See with new eyes

By Father Joseph Breighner

Lent is a time that invites us to see with new eyes. Allow me to share a story of a visual miracle in my own life.

As many of you know, I had strokes in both of my eyes in 2002. I woke up one morning with flashing lights in my eyes, and a sickening awareness that some vision was gone. The following months were depressing and anxious.

Over these years, I have gone to three of the major eye groups and hospitals in Maryland. I won’t mention their names, but they would be immediately recognized if I did. At all three, I received excellent medical care, but no real improvement in my vision. Each explored the possibility that there might be some disease process behind my loss of vision, and ophthalmologists and neural-ophthalmologists examined me repeatedly. Their conclusion was that I had had strokes in both eyes, and there was nothing further they could do medically.

Then, this year, an optometrist came to me. She knew me from retreats, articles and past radio shows. She said to me something no one else had said: “I think I can help you.”

I went to her office, and she and her staff performed the same examinations that all the other groups had performed. She altered my prescription somewhat, but made an addition that no one else had suggested. Dr. Dana Taylor designed glasses for me with prisms in them. My field of vision has expanded noticeably.

I mention her name not for any advertising purpose. She has a practice large enough for five optometrists. She doesn’t need extra work or extra business. Being the incredibly caring and competent person that she is, people flock to her. I knew I could trust her immediately because she spoke of how much she liked Monsignor John Dietzenbach, pastor of Church of the Resurrection in Ellicott City. I figured if she spoke so highly of his humor and great sermons, this was the doctor for me.

I tell this story, not just as a personal miracle, but of Dr. Dana as a symbol of Jesus. As we know from the Scriptures, Jesus was largely rejected by the religious leadership of his day. The high priest, the scribes and Pharisees, the lawyers and priests, saw Jesus as an anti-establishment figure. Who did he think he was? He didn’t have a brand name. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
they asked.

This is not a column against anyone or any institution. I met and was treated well by many staffs and ophthalmologists. The only point I’m making is that Dr. Dana came out of nowhere. She came looking for me.

I believe it was the former archbishop of Canterbury who was once asked why he was a Christian, and not a member of some other religion. He responded very profoundly: “Other religions can lead us to God, but only Christianity tells me that God came looking for us.”

Dr. Dana came looking for me. Jesus came looking for us. He still looks.

All of the medical people I had seen previously were trained in the medical model of looking for disease. When there was no treatment for a disease they looked no further. Dr. Dana, and optometrists in general, are trained in vision. Her focus (no pun intended) was not on disease, but on vision – on how to expand it. She criticized no one. She affirmed that I had received excellent medical care.

This Lent, let’s use our prayer, fasting and almsgiving moments to help us to see Christ more clearly. Christ is always coming to us – in the stranger, in our spouse, in our church, in surprising people. Let us pray that we will have eyes to see him. 

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.