“That’s a heart attack waiting to occur.”
Thus spoke a younger priest to an older priest as they dined during Paschaltide in 1994 with a Catholic professor and writer who was chowing down on a Greek salad with oily dressing, anchovies and lots and lots of feta cheese at the long since-closed Café Teresa on Old Country Road in Plainview, New York.
The object of the younger priest’s prophecy was rather slender at the time, but was known to like rich foods, whose effects, he thought, so the story goes, could be mitigated by a regimen of running five to ten miles a day around a track in order keep from developing coronary disease as had his late father and his uncle, who was still alive at the time, and their mother, the professor’s paternal grandmother. The professor/writer was a dope who was engaging in a massive exercise of self-deception.
Yes, after waiting for a week to get the results of the echocardiogram and chemically-induced nuclear stress test that I had undergone on Friday, November 3, 2017, my cardiologist’s nurse telephoned me on Friday morning, November 10, 2017, to give me the results of those tests. The news was sobering as one of the results included the fact that there is scarring on the back of my heart.
“This means that an event has occurred,” the nurse told me over the phone.
“An event? The only kind of event that I know of that can cause scarring of the heart muscle is a heart attack (the loss of blood flow to a part of the heart, which is different than cardiac arrest). “You mean to say that I have had a silent heart attack at some point?”
The nurse, who did not want to say more than the word “event,” admitted that such an attack had occurred.
I was tempted to say, “Are you sure I had an event? I mean, Google Calendar did not inform me of any upcoming ‘events’.” However, my use of New York humor might have been lost, and thus I demurred, at least at that moment.
Other problems (a narrowing of the aortic valve and a leaking heart valve) are, I have been told, not unusual in a man who will be sixty-six in nine days.
God has seen fit in His ineffable mercy to let me know that my own family history of coronary/circulatory problems and my own poor diet has caught up with me. Heredity undoubtedly is a factor, but so is a lifetime of eating foods high in fat content. Mortification of one’s tastes and senses is an essential means of bodily health, but, much more importantly, such mortification is indispensable to what is most vital: the health of the soul now, and for all eternity.
This is my opportunity to live out however much time God has appointed from all eternity for me to live in a spirit of Lenten mortification from foods that I have consumed since my childhood in order to better prepare my immortal soul for the moment of death and thus, solely by the merits that Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ won for us by shedding every single drop of His Most Precious Blood during His Passion and Death on the wood of the Holy Cross, be a partaker in the eternal joys of Heaven. Many saints practiced such mortification from their earliest years. Others of us have to be hit over the head with “events” so that we can repair the damage to our souls and to our bodies by failing to be more mortified with respect to the legitimate pleasures of this passing, mortal vale of tears, including rich, fatty foods.
To be sure, there are plenty of examples of people who were in the peak of health, exercised vigorously (which I am unable to do because of my lumbar degenerative disc disease) and were meticulous in eating healthy foods when they dropped dead suddenly from a massive cardiac arrest (which is different than a heart attack). This is a reminder that no amount of “wheat” stored in one’s bodily “silo,” if you will, can guarantee a person a long life as God will call us when He wills, which is why Catholics understand that they must always be ready to face the moment of their Particular Judgment and to pray to accept death with serenity as a punishment for sin.
The purpose of this brief commentary, though, is to urge those who experience chest pains to take them seriously.
I do not know when the “event” that caused the scarring to the back of my heart took place. However, I will find out the extent of the damage after a heart catheterization is performed tomorrow, Thursday, November 16, 2017, the Feast of Saint Gertrude the Great. All I can say for certain is that I have had chest pains off and on for the past twelve years or so, and have had several episodes in the middle of the night when I felt close to losing consciousness (and, no, I have never been drunk a day in my life as I simply do not like to the taste of alcohol) and collapsed on the floor when having to get out of bed. I did not want to be an alarmist and had dismissed such pain as unimportant. I was wrong to have done so. Don’t make my mistake. Take chest pain seriously.
Now, I want to thank those who have been good been enough to provide excellent recommendations of natural supplements to strengthen the heart and to help reverse the effects of atherosclerosis by getting good quality supplementation products. However, I have been taking molecularly distilled Omega fish oil for over fourteen years and also have been taking Co-Enzyme Q-10, Hawthorn Berry seed extract, Evening Primose and Calcium-Magnesium-Zinc in addition to garlic, both natural and in pill form. The late Maria Treben’s heart wine, which was based upon the insights of Saint Hildegarde, has been added to these, is helpful to many with heart conditions, although I have an intolerance for it. This is by way of saying that I favor naturopathic remedies but am also, despite being a dope, intelligent enough to know that there are uses for conventional medicine in diagnosing and treating heart problems.
