With lost wallet, priest finds stronger faith


By Father Joseph Breighner 

Jesus spoke of “losing ourselves” for the sake of the Kingdom. What happens when we just lose ourselves? What am I talking about?

Well, Tuesday evening, July 10, I spent from approximately 4 p.m. to about 11:30 p.m., with a friend in the Emergency Room area of Greater Baltimore Medical Center. When I got back to the rectory, I realized my wallet was missing!

I have no idea how I lost it. I used it around 7 p.m. in the hospital cafeteria. It’s possible that I laid my wallet on the counter when I picked up my tray. It’s possible I may have laid my wallet on my tray and threw it away when I emptied the tray! It’s possible that my wallet might have been “picked.” Some time before I ate, someone asked if I had five $1 dollar bills for a $5 bill. The vending machine only took $1 bills. It’s possible someone was watching, saw what pocket I put my wallet in, and later took it. We moved around various times to various places that night.

When I reached for my wallet the next morning, and realized it was missing, I’m sure you can appreciate my sense of panic. I had literally lost myself! In my wallet was my identity – credit cards, Medicare card, Social Security Card, bank cards, emergency phone numbers, all of my money, and on and on. On top of this, I had intended to spend the morning on Wednesday preparing my testimony for a trial that I had to testify at that afternoon. This was big time stress.

My first reaction was to keep searching and searching where I was. It had to be here. It wasn’t.

Also I was scheduled to say Mass that day for the retired Sisters at Villa Assumpta. The sanest and wisest people in my life urged me to cancel the Mass and call as many credit card companies as possible first! Naturally, I ingnored the sensible advice, and said the Mass. I wanted the good sisters to influence our good God.

After Mass one of the nuns actually gave me a $20 dollar bill. Later that day when a friend drove me to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new license, the charge for the new license was – $20! God does provide!

The following days were just a blur of activity. On top of my usual round of counseling, preaching and writing, I had to fit in time to get new credit cards, a new Medicare Card, apply for a new Social Security Card, and on and on. Naturally, I was hearing all kinds of fearful stories from others of what happened to them when someone stole their identity!

As of this writing, almost a week later, no one has returned my wallet. I think I’ve covered every major base as far as doing what I can to prevent identity theft. However, as one friend in the investment industry put it: “There’s no way to absolutely protect anyone in every possible way.” In other words, thieves can be pretty creative. Imagine if they put their genius to work instead of stealing, how successful they would be.

Allow me to close all of this on a positive note. No, I’ve not had my wallet or money or cards returned. But I have been incredibly impressed with the kindness and helpfulness of so many people. I’ve called GBMC Security every day, and, while they had no wallet returned, they were always polite and helpful. The emergency staff was impressive to watch in action that night. When I reported the incident to the police, they were helpful. The much-maligned Department of Motor Vehicles Office (Perring Plaza) was very helpful, quick and professional. The credit card companies were helpful. M&T Bank was helpful in closing old accounts and opening new ones. Various people handed money to me on the way out of Annunciation Parish that week-end. (Rememeber the Gospel that weekend? Jesus was sending the apostles out on their first missionary journey. Among His instructions were: “Take no money with you …” I had fulfilled that Scripture passage.

Jesus taught his disciples to count on God and on the kindness of others! When we’re down to nothing, it’s nice to know Jesus was right. I experienced plenty of kindness and plenty of divine intervention. I’m sorry I lost my wallet. But my faith in God and in other people is stronger than ever!

Copyright (c) Aug. 2, 2012 CatholicReview.org

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