September 16, 2014

James' 4th Birthday and how it relates to Sheen's cause

Today is James Fulton's 4th birthday. Happy Birthday, James!

You can have your chip and eat it too!

I remember so much of his birth so vividly.

How light came into my room from the hall and my closet. How people talked in hushed voices. How I kneeled in front of Travis and he kneeled in front of me, supporting me while I labored with my hands on his thighs and my head against his chest.

I remember how beautifully the labor went and I remember - so clearly - the pain as he descended and that horrible feeling I suspect all birthing moms feel: I don't want to do this and I have no way out. 

"I can't do this," I told the people in the room. "Yes you can, Bonnie," they said back.

"Bonnie," my midwife's birth assistant said in a firm doula voice, "you need to get that baby out. You need to do it now. You can do this and it's time to do it now." With her words I pushed James out. I remember feeling like I was in control. I gave birth to him slowly so that I wouldn't tear and I waited for my body to contract so I could work with it. I was in control.

And then I wasn't.

My midwife caught James and immediately handed him to me and he was completely lifeless.

As everyone moved around me, going into action, I sat back and shut down. I went into a state of shock and I watched all that control slip away completely.

When James was in the NICU we were told so many things about who and how James would be. The worst, though, was when his feeding therapist told me she didn't think he would probably ever eat. No birthday cake, ever, if he even ever had a birthday. I felt like she had taken away my last bit of normal and in private I sobbed for this changeling I'd been given.

As it turns out, though, she was right and James should never have birthday cake unless it is wheat, soy, dairy, nut, and egg free. But what a horrible cake that would be. Today he will take rice krispie treats (made with coconut oil instead of butter) to school for his class treat.


Today's birthday will be a little sad for me, as every day has been a little sad for me ever since Fulton Sheen's cause was stopped. The hope that James' coming back from the dead would lead to Sheen's beatification was just about the only reason I could look a grieving mother in the eye. She begged for her child's life and I am never more aware of what an undeserving jerk I am than when I stand beside her. With the cause stopped I feel a bit anxious, a bit sad, a bit found out.

It also makes me see that, once again, I am not in control.

But it's so much more than that - so much more than me and my personal discomfort. Every day I think about the cause, I beg God to reopen it in Peoria, and I wonder what will happen.

Elizabeth Scalia wants Sheen to stay in New York because she thinks he'll penetrate through the crap that fills the East and bring about a revival. I usually like what Ms. Scalia writes but that just seemed to miss the obvious: they've had Sheen for over 80 years.

Rochester and New York City didn't care much for him when he was alive and no one has seemed to care very much about him since he died.

There's a new Sheen Center in NYC, which Cardinal Dolan dedicated yesterday, but it's website doesn't talk about Fulton Sheen at all. Pilgrims can't visit Sheen's tomb at St. Patrick's Cathedral without making special arrangements because he's locked up in the crypt. The Archdiocese's website doesn't even have him listed as Venerable. It seems that if they were excited about the man and his cause they would have at least updated that at some point in the last fifteen months.

People keep talking about Sheen's wishes regarding where he was buried, like his niece in last Sunday's New York Times. I think the thing all of them are missing is that Sheen's ultimate wish was to do God's will. If it's God's will that Sheen be declared a saint, then I think Sheen would bow to that desire. If it's God's will that Sheen be beatified in Peoria, then Sheen would have bowed to the customs of the Church and God's will and had his tomb moved to Peoria.

I miss that point, too, about it all coming down to God's will. I bristle when people say this pause in the cause is God's will. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. This breakdown may not be God's will but I do know (and have to remind myself) that God makes all things work together for the good. He's in control, just like He was at James' birth, not me at all.

One of the only commentaries I've read on this whole mess that has brought me any sense of peace came from Crisis Magazine: Thank Goodness Fulton Sheen's Cause Has Been Suspended. I don't agree with everything he says but he is right to point out that Sheen's cult needs to thrive and spread.

Today is James' 4th birthday. By the end of the week I will post pictures from James' pirate themed birthday paaaarty, because really this is a mommy blog and I should get back to that.

"Perhaps piracy is our only option."

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  1. Bonnie, I remember that day so vividly as well. I walked into Alicia's kitchen with a smile on my face and she immediately said "Have you read Bonnie's blog?" "No! Did she have the baby!?" I asked. And Alicia told me what happened. We went to the computer and read it again. I was so, so very sad for you and for James. Later, I printed out the prayer you wrote and taped it to my desk at my office. I prayed it, even though I *knew* he couldn't be healed. I knew it was impossible. And I *knew* he would never be able to eat food. It contradicted everything I had been taught. Why did I even bother to pray when I didn't believe a miracle was possible?? I felt like I owed it to you. I needed to be able to say "Praying for you Bonnie" and mean it. But I did not believe my prayers would save James. THANK GOD Ven. Sheen's prayers are way more effective than mine. He prayed with every confidence that God would grant his request.