As Catholics, of course, we must understand that doctors never really have "bad" news for us. Not really. Medical conditions are what they are. They exist. We must accept such news with equanimity as we thank the good God for being given a chance, unworthy though we may be, of bearing our own crosses and for sending us the graces His Divine Son won for us during His Redemptive Act on the wood of the Holy Cross through the loving hands of His Most Blessed Mother, she who is the Mediatrix of All Graces.
God uses everything that happens in our lives so that we can better give Him honor and glory as the consecrated slaves of His Divine Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary. We must live high the cross in our own daily lives as it is the only means by which we can save our immortal souls as members of the Catholic Church.
To be sure, one wants to get an accurate diagnosis from a competent physician who does not believe in the medical industry's manufactured, profit-making myth of "brain death." Even if the news from that physician requires us to look directly at death, perhaps even a painful death, right in the face, something that I do not think is facing me at this point, we must accept this news, once confirmed, with joy as there are few greater gifts that the good God can give us as the knowledge that the moment of our Particular Judgment is near.
Yes, of course. That moment could occur for any of us at any time on any day of our lives, including this day, the Feast of Saint Albert the Great. It is, though, a great grace from God, which He gives to us through the loving hands of His Most Blessed Mother, to know that we have a disease or a condition that will bring us to the moment of our Particular Judgment in the near future.
Although I repeat this quite a lot on site, I ask my readers to remember that there is nothing but nothing at all in this passing, mortal vale of tears that we can suffer that is the equal of what one of our seemingly "least" Venial Sins caused Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to suffer in His Sacred Humanity during His Passion and Death and that caused those Seven Swords of Sorrow to be pierced through and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
We must accept each suffering, humiliation, each misunderstanding, each rejection and each calumny with joy and gratitude as they are permitted to occur so that we can glorify the Most Holy Trinity through the Immaculate Heart of Mary as we seek to make reparation for our sins and those of the whole word.
Suffering is the path to Heaven.
Embrace it with joy and gratitude as we keep our eyes fixed on the book of true learning that is Our Divine Redeemer's Most Holy Cross as we pray as many Rosaries each day as our state-in-life permits. (Prayers for a happy death from The Raccolta are appended below a brief reflection on Saint Albert the Great, O.P.)
Moreover, we have nothing to fear with Our Blessed Mother ever so near to us, which is what she explained to Juan Diego atop Tepeyac Hill on December 12, 1531:
“Hear me and understand well, my son the least, that nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed. Do not fear that sickness, nor any other sickness or anguish. Am I not here, who is your Mother? Are you not under my protection? Am I not your health? Are you not happily within my fold? What else do you wish? Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything. Do not be afflicted by the illness of your uncle, who will not die now of it. be assured that he is now cured.” (Our Lady Of Guadalupe | Relation of the Apparitions.)
Vivat Christus Rex! Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.
Saint Joseph, pray for us.
Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.
Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.
Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.
Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.
Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.
Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.
Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, pray for us.
Saint Albert the Great, pray for us.
On The Feast of Saint Albert the Great
Today is the Feast of Saint Albert the Great, one of my own patron saints (my full name is Thomas Albert Henry Droleskey) and the great son of Germany who was the teacher of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Here is an account of his life and work as found in Matins for today's feast:
Albert, called the Great, because of his extraordinary learning, was born in Swabia, at Lauingen on the Danube, and very carefully educated from boyhood. To further his higher studies he left his native country and went to Padua. At the urging of blessed Jordan, Master General of the Order of Preachers, he asked admission into the family of the Dominicans, in spite of the futile protests of his uncle. After his election to membership among the brethren, Albert was dedicated in all things to God, and was conspicuous for his piety, his strict observance of the rule, and especially for his tender and filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Always before study he spent some time in prayer. After his profession of apostolic religion, he so regulated his schedule of life that he became an accomplished preacher of the word of God and an efficient instrument for the salvation of souls. Soon the Order sent Albert to complete his studies at Cologne, where he made such progress in every branch of secular science that he surpassed all his contemporaries in scholarship and achievement. In the meantime, as Alexander IV testifieth, he drank so deeply of the health-giving waters of doctrine, sprung forth from the fountain of the divine law, that his soul was flooded with their abundance.
That others might share the rich treasure of his learning, Albert was appointed professor at Hildesheim, then Freiburg, Ratisbon and Strasbourg successively. He became the marvel of all. During the period when he taught sacred theology in the famous University of Paris, he became world-famous, and received the degree of Master of Theology. Examining the teachings of pagan philosophers in the light of sound reason, he demonstrated clearly that they were in fundamental accord with the tenets of the faith. He expounded most brilliantly the thesis on the extent of the power of human understanding to comprehend divine mysteries. How great was his genius, how brilliant his intellect, how zealously he applied himself to study until he had become learned in every branch of scholarship, especially sacred theology, is best shown by his numerous writings. These encompass every known subject. Albert returned to Cologne to become president of the university conducted by his Order. He was so successful that he became ever more widely acknowledged as an authority by the schools; his reputation for learning increased. Among his pupils was his beloved Thomas Aquinas. Albert was first to recognize and acclaim the greatness of that intellect. He had a deep devotion towards the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar and composed some magnificent works upon it. He also pointed out wider fields for the study of the mystical things of the soul. He succeeded so well that the zeal of this great master spread far and wide in the Church.
