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Weve been spending a few days under a bad sign
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It’s been a tough week.  Not just here in Stockton, but around the world.

Maybe I should have taken it more seriously last Sunday when I read that gas pump meter at the AM/PM on the corner of Alpine and California.

I’d asked the cashier for $7 on number 7.  It was a happy coincidence.

They wouldn’t take credit, and the one free pump was my lucky number.

But the dial stopped, not at $7, but at $6.66.  That was for 2.020 gallons.

I made the stranger on the other side come around to witness what I’d seen.

“Weird.  Really weird,” he said, shrugging his shoulders.  I quickly pumped to a full seven dollars, at which point the meter read 2.121 gallons.  And that old song from the late sixties, “in the year, 2121…” suddenly came back to mind.  This was getting too spooky.  I’d already seen “The Rite” and “Season of the Witch” twice each, but didn’t expect to be attacked.

The rest of that day, which had begun very early, unfolded as it should, with a great Super Bowl, a party at which one guy one $3,000 in the third quarter, and a chance in the evening to wind down with a long, cool swim.

Monday, my tooth and the roof of my mouth were killing me.  I’d had surgery and everything was sore.  I dragged all day long.  That afternoon, I escaped for a walk around Victory Park.  It was so beautiful and pleasant in the setting sun.  But suddenly, as I rounded the corner of Argonne and Pershing, heading south toward Acacia, a van veered off the street, hit the bumper of a parked car, and leaped up onto the lawn right in front of me.

By the time I heard the van swerve to avoid a vehicle which had pulled out from beside me, it was too late to move.  Had I been fifteen feet ahead, I’d probably be still in the hospital.  As it was, I just spun around like a top, as the frightened young woman steered a big circle between the trees.  Unbe-lieving, I watched her pop back off the curb into the street, then speed on.

At 11:00pm that night, I got a desperate call.  A young woman appeared to be possessed.  They tried unsuccessfully to coax her into a pickup to bring her to the church.  I ended up winding my way through the fields west of Stockton in that heavy windstorm which topped trees that foreboding night.

When I got there, the gale was howling, with fallen things and pieces of trees blowing across the orchard.  “All I need,” I thought, “is to get bit by a dog.”  Scenes from “Season of the Witch” were passing through my mind.

I won’t describe the two-and-a-half hours of prayer that followed, but they were very difficult.  In the end, the Holy Spirit prevailed, and the young woman came back to her senses.  Later, having blessed the trailer and her children, I turned to rejoin the others gathered there.  One man had his pants leg pulled up to the knee.  “I guess I came to the wrong place,” I joked.

“Don’t worry about us,” someone laughed.  “He just got bit by the dog.”

The next day was extremely busy.  The throbbing was so intense I had to resort to pain medication, which normally I avoid like the plague.  That night, a woman whose husband is incarcerated came to the sacristy to talk.

Once we’d finished, I got a sinking feeling in my gut. “Call your daughter. I feel like something’s gone very wrong.”  She did dial…and began to cry.

“She’s been in an accident?  Where?  On Highway 80?  ¡O Dios Mio!”

And the week kept right on like that.  Halfway around the world, Egypt was in convulsions.  The Midwest was digging out from deep snows.  A major earthquake was preparing to strike Chile once again.  Closer to home, a teenage girl was arrested for the unthinkable, and another boy was shot.

By Friday, the week was finally calming.  The people of Egypt have been heard, and are dancing in the streets. And as I write this, hundreds, perhaps thousands are gathering in Patterson to honor little Juliani Cardenas and to pledge themselves to protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us.

My mouth is still killing me, even though my dentist pulled out the stitches yesterday morning, but I’ve learned that even pain can be a positive thing.

I’m just going to be more careful, the next time I pump gas at that AM/PM.

The cycle of morning to evening and back again flies far too quickly.  It’s so important that we remain vigilant.  Look: danger can strike at any time.

We’re in the midst of a spiritual battle that makes the Super Bowl look like the little league.  We’re not fighting flesh and blood, but principalities and powers and entities which have no greater desire than to see us destroyed.

Thank God that we who have been redeemed have already won the victory.

Fr. Dean McFalls, St. Mary’s Church, Stockton, CA. Written Feb. 11, 2011