As I write, Pope Francis is in Day Two of his trip to Latin America, which he began yesterday when he landed in Ecuador after a 13-hour flight from Rome. I’m sure you’re following live events on EWTN and in the news reports at CNA and at the News section of so I will not relive the daily events of his pilgrimage on this page, unless I learn of something extra special or that some new event has been inserted in the Holy Father’s schedule.

I’ll also write a lot more in coming days about Assisi, including some of the myriad photos I took over three days. But for now, stay right here for a very, very special story.


I wrote an email to a friend today and realized that I had to share its story and prayer request with all of you because it is so special:

As you know, I just spent three days in Assisi with Bishop Robert Baker, Jack and Linda Del Rio and Joe and Julie Helow, spending our “mini retreat” at a wonderful convent and guest house near the center of town run by the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement. It was a joyful stay and what brought us together as much as our faith and prayer time was time spent together in a small living room off of Sr. Susan’s office which had the only viable wi-fi service!

Everyone congregated in this small space at various times of the day and, during our email time, the six of us met an incredible number of wonderful people – families, small pilgrim groups, single people – and one truly amazing priest – Msgr. Craig Harrison of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Bakersfield, California.

I’d love to share his entire unbelievable story with you but today I only want to tell you about one young boy in his parish.

We met Msgr. Craig very shortly after our arrival in Assisi Friday morning about 11. We had taken a very early train from Rome and by the time we checked in with Sr. Susan and dropped our bags off in our rooms (each room had a name – I was in St. Francis of Assisi – and Frances is my middle name), we were anxious to have an early lunch and we invited him to join us. It was over lunch that we learned his unique and wonderful story.



But I need to fast forward to Saturday.

Bishop Baker was scheduled to say Mass at the tomb of St. Francis at 8 am on Saturday. Joe Helow accompanied him to the basilica about 7:15 (a 20-minute walk from the guest house) and the four of us left the convent about 7:30, after a quick coffee in the dining room. We saw Msgr. Craig and he asked us for prayers for Isaac, 8, a young boy in his parish who is scheduled to have brain surgery today or tomorrow. We learned that Isaac’s chances of surviving surgery are 10 %!

To our great astonishment, Msgr. Craig told us that early that morning he got an email from Isaac who wrote: “Jesus came to my room last night and sat on my bed.” Msgr. asked, “What did He do?” Isaac answered, “He held my hand and now I am not afraid of surgery!”

I am tearing up as I write this!

Msgr. Craig then told us Isaac’s favorite baseball team was the Dodgers and his favorite football team is the Oakland Raiders! He felt it was a gift from the Lord  – what we have been calling Godincidences! – that Jack Del Rio, the Raiders coach, was in the same convent at the same time that he was!  Plans were made to do something special for Isaac and, in fact, Jack did a brief video with Msgr. Craig via cell phone for Isaac. We learned later that Isaac was beyond ecstatic and his mother was totally in tears. Isaac promised Jack he would pray for the Raiders!  Can you imagine that!

I included a prayer for Isaac in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass at the tomb of St. Francis, prayed for him at length before the San Damiano crucifix in the basilica of Santa Chiara (St. Clare), and included him in my prayer intentions when I said a rosary at the “Porziuncula” at Santa Maria degli Angeli.

The weekend was filled with these wonderful Godincidences!  A grace a minute, it seemed!

I prayed a lot to St. Francis for Isaac – we all prayed over the weekend and I cannot get him out of my mind. I firmly believe in miracles and want to see little Isaac not only survive surgery but heal as well!

This is the story. I ask each of you to say just a Hail Mary – a prayer to the Mother of God – for Isaac, the little boy who should have his whole life in front of him!