Amid so many very important duties Albert shone as an exemplar of the religious life. His brethren, therefore, selected him to be prior of the German province. He was summoned to Anagni, in the presence of the Supreme Pontiff, Alexander IV to refute that William who had been impiously and arrogantly attacking the mendicant orders. Soon after this the Pope appointed Albert Bishop of Ratisbon. As Bishop, Albert devoted himself almost entirely to the care of his flock. Yet he retained meticulously his humility and love of poverty. Up to the time he resigned his see, Albert was prompt and energetic in fulfilling the duties of his episcopal office. He ministered to the spiritual needs of souls throughout Germany and the neighbouring provinces. He was careful that the advice he gave to those who sought his counsels was wise and salutary. So prudent was he in settling disputes that at Cologne he was called the peacemaker. From far distant places, prelates and princes invited him to act as an arbiter to resolve differences. Saint Louis, King of France, presented him with some relics of the sacred Passion of Christ, and Albert cherished them devoutly all his days. In the second Council of Lyons he was instruméntal in bringing to a successful conclusion several weighty matters. He taught until he was worn out with age. His last days were spent in holy contemplation. In the year 1280 he entered into the joy of his Lord. By the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, the honours of the altar had long since been conferred upon Albert in many dioceses and in the Order of Preachers, when Pius XI, gladly accepting the recommendations of the Congregation of Sacred Rites, extended his Feast to the universal Church, and conferred upon the title of Doctor. Pope Pius XII appointed him the heavenly patron with God of all those who study the natural sciences. (Matins, Divine Office, November 15.)
We need to pray for more good teachers, priests and bishops in the pattern of Saint Albert the Great.
Prayers for a Happy Death as found in The Raccolta
O my adorable Creator, I ask of Thee the greatest of all Thy graces, that is to say, a holy death. No matter how greatly I have hitherto abused the life Thou gavest me, grant me the grace to end it in thy holy love.
Let me die, like the holy Patriarchs, forsaking this valley of tears without sadness, to enter into the joy of eternal rest in my own true country.
Let me die, like the glorious Saint Joseph, in the arms of Jesus and Mary, repeating in turn each of these sweet Names which I hope to bless throughout eternity.
Let me die, like the immaculate and blessed virgin, in the purest love and desire to be reunited to the only object of my love.
Let me die, like Jesus on the Cross, with the most lively sentiments of hatred for sin, of charity toward Thee, O heavenly Father, and of perfect resignation in my agony. Holy Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. Be merciful unto me.
Jesus, who didst die for me, grant me the grace of dying in an act of perfect love for Thee.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me now and at the hour of my death.
My Guardian Angel, my holy Patron Saints, forsake me not at the hour of my death.
Saint Joseph, obtain for me the grace of dying the death of the just. Amen.
O my God, sovereign Lord of life and of death, who, by an immutable decree for the punishment of sin, hast determined that all men must die, behold me humbly kneeling before Thy dread Majesty, resigned and submissive to this law of Thy justice. With all my heart I detest my past sins, by which I have deserved death a thousand times; and for this cause I accept death in reparation for my sins and in obedience to Thy holy will. Yes, great God, send death upon me where Thou wilt, when Thou wilt, and in what manner Thou wilt. Meantime I shall avail myself of the days which it shall please Thee to bestow upon me, to detach myself from this world and to break every tie that holds me in bondage to this place of exile, and to prepare myself without reserve into the hands of Thy fatherly Providence. May Thy divine will be done now and for evermore! Amen. (An indulgence of 500 days once a day, S.P. Ap., Jan 15, 1920 and Aug. 18, 1936. As found in The Raccolta: A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences: approved by Pope Pius XII, May 30, 1951, and published in English by Benziger Brothers, New York, 1957, Number 645, pp. 518-519.)
My journey toward eternity, dear Lord, is encompassed round about by powerful enemies of my soul. I live in fear and trembling especially at the thought of the hour of death, on which my eternity will depend, and of the fearful struggle that the devil will then have to wage against me, knowing that little time is left for him to accomplish my eternal ruin. I desire, therefore, O Lord, to prepare myself for it from this hour, by offering Thee this day, in view of my last hour, those protestations of faith and love for Thee, which are so effectual in repressing and bringing to naught all the crafty and wicked arts of the enemy and which I resolve to oppose to him at that moment of such grave consequence, even though he should dare alone to attack with his deceits the peace and tranquility of my spirit.