    I'm rambling. I'm sure I've told you all of that before. I will not tell you that this pause is "God's will" because, as you said, we have no idea what God's will is. I DO know that God can bring good out of any situation and perhaps the good being done here is that people love controversy and are interested in this story. I bet many people are hearing James' story for the first time due to this pause.

    Praying (with much more determination) that this is all settled quickly.

    1. Alisha! Forgive me! I promise I know how to spell your name!

  2. Happy birthday to your sweet miracle!!! I came to your blog years ago (through Conversion Diary) and was awe struck by your story. I mean, you seemed so much like me and so normal, but you have had an extraordinary thing happen to you. I have read all the various articles about this case, and the one thing that struck me the most that I didn't fully register before was that the "alleged miracle" actually occured in the Diocese promoting the cause. That seems like such a special gift to Peoria and some quick googling assured me that was not usually the case. St Gianna's miracle for canonization was in Brazil and St. Therese's were in Italy and Belgium. Anyway, forgive my rambling, but know there are lots of people praying for you. Thanks for sharing so much of your heart. :)

  3. I remember James' birthday too. I had just gone back to work after having my son in July and I was feeling pretty dang sorry for myself. All of a sudden it was put in perspective. Many of my milk pumping sessions were offered for James. I, too, didn't have a lot of confidence, but wanted it to work out so badly. I felt so much joy when the second MRI came back. I had been privileged to watch a miracle unfold right before my very eyes.

    "I miss that point, too, about it all coming down to God's will. I bristle when people say this pause in the cause is God's will. Maybe it is and maybe it isn't. This breakdown may not be God's will but I do know (and have to remind myself) that God makes all things work together for the good. He's in control, just like He was at James' birth, not me at all."

    This is so hard, but so important to remember. For all kinds of things.

  4. I am really touched by all your memories of James' birthday. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Bonnie, I too remember so much from that night, and the morning after. I knew you were in labor and went to bed eager to hear that your newest baby had been born by morning. I knew your labors had been long and hard, and I was praying for you. I woke up, and checked for an update. I read his name - "Perfect! I love it!", I thought. I read that your labor was your best yet - "Oh, I'm so glad for her."

    And then the air left me. Wait, what? He was stillborn? Wait, WHAT? He came back to life? After all that? After an HOUR? I read and reread. I prayed. I begged God to let him live. I don't remember if I even thanked him for already letting him live! Then I said, "Fulton Sheen, if you're up there, help this baby boy! He has your name - help him and there will be a lot of people who will learn your name." Kind of a strange prayer, but I knew that the name you had chosen for him had a purpose, and this was it.

    I texted some of our mutual friends to tell them to check your blog. We all prayed, all day, in our own homes with our own little babies, for you and Travis and James. I wanted to help, to be with you, to take care of your kids, but I knew you were in good hands with your family and Katie and Jenny. What a blessing that they were with you.

    I remember thinking that he would not survive the day. It just seemed like too much for a newborn. But he did. That night, I was driving and talking on my cell (it was legal back then :)) to our friend R. We exchanged what we both had heard about James. As I drove on I-74, passing by OSF, she said that she had something we could both praise God for that day. After many months of trying to conceive, she was pregnant. And I knew that I was too. As you know, the story takes another turn several months later, and I still ask God why.

    I am surprised at how many of the details I remember from that day. I am so, so glad that it was God's will to let James live and that we could have the honor of praying for you that day and in the days to come. I can't believe it's been four years. Happy Birthday, James!!

  6. I also remember James' birthday. At the time, I was attending church on Saturday nights and leading the worship band at church. Always, before taking up instruments, we pray in a circle. I prayed specifically for James, though I don't think I knew his name at that point. To God be the glory, great things he has done!

  7. I wish I knew you back on James' birthday, but I came to your blog much later than that. The story of James' miraculous recovery touched me so much even before the Church declared it a miracle.
    I hope you all have a great day! Lots of love and prayers from our whole family to yours!

  8. God bless you, little James, and may our dear Bishop Fulton Sheen ever hold you in his prayers!

  9. Happy birthday to your James!

    I am thankful for your blog and your honest voice throughout all of this. I keep praying for his cause to be reopen. I am greatly anticipating our next trip home to Pekin so I can visit Peoria's cathedral (I've never been! My husband promises me I'll remember driving by it a million times once I see it again) and visit his museum. I'm so thankful for getting a chance to know Fulton Sheen because of reading your blog.