The Four Gifts
How One Priest Received a Second, Third, and Fourth Chance at Life
By Father Joseph Bradley
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.
~ God Bless, Fr. Joe
About the Author
Father Joseph Bradley
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.