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Paralysed priest walks again after ‘miracle’

By on Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Fr John Murray was told he would never walk again (CNS photo/Clare Becker, Catholic Review)

Fr John Murray was told he would never walk again (CNS photo/Clare Becker, Catholic Review)

An American priest who was paralysed from the chest down has started to walk again after praying to a 19th-century Blessed.

When Redemptorist Fr John Murray struck his head against a railing after tripping along a walkway 15 months ago, the consequences were devastating.

The Baltimore parish priest suffered a broken neck that left him immediately paralysed. Rushed to a hospital, he underwent emergency spinal cord surgery and later began rehabilitation.

Doctors said that Fr Murray, who was known across the east coast of America, for his preaching abilities, would almost certainly never walk again.

“When they said I’d never be able to move, they took away all hope,” Fr Murray told the Catholic Review, Baltimore archdiocese’s newspaper.

But on November 28 2010 Fr Murray did something everyone said was impossible. While living and undergoing rehabilitation at Stella Maris in Timonium, Maryland, he moved his left leg ever so slightly, lifting his foot off the ground.

“I was ecstatic,” Fr Murray said. “Here I was about six weeks after they told me I’d never move again and, lo and behold, I could move. Just the foot, but it kept going and going and going.”

Today Fr Murray is completely mobile. Using a Zimmer frame he is able to walk on his own at his new residence at St Clement Mission House in Ephrata.

Fr Murray sees only one explanation: an encounter with the miraculous. In his pocket he carries a small object with him at all times. Encased in a locket is a relic – a piece of bone – of Blessed Francis Seelos, a
19th-century Redemptorist priest under consideration for canonisation, who had been a rector of the same parish Fr Murray once led. “Ultimately, all prayers go to God. Seelos can’t give the grace, but he was the conduit for my prayers,” he said.

Dr Ernestine Wright, medical director of Stella Maris, said she was shocked by Fr Murray’s recovery and that she had never seen anything like it. A born-again Christian, Dr Wright said she believed it was miraculous.

Dr Wright, who treated Fr Murray throughout his year at Stella Maris, said: “With spinal cord injuries, it’s always very difficult at the time of injury to determine whether it’s a permanent or temporary injury.” No longer in need of nursing care, the priest relocated to Pennsylvania in October.

“We could not have predicted how much he has recovered,” she said. “It’s very unusual.”

Dr Wright said that Fr Murray was an inspiration to other patients and staff.

“He was determined to get better,” she said. “He was determined that Stella Maris would not be his final place of abode. He was going to get back to ministry.”

Jessica Tewey, Fr Murray’s former occupational therapist at Stella Maris, witnessed the priest’s perseverance. She coached him on how to dress, bathe, maintain his balance, cook and get coffee.

“The first day I showed him something, he wouldn’t be sure about it,” she said, “but a week later, he’d be completely independent in whatever I gave him to do.”

She said Fr Murray helped the people of Stella Maris as much as they helped him – offering encouraging words, praying for them and being a model of positive thinking.

“The patients loved him,” she said. “He gave hope to other patients. Some other people are saying, ‘If he can do it, I can do it.’”

  • http://catholicism.org/author/bam Brother André Marie, M.I.C.M.

    Deo Gratias! Blessed F.X. Seelos was a real modern-day miracle worker. His relics are in my native New Orleans. The beautiful Church where they are enshrined ought to be a place of more pilgrimages than it is.

    You can learn about the Blessed here: “American Wonderworker, The Life and Miracles of Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos”  http://catholicism.org/blessed-seelos.html

  • sam

    Does anyone see the sentence from the Dr. “W/spinal chord injuries, it’s ALWAYS very difficult at the time of injury to determine whether it’s a permanent injury or a temporary injury.” Ergo: don’t rush to judgement re a miraculous healing. It simply may have been a natural process – since it seems he still needs a walker to walk and therapy. That is not a total healing which is required for miracles. Miracles require spontaneous and total healing. But it is good that he has faith that God does the healing which God does in every case, including those in working w/therapists; doctors; etc. whose hands are guided by the Lord. But that’s not spontaneous nor total. Both are required for being called miraculous.

  • http://www.semperficatholic.com/ Semperfi

    I have a first class relic of Blessed Seelos. I am so hopeful reading this. My brother will be coming to live with me in a week or so: he injured his spine and is disabled. He’s left the Church and will think the petitioning of the deceased, saint or blessed, is stupid. So, I will secretly plant the relic in his room and pray that Fr. Seelos intercedes on our behalf. I am confident that if his body isn’t healed, his soul will be healed; that is most important.

