While waiting just below an overcast sky in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium for the Papal Mass last April, my scan of the stadium landed directly on a man in a heavy-duty wheelchair sitting just behind the home plate area. I immediately knew who this man was without looking any closer.
On July 12, 1986, New York City police officer, Steven McDonald was shot three times by a fifteen-year-old boy during, what seem to be, a routine stop in Manhattan's Central Park.
One bullet shattered his spine and left Officer McDonald paralyzed from the neck down. It is generally accepted that Steven McDonald is the most seriously injured New York City policeman who ever has survived his injuries in the history of the city's police force.
Det. McDonald has publicly, and in his heart, offered this teenager his personal forgiveness for this cruel act and now spends his time speaking to groups of people advocating a pressing need our society has; a need to embrace forgiveness.
Since this life-altering day, Steven McDonald, residing in Malverne, NY, has become somewhat of a celebrity in the Metro New York area. Here is his uplifting, beautiful story told first-hand and definitely worth your time to read: http://thelife.com/lifestories/endviolence.html
My local news station recently did a special report on Steven McDonald, who leads an annual pilgrimage of disabled children to Lourdes every year.
I was very taken back with Det. McDonald's humility and kindness during the special. He lives his Faith under extremely difficult conditions. During this show he said (paraphrasing), "I am not one to quote scripture (his humility), but when Christ raised Lazarus it was told of Lazarus’ death-causing illness: "This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it." In essence conveying that his immense suffering since this horrible event was all to glorify his God.
To see this man who can not move from the neck down, and is always accompanying by breathing apparatus, verbally frame his suffering in line with the message of Christ's Gospel has truly elevated Det. McDonald to a witness for his Faith.
More admirably, Det. McDonald, from his life in an isolated wheelchair, has been a strong public voice AGAINST embryonic stem cell research, once again serving as a true witness for his Catholic Faith. More importantly, he provided a juxtaposition and neutralized the celebrity appeal of Christopher Reeves who called for bold advancements in this "culture of death" research. Through this, Det. McDonald filled a very critical, and very vital, public void. He, through the moral authority of his wheelchair, said that a solution of destroying some members of the human family to benefit others is morally wrong, and therefore not the answer.
A blog posting does not have sufficient space to write about this great man's inspirational life. But I wanted to convey that the television special on McDonald evoked an emotional response in me when I saw this witness for our Faith.
As Christ told us the Kingdom of God is at hand! With this, I also believe that there are saints "walking" in our midst. I would never dare speak for the Vatican who has the final decision on such matters, nor would I want not to give Det. McDonald his due, but the possibility lends itself to the title of this post.
"Before I was shot I had not been very committed to my faith. The shooting changed that. I feel close to heaven today in a way I never knew before, and it makes me very happy. I know it may be hard to understand, but I would rather be like this and feel the way I do, than go on living like I was before." - S. McDonald