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Institute Writers’ Corner: “Tony” by Lisa Wheeler

May 3, 2023


The Word on Fire Institute contains numerous groups in which members can discuss courses, read and explore literature, comment on videos, expand their efforts toward evangelization and discipleship, and hone their writing skills.

Within the Emmaus Writing Groups, members craft original written works, and under the guidance of Institute Fellow Holly Ordway, the writers learn how to develop their work and build upon their skills. Below is a piece by St. Bede Emmaus Writing Group member, Lisa Wheeler, titled “Tony.”

“Tony, why are you wearing that boot? What happened to you?”

This was how I greeted the warehouse door attendant on an early October day. On my way home from work, I often stop off at this membership-only retail warehouse to pick up regular groceries and household supplies. On the day in question, I was entering the warehouse while simultaneously flashing my membership card to an employee who I had never noticed before.

This day something caught my eye, and my stride came to a halt. He was wearing a boot on his foot. It was the kind that people wear after surgery or sustaining major injury. He was a little older, as evidenced by his salt and pepper gray hair. His overall appearance struck me, with the same hair spiked atop his head and cropped at the sides, his ears gauged with large wooden spirals, and his eyes framed with dark, horn-rimmed glasses.

His name-tag read “Tony.”

Tony answered my question by explaining that he had an injury to his leg that wasn’t healing so the doctor ordered that he protect his leg with the boot. He was seeing the doctor weekly to check his progress. There was also danger of infection. It didn’t help that Tony’s job kept him on his feet hours at a time. He had been in this condition for several weeks already.

Immediately, the memory of someone I used to know came to the forefront of my mind. He too had a leg injury that wouldn’t heal. He wore the same type of boot. As a waiter, he too had a job that kept him on his feet, which inhibited his healing. Amputation was a grim and highly probable outcome, although I don’t know how that situation finally ended up.

Jesus gave me a Mary moment, and I said “yes.”

“Well, I’ll be praying for you every day, Tony,” I promised. Since I was on my way home from work, I was wearing some of our branded clothing. Catholic Charities was boldly printed on the front of my shirt. I don’t know if Tony noticed the logo, but I wanted to be a good witness for Christ, and promising to pray for him was the least I could do.

I prayed for Tony often, but truthfully, not every day. I would pray for him at work, or other times when I remembered, and always asked about his progress when I saw him on my way into the warehouse for my shopping. I considered Tony a friend, even though we’d just met, and I think he probably thought of me that way too. All through October and into November I would stop at the door on my way in for my shopping and let Tony know I was still praying for him. I’m sure I was often wearing the Catholic Charities brand. Tony was always upbeat, happy, and truly thankful for my prayers. He always wore the boot.

Just before Christmas, I stopped off at the warehouse to grab a few things. It had been a few weeks since I had been in, and I realized I had forgotten about Tony. Regular shopping had kept him at the front of my mind. But now, there had been an interruption. As soon as my eye caught his, I looked down. The boot was gone! He was in normal shoes!

“Tony!! Your boot is gone!” I happily exclaimed, as I tried to recall the last time I had prayed for him. Was it at one of our Divine Mercy Chaplets at work? Was it at Mass? I couldn’t remember.

“I have a clean bill of health from my doctor,” Tony said with glee. “He is amazed at my healing and said there is no internal sign of any injury!” He danced a jig on his now slightly shorter leg. We both rejoiced in his good news.

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“And,” Tony pulled me aside, looked warily around, and lowered his voice, “if it hadn’t been for you and about ten other members here at the warehouse who have been praying for me and encouraging me, I don’t think I would have gotten better. You all are the ones who got me through this.”

What could I say, except, “Praise God for healing you, Tony. I’m so happy for you. This is a wonderful Christmas present. I’m so glad I stopped in to receive this good news.”

As we parted company, we were both truly happy. Tony is healed, God used the prayers of his saints to effect such a grace, and I was given the honor to be a part of that group. I was elated during my shopping trip that day!

Remembering Tony again later, I thanked God that He allowed me to participate in his blessings. My spirit rejoiced because Jesus made a way for me to give someone a drink of cold water, to visit someone in prison, to help carry a cross, like Simon of Cyrene. Unexpectedly, Jesus gave me a Mary moment, and I said “yes.” I didn’t do it perfectly, but I cooperated with the Holy Spirit, and he was good to let me in. “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.”

I feel lowly. I’m imperfect. I obey imperfectly. But our Lord let me in anyway, and met my desire with his graces, and gave me my Magnificat.

All members of the Word on Fire Institute have access to the writing groups and the other discussion groups, along with the growing video course catalog, quarterly Evangelization & Culture journal, Word on Fire Digital access, and more. Learn more and become a member today.