By all rights, insight, knowledge, and plain old common sense I should be dead. If past usage of beer, marijuana, and cocaine didn't do the trick, then certainly dilated cardiomyopathy should have.
Instead, I am alive, clean and sober, and a functioning Catholic priest. I'm not a survivor, I'm a miracle--the result of the remarkable power of faith in a mysterious but loving and forgiving God, and a wonderfully supportive community. I needed both to survive addiction and the blessing of a heart transplant.
Gratitude inspired this book. I owe it to people who helped rescue me from alcohol and using drugs, and I owe it to my heart donor for giving me yet another chance at life.
I wrote this book for those still out there whose lives have truly become unmanageable... I know what that is and I know how it feels. I also wrote it for those languishing in bed in a hospital environment. I know the loneliness and frustration of how that feels as well. I wrote it for you... I wrote it for all of us.
Like you, I've had my share of challenges. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly, and my response was to immediately hide from reality. I found soothing, escapist bliss in a beer bottle and cocaine vial; they were my passion, and I pledged irrevocable devotion to both.
The slide into the abyss was ugly and I finally sought help because there was nowhere else to go; I had run out of options. Today, my sobriety is a grace. It humbles me and led me to want to serve others as a Catholic priest. The day of my ordination, an old friend came to the mass and announced for all to hear, "Well, now I can say I've seen a miracle."
I believe he was right. I don't look at my priesthood through the eyes of a clerical collar, I look at it through the eyes of a former drunk and drug user who is still terrified about returning to the darkness.
For fifteen years I functioned as a sober priest before my heart gave out from the same heart disease that killed my dad. But another miracle came my way, and I was blessed to receive a new heart. During the most painful moment of their lives, having just lost a family member, an anonymous family gave permission to transplant the heart of their loved one into my body. I am deeply and profoundly grateful for such love for a total stranger.
I count my blessings every day, every hour, every minute. How many of us have, indeed, received a second, third, and fourth chance at life. I've been granted the blessing of faith, sobriety, a new heart, and a fulfilling ministry … much more than I deserve.
And so, I offer this book as a testimony to what can happen when a confused,
bitter, and suffering young man opens his life and spirit, and allows
God and God's people to do for him what he simply could not do for himself.
Reviews and Accolades
About the Author
Father Joseph Bradley, 55, is a priest in residence at St. Gregory's
Catholic Church in San Mateo, CA. He's also a heart transplant survivor
who speaks frequently to audiences about his spiritual journey, counsels
other heart transplant patients and their families. He is also a frequent
speaker at parishes and Catholic schools, where he is known for thought-provoking
sermons on controversial topics ranging from his own mistakes and former
drug use, to immigration and the clergy abuse scandals.