WHO AM I THAT NEEDS HEALING?
Excerpt from Healed Through Cancer and Other Adversities by James Littleton
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“I and the children whom Yahweh has given me are signs and
portents in Israel from Yahweh Sabaoth who dwells on Mount
Zion” (Isaiah 8:18, jb).
As I write this portion in March 2011, I am fifty-two years old.
I have been married to my wonderful bride, Kathleen, for twentyseven
years. God blessed us with nineteen children through no
merit of our own. Our living children, aged twenty-five to five,
are: Shannon Rose, Tara Kathleen, Grace Ellen, Colleen Anne,
Deirdre Marie, Bridget Jane, Shane Francis, Fiona Mary, Maura
Therese, Clare Margaret, Patrick Michael, Mairead Siobhan,
Brighde Rosemarie, Shealagh Maeve; and our miscarried and still
born children are: Maximilian Mary, Theresa Gerard, James Paul,
Frances Xavier, and Joseph Faustina.
I grew up in the middle class in a fine family on the South Side
of Chicago. I was raised Catholic but did not practice my faith
very well. By the time I reached age thirteen I began to live a very
sinful and dissolute life. You could perhaps find me on weekends
at 1:00 a.m. walking down Western Avenue with a cigarette
dangling from my mouth and a bottle of wine tucked under my
coat, drunk as can be. This was not my wonderful parents’ fault, by
the way. I was entirely uncontrollable.
James M. Littleton
As I grew, I was a hedonist, totally self-centered, mean, cruel,
and getting in all sorts of trouble—most of which I never got
I was a regular at a local bar at about age sixteen. As a teenager
and young man I got drunk practically every night or would at
least drink to excess. There were many sins in my life. I certainly
broke every commandment. I did not murder anyone, so I thought
I was better than I was, although in actual fact I did break the
fifth commandment, “You shall not kill” (Exodus 20:13), by
endangering myself and others often with my behavior.
I eventually met Kathleen in my early twenties, a miracle of
miracles. We were married in 1983. I had no formal education past
high school. She was beautiful and was finishing up law school. This
was only possible by the grace of God’s most perfect providence.
When I had met Kathleen I was at a party at the University of
Illinois at Champaign. I was a dock worker at UPS. I had gone to
the U of I just for the party as I did not attend the university. I saw
Kathleen across the room and experienced an amazing moment
of grace where I knew with certainty that we were going to be
married. I could not explain this at the time, but I now see this
as a movement of the Holy Spirit. I introduced myself to her and
told her that she was going to be my bride. This, of course, initially
made her think I was crazy. But I pursued her for a couple of
years and eventually, by God’s grace, won her over, as can now be
attested to by the existence of our nineteen children.
To make a long story short, we regrettably started off our
marriage contracepting, which is contrary to the Catholic Church’s
profound teaching regarding openness to life. After a year or two,
Kathleen was moved to stop taking the Pill. We quickly conceived
our first child, Shannon Rose.
At this point in my life most people would have considered
me a good family man, although I was still drinking too much
and was a major sinner in numerous ways. Then in 1991 when
we had five children, I had a major conversion to the fullness of
Healed through Cancer
the Catholic faith. After this conversion I was healed in many
ways from my sinfulness, though I still struggle with many faults
as my conversion continues. By the grace of God I left the heavy
drinking behind many years ago.
My conversion happened when there was a report of the Blessed
Virgin Mary appearing in Hillside, a suburb of Chicago, at Queen
of HeavenCemetery. I packed up Kathleen and the kids in the car
and went there with the purpose of looking for signs more than
any piety on my part. I did not see any provable miracles, though
there were some interesting signs. But I was moved powerfully by
the Holy Spirit. I was particularly influenced by the striking piety
of the people praying there. The Holy Spirit showered tremendous
graces on me through no merit of my own. I was being healed by
God through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and I
experienced a profound peace and the presence of God.
Someone handed me a holy card of the fifteen promises of
Mary to those who pray the rosary. I took this holy card and put it
on my dresser where I generally ignored it for about a year. Then
one day I decided to start praying the rosary. I could not recall
how to pray it, so I believe I went to a local Catholic gift shop
where I obtained a rosary and a pamphlet. I began by praying one
decade of the rosary per day, in other words, twelve short prayers
that take about three minutes to pray. I thought to myself that it
was hard to believe that any one could pray so much in one day—
three whole minutes!
Soon I was praying the entire rosary each day. In a short time
it occurred to me that Mass was probably offered at my parish
daily, which of course it was. One morning I went to Mass on a
weekday, which is not required of a Catholic like Sunday Mass,
though it is highly recommended to attend daily. At this Mass I
was once again overwhelmed by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I experienced God’s love and presence in a deep and powerful way,
with tears cascading uncontrollably down my face.
James M. Littleton
Soon I was going to Mass every day except Saturday, presuming
that God would know that I would need to sleep in on Saturdays.
That false reasoning quickly fell aside; I began attending Mass
on Saturday too. Soon I was moved by the Holy Spirit with an
understanding that if attendance at Holy Mass was the greatest
thing one could do for himself with infinite graces available for
the taking, how could I leave my children at home? So I began
to bring all of my children, except the ones in diapers, thereby
still falling short of what God wanted me to do. I reasoned that
certainly God would understand that I could not be bothered
changing babies’ diapers at Mass.
About eight years later Kathleen was moved to come to daily
Mass with us, and she has never missed a day since except when
in the hospital delivering babies. The day the baby came home she
resumed daily Mass attendance with us along with the new baby.
We have attended daily Mass as a complete family ever since—
all of us, from newborn to parents. Those of our children who
are away at college and such have continued the practice of daily
We began to pray daily as a family including the rosary and
Scripture. Our family also began to attend the Sacrament of
Reconciliation weekly, which has been a tremendous grace for
us. We embarked on attending Eucharistic adoration regularly
(praying before the Eucharist, truly Jesus’s Body, Blood Soul and
Divinity, exposed for adoration in the monstrance). This was all
God’s gift. All glory to Him!
Our children became very active in the Catholic groups in
the Church. Kathleen and I engaged in many forms of ministry
including spiritual direction for others, by God’s grace.
Who am I? I am an imperfect sinner, whose sins are as scarlet,
but who has been on a powerful road of conversion for the past
twenty years. (Why is it taking so long for me to be purified,
Lord?) I am exceedingly grateful to God for His inexhaustible
patience and mercy toward me. “Though your sins are like scarlet,
Healed through Cancer
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18, jb). By God’s grace, I am now
a man who puts God and His things first in my life. Second is my
wife, and third is my children. Work comes in fourth place and
ministry fifth, though I make room for all of these.
Believe me, if God can lead me, a major sinner, to conversion,
he can lead anyone!
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength,
and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his
service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I
could to injure and discredit the faith. Mercy, however, was
shown me, because until I became a believer I had been
acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me
with faith and with the love that is in Christ Jesus. Here
is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt:
that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.
I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been
shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me
the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all
the other people who later have to trust in him to come to
1 Timothy 1:12–17 (jb)
As I am sure would apply to most people with cancer, I never
expected to be suffering from leukemia. This is very difficult on a
human level; however, I know that it is encompassed in God’s will
where He is mysteriously bringing a tremendous good out of it for
me and for others who I pray and intercede for. Glory to God in
the highest! “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:14, jb)