her statue I had a complete replay in my mind of ALL of the events starting with the purchase of the crucifix at the flea market. In the span of just a few seconds I relived the entire ordeal of C.R.C. getting beat up. While standing there for some reason I felt my thanks were not sufficient, and I did not know why, something was missing on my part. SUDDENLY like a bolt out of the blue I knew what it was. I had neglected to get our son C.R.C. baptized! When I left the shrine that day the number one priority in my life was to get C.R.C. baptized in the Catholic Church.
The following Monday July 6, I stopped at my parish and talked to Fr. ____ and gave him a brief description of the events that had led me there. It was then he enrolled us in the baptismal classes that cleared the way for C.R.C.’s baptism to take place.
S.C.C., with you being a non-Catholic I will never be able to thank you enough for understanding my feelings and attending both baptismal classes with me and starting C.R.C. in Catholic school.
After we both completed the required baptismal classes, I stopped at the church office and C.R.C.’s baptism was scheduled and did take place on October 3, 1998 the anniversary of Saint Therese’s original feast day.
The next night, October 4 after the few guest, Danny and Elaine left to go back home to Richmond I sat down to relax for a few minutes. I felt as if a thousand pounds of burden had been taken off of my shoulders. I sat down on the sofa and re-read every word of the Rite of Baptism and when I finished I placed it for safe keeping in a book about Saint Therese. The page I just happened to open to was a full page photo of Therese. The photo looks as if the photographer is looking down on Her and She is looking up at you. This sounds crazy but for a split second it seemed to me as if we had just made eye to eye contact. It sent a shiver up my spine. I placed the book back on its shelf. A few minutes later I went outside. When I got outside it was very breezy and you could just see the moon behind some fast moving, whispy clouds. SUDDENLY the scent of roses filled the air and after about 10 or 15 seconds it went away and was replaced with the usual smell of a near-by dairy farm. A few seconds later another blast of the rose fragrance was all around me and lasted for about the same amount of time. The aroma was exactly as if someone had just picked a handful of fresh roses and held it right under your nose. There was no question in my mind then and never will be as to where it came from or who sent it. I instantly knew!! This may sound nutty to you but it is very real to me. I will go to my grave knowing that the roses came from heaven.
Since C.R.C. was baptized I have had the opportunity to return to the Grotto at Emmitsburg one time. When I got to the statue of Saint Therese I no longer felt my thanks were incomplete. I knew the missing link of my thanks had finally been put in place. As I was leaving the Grotto that day, Thursday November 19th, I remember touching the hand of a statue of the Virgin Mary. At that VERY instant the bells in the bell tower started to chime. I was such perfect timing and was so loud that I was startled and quickly pulled my hand back. Afterwards , I laughed and thought to myself “I could not do that again in a million years if I tried”. When I left the Grotto that day I felt an inner peace that would be very difficult if not impossible to reproduce, it was a very special day. I thought it would not be possible for things to get any better than the feeling and sense that I had finally done something that met with Heaven’s 100 % approval. Little did I know then what the next several hours would bring.
As I drove out of the Grotto I thought I would go to Gettysburg, Pa. which is about another 15 miles north to take care of some business at some of the local Civil War relic shops. On my way I took a short detour through the town of Emmitsburg, Md. As I was driving through I noticed there were lots of people at Saint Joseph’s Catholic church. I stopped and it was explained to me that the Blessed Virgin Mary appears there every Thursday evening to Gianna Talone Sullivan during the Rosary and delivers a message through her. This has been going on for about 5 or 6 years. I decided I was going to stay since I was already there.
Once you have secured your seat you have to leave something to hold your place such as a book, sweater or anything that shows the seat is occupied. Once that is done you can leave the church and they will issue you a return pass that will get you back in the church for the Rosary. It turned out that I got the very last available seat. That was 1 o’clock in the afternoon and it did not start until 7 o’clock in the evening. Sometime later that afternoon I walked across the street to the parish hall to find the restroom. I asked a man who was in the parish hall for directions. When I came out he struck up a conversation with me and we talked for about 20 minutes. At the end of our conversation he asked me if I would mind doing him a small favor, I said yes not having the slightest idea what it was but figuring it was something small that could probably be done in the next few minutes. He asked me if I would lead the 5th decade of the Rosary during the apparition of the Blessed Mother that evening. My first thought was “No, I can’t do that”. My second thought was an instant flashback in my mind of a few hours earlier in the day at the Grotto when I touched the hand of the statue of Mary at the precise instant the bells chimed. The sound in my head of the bells was just a loud and just as startling as it was when it actually happened a few hours earlier. I actually jumped. My third thought was “I will lead the Rosary” and I did. It is hard for me to describe what I was thinking as I was leading the 5th decade in front of a microphone at the front of Saint Joseph’s church standing just a few feet in front of the visionary, Gianna Talone Sullivan and a filled to capacity church. Coincidence ? No way.
I Love You Both,