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In Saturday’s article, I shared the beginnings of my testimony regarding a long-term, demoralizing financial dilemma which caused me a year of increasing stress and nearly cost me my life’s savings.  After a year without any concrete signs of encouragement, I found a lawyer who not only had the expertise and the good will to take on my case, but also whose office is only fifteen minutes from the headquarters of the company whose agent had pushed me into a potentially disastrous transaction.  This lawyer also happens to be Catholic, a man with a big heart, and is serving pro-bono.

On Thursday, I accompanied two engineers on a trip to Old St. Mary’s on the edge of San Francisco’s China Town.  We were examining the major reconstruction done following the 1906 earthquake and fire, plus the 2006 seismic retrofit which had cost them $11.5 million.  Given the similarities in internal structure between our churches, we examined Old St. Mary’s to make final decisions about how to reinforce the walls of our St. Mary’s.

I’d spent most of Wednesday night preparing for the court deliberations.

Arriving tired and uncertain, I took heart in San Francisco.  Looking at how that famous city’s first Cathedral had been gutted twice (1906 & 2006), yet each time came out more resilient, I knew God could do the same for me.

Dropped off at San Francisco’s airport, I barely caught my flight.  Until three days before, I had neither tickets, nor any contacts for lodging.  By the time I boarded that flight, the Lord had filled in all the gaps: welcomed by the pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, I arrived to find seven different activities in process.  My lawyer and I had a long dinner to plan the next morning’s settlement conference.  He dropped me off at nine, to spend time with the pastor and vicar of this Hispanic community.  By 7am the next morning, I was celebrating the parish mass, as the pastor had to attend to a large funeral.  Over 150 faithful were present, and promised to pray for a just and mutually beneficial outcome to our legal proceedings.

Following breakfast at the courthouse cafeteria, in which I was served by Mexican Americans, I entered a very different environment.  Those who’ve been in a courtroom for whatever reason know how formal, and potentially intimidating, is the legal environment.  In my case, we first greeted the opposition cordially, then entered the cloister.  My lawyer disappeared to confer with the judge.   He came back out with a big smile on his face.

One day, perhaps, I will be able to share why both he and I were smiling.

This has nothing to do with judicial bias on the part of any judge, or with any question of whether he would be completely objective.  After all, he’d served decades already as a lawyer himself, and only recently had been appointed to the honored ranks of those who pass sentence.  On the other hand, I saw every sign that God was at work in this entire situation.  No doubt the prayers of so many people, and perhaps the little confession I’d made before leaving Old Saint Mary’s to that elderly priest leaning against the rail, together with the Lord’s commitment for justice, were all helping.

I had been nervous about this, the first time in my life when I’d resorted to this kind of legal battle.  It took nearly three years to begin the proceedings since that September 11th in 2007 when the twin towers of my financial stability and my plans to benefit my parish of Guadalupe (later St. Mary’s) began to collapse.  Now we’d come to the time of reckoning.  But out of nowhere and nothing, the Lord sent me countless signs of encouragement.

He also inspired me to take an unusual amount of initiative in the court discussions.  My lawyer commented afterwards, “I don’t normally allow my clients to talk so much.”  A client can do great damage to his own case by speaking without a good grasp of legal-ese and what one ought not to say.  In my case, I felt inspired, and clear about what exactly needed to be stated.  We both left the courthouse encouraged.   There’s a long way to go in this case, but one thing has become clear: our Advocate is at work.