  • David_sju

    Be careful of trying to fit how supernatural phenomena should occur Sam.  

  • theroadmaster

    It seems that the healing which Fr Murray has undergone since the traumatic accident over a year ago is nothing short of miraculous once one takes into account the medical prognosis which gloomily described his paralysed state as being irrecoverable.  The recovery started from that first momentous step and while the Church does not want us to come at these cases as incredulous believers, we should be prepared to acknowledge the reality of Divine intervention when such a description is warranted as likely in this instance.  The work of the Communion of Saints takes place from their Heavenly abode, as the Supernatural grace derived from God which they are the instruments of, is infused into the broken bodies of people here on Earth to heal and comfort them.

  • http://aromancatholicpaintress.wordpress.com Denita Arnold

    I pray this will pave the way for Bl. Seelos’ canonization

  • Tyrone Beiron

    Wonderful news indeed! Even if we don’t fully comprehend now neurological cells can renew in spinal and brain injuries, miracles like this happen when God Wills it, through the natural process or through an extraordinary process. For my part, I believe that this is God’s good grace at work through the intercession of Blessed Seelos. I hope the cause for Blessed Gaspar Stangassinger (my personal CSsR fave) will find progress in God’s good time.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron


    Doctors said that Fr Murray, who was known across the east coast of America, for his preaching abilities, would almost certainly never walk again.”

    Almost? Therefore a small probability. Does happen you know.

  • Anonymous

    It sounds like a very half-hearted semi-and-not-really-miracle if he’s using a Zimmer frame. A miraculous healing has to be complete – his does not sound in any way like a complete healing. A Saint comes up with the goods, because God is acting through him (No disrespect to the Beatus BTW – it’s not *his* fault if people are so silly today, and grasp at straws instead of insisting on proper supernatural miracles). And what sort of miracle is it, if all natural means of healing are not totally excluded as impossible ? If something in the natural order may, just possibly, be able to bring healing, that’s not miraculous – merely a very remote natural possibility.

  • David_sju

    If you don’t want to use the word, “miracle” in describing the circumstances surrounding Fr. Murray’s healing, then please come up with a word that acknowledges the real intervention of God in a situation that is hopeless.

  • I H Hayes

    God has indeed blessed him.. He looks so happy with his walker.  Keep going, Father!

  • http://seelosinfuessen.eucharisticrenewal.org/ Seelosinfuessen

    Living in Füssen where Blessed Seelos was born,Our family pray daily to him for intercession.When our 6 children are ill they sleep with his 1st class relic beside them.He is a wonderful example for young people to follow.11th January sees the the 193rd anniversary of his birth and baptism here in Füssen. More information about him can be found on the Official site for the Seelos Center in New Orleans at seelos.org or on the Seelos in Füssen website at http://seelosinfuessen.eucharisticrenewal.org/    The photos below show the Seelos Shrine in Füssen Germany which can be found in St Mang Basilica and also the Baptismal font where he was baptised 11th January 1819,the day of his birth.

  • http://catholic-mom.blogspot.com/ Denise

    It shall be decided by those with a lot more information than we have as to whether this is miraculous enough to advance the cause for sainthood of Blessed Fr. Seelos. However, it is wonderful that Fr. Murray has made such a recovery. And there is no reason to doubt that Blessed Father Seelos offered prayers on his behalf whether or not the results are sufficient for a declaration of sainthood.

  • Japaul_00

    Praise God !!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joel-Pinheiro-da-Fonseca/100001070571681 Joel Pinheiro da Fonseca

    How does one know if a miracle cure is specifically from the intercession of a particular saint? I mean, it is very unlikely that the 19th century blessed was the ONLY one the paralyzed priest prayed to. Are we to believe he didn’t also pray, for instance, to the Virgin Mary? And if so, even if the cure is miraculous, how can it be pin-pointed on the intercession of Bl. Francis Seelos instead of Our Lady? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000013629281 Antaine O’Labhradha

    He’s lucky he doesn’t live in the UK. They’d take his DLA away from him!

  • Elfmetals

    Catchy headline, but why just a ‘miracle’ and not, a miracle?  Doesn’t it seem childish to want things to be something more than what they already are.  The priest can walk again!  His doctors helped him walk again!  That’s a wonderful thing that doesn’t happen every day.  It gives hope.  So why, as a grown man in a world filled with so much pain, sadness and struggle, do you have such difficulty seeing a good thing and plainly acknowledging it for what it is?