I N.N., in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity, the blessed Virgin Mary, my holy Guardian Angel and the entire heavenly host, protest that I wish to live and die under the standard of the Holy Cross. I firmly believe all that our Holy Mother, the Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church, believes and teaches. It is my steadfast intention to die in this holy faith, in which all the holy Martyrs, Confessors and Virgins of Christ have died, as well as all those who have saved their souls.
If the devil should tempt me to despair because of the multitude and grievousness of my sins, I protest that from this day forth I firmly hope in the infinite mercy of God, which will not suffer itself to be overcome by my sins, and in the Precious Blood of Jesus which has washed them all away.
If the devil should assail me with temptation to presumption by reason of the small amount of good which by the help of God I may have been able to accomplish, I confess from this day forth that I deserve hell a thousand times by my sins and I entrust myself wholly to the infinite goodness of God, through Whose grace alone I am what I am.
Finally, if the evil spirit should suggest to me that the pains inflicted upon me by our Lord in that last hour of my life are too heavy to bear, I protest now that all will be as nothing in comparison with the punishments I have deserved throughout life. I thank God that He should deign to give me by these sufferings an opportunity in this life to discharge my debt to Him, which I should have to pay hereafter in the pains of purgatory.
In the bitterness of my soul I call to remembrance all my years; I see my iniquities, I confess them and detest them. Ashamed and sorrowful I turn to Thee, my God, my Creator and my Redeemer. Forgive me, O Lord, by the multitude of Thy mercies; forgive Thy servant whom Thou hast redeemed by Thy Precious Blood.
My God, I turn to Thee, I call upon Thee, I trust in Thee; to Thine infinite goodness I commit the entire reckoning of my life. I have sinned exceedingly; enter not into judgment with Thy servant, who surrenders to Thee and confesses his guilt. Of myself I cannot make satisfaction unto Thee for my countless sins; I have not wherewith to pay Thee, and my debt is infinite. But Thy Son hath shed His Blood for me, and greater than all mine iniquity is Thy mercy.
O Jesus, be my Saviour! At the hour of my fearful crossing to eternity put to flight the enemy of my soul; grant me grace to overcome every difficulty, Thou who alone doest mighty wonders.
Lord, according to the multitude of Thy tender mercies I shall enter into Thy dwelling place. Trusting in Thy pity, I commend my spirit into Thy hands!
May the Blessed Virgin Mary and my Guardian Angel accompany my soul into the heavenly country. Amen. (An indulgence of 3 years. A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this prayer for a month. (S.P. Ap., Feb. 6, 1934 and May 15, 1937. As found in The Raccolta: A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences: approved by Pope Pius XII, May 30, 1951, and published in English by Benziger Brothers, New York, 1957, Number 646, pp. 519-522.)
Lord Jesus Christ, who willest that no man should perish, and to whom suplication is never made without hope of mercy, for Thou saidst with Thine own holy and blessed lips: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, shall be done unto you”; I ask of Thee, O Lord, for Thy holy Name's sake, to grant me at the hour of my death full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity, that I may be able to say unto Thee with a clean heart; Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Thou hadst redeemed me, O God of truth, who art blessed for ever and ever. Amen. (Saint Vincent Ferrer. An indulgence of 3 years once a day. (S. C. of the Holy Office, Jude 5, 1913; S.P. Ap., Dec. 12, 1933 and June 14, 1949. As found in The Raccolta: A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences: approved by Pope Pius XII, May 30, 1951, and published in English by Benziger Brothers, New York, 1957, Number 644, p. 517.)
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and soul.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, let me breathe forth my spirit in peace with you. (An indulgence of 7 years for each invocation. A plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, for the recitation of each of the foregoing invocations every day for a month. (S.C. Ind., April 28, 1807; S.P., Oct. 12, 1936. As found in The Raccolta: A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences: approved by Pope Pius XII, May 30, 1951, and published in English by Benziger Brothers, New York, 1957, Number 636, p. 509.)
From a sudden and unprovided death, deliver us, O Lord. (An indulgence of 300 days. As found in The Raccolta: A Manual of Indulgences, Prayers and Devotions Enriched with Indulgences: approved by Pope Pius XII, May 30, 1951, and published in English by Benziger Brothers, New York, 1957, Number 637, p. 509.)
O Mary, Mother of grace and Mother of mercy, do thou protect us from our enemy, and receive us at the hour of our death. (An indulgence of 300 days. A plenary indulgence once a month on the usual conditions for the daily recitation of this invocation (S.P. Ap., Sept. 25, 1933. As found in The Raccolta).