The Church marks the Nativity of the Mother of God on September 8. Thus September is also "Mary's month" in the Philippines.
Filipinos are people who look forward to birthdays of all sorts. Not just for the party and the cakes but to mark the coming of a better year for the celebrant. I have had 44 birthday cakes in my life and have blown 44 or more candles off my cakes!
Although I was born in March, this September I mark another "birthday". This is when God gave me a second chance at living.
On September 5, 2001 I was diagnosed with a bad case of dengue fever which progressed from bad to the worst. So I was rushed to hospital, the Episcopalian run St Luke's where the doctors realized my prognosis was bad. Being a scientist, I asked the doctors "if I will make it". Well they had to tell me what they thought.
I had to prepare for death, as long as I was conscious. A dying man may have regrets and likewise I had too. I haven't done much good or anything at all!
On September 9, I called for a priest. No priest came but one of my ex students who was a Jesuit scholastic/seminarian (he has since been ordained as a priest) came in quite unexpectedly in soutane and the nurses thought I was to kick the bucket. He was a Chinese from the mainland and he asked me to pray to the first saint that came to my mind. And that was no other than John Henry Newman. Newman wasn't beatified then. The seminarian asked Newman's intercession to heal me. The next day I was going into shock. An Anglican priest came in and gave me Extreme Unction (I can't remember his name!) A little later the Roman Catholic hospital chaplain came in and gave me a reproduction of the Virgin of Piat's picture. The Catholic priest came from the Cagayan region where the Virgin of Piat is venerated by the people.
On September 10, my situation went from bad to worse. I now know the feeling when life ebbs and for all we have done on this earth matters not. What matters is the love and mercy of God. The Blessed Virgin Mary does pray for us at the hour of our death, when that comes and when God finally allows it to happen! But suddenly something strange did happen to me. The next day (Sept 11), I was up and about, walking along the wards and hungry! The doctors were amazed! The disease ran its course.
But the amazement faded when I saw on the hospital TV that two skyscrapers New York were destroyed in a terrorist plot when two aircraft were deliberately crashed on the WTC. I thought it was some B movie on cable, but it was for real. The doctors were no longer glued to my case but to the terrorist attack.
And so if they ask me what I was doing when the Twin Towers collapsed, I can only say that God brought me back to life when that happened.
When I was well enough once more, I emailed the Oratorian Fathers in London about Cardinal Newman's intercession and how a seminarian prayed for that intercession. I got a response from them and they told me that they will have my testimony as part of the positio for Newman.
Did a miracle happen to me? The scientist in me would say "No" since there are people who do survive the worst prognosis for dengue. And it just happened that one of them was me! That is the limit of what Science can say in this affair. However I can say that Cardinal Newman brought my prayers to God and that is what really matters. There is no such thing as "it just happens to be" to God. God wills what happens. As for the Virgin of Piat, she has rescued the Itawes people from drowning in the 16th century, healed the sick at death's door and she continues to do so. God wills that the Blessed Virgin Mary works these miracles for His glory.
And on a September day, the 19th last year. Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Henry Cardinal Newman.