Christmas miracle came early for Brooklyn priest told he would never walk again

BY NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 3:04 PM
Updated: Tuesday, December 23, 2014, 3:04 PM
On the day his life was turned upside down, the Rev. John Murray was taking a leisurely stroll along a Jersey Shore boardwalk.It was a walk the Brooklyn-born priest had taken hundreds of times before. But this time, he lost his footing and smashed his head against a railing — shattering two vertebrae and leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.“You should expect no voluntary movement for the rest of your life,” doctors told Murray.

Now, four years later, the 66-year-old cleric is praising the healing powers of prayer after regaining use of his legs.

“I consider it a miracle,” Murray told the Daily News.

Murray’s miraculous journey began on the picturesque boardwalk in Long Branch on Aug. 27, 2010.

As soon as he hit the ground following his tumble, Murray knew he was severely injured.

He was still conscious but couldn’t feel his lower body.

Murray was eventually transferred to the Kessler Institute in West Orange, one of the premier clinics for treating spinal injuries.

It was there that he was told he would never walk again.

“It was the most depressing day of my life,” said Murray, who is currently assigned to the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park.

“Imagine being told that…But God had nothing to do with it. It was an accident. God didn’t want it to happen, but slowly, the miracle happened.”

The Rev. John Murray was a traveling preacher before the accident four years ago that left him paralyzed. He now celebrates mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
JEFF BACHNER/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWSThe Rev. John Murray was a traveling preacher before the accident four years ago that left him paralyzed. He now celebrates mass at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

After a few months at Kessler, Murray was transferred to the Stella Maris Nursing Home in Timonium, Maryland.

He was doing intensive physical therapy — two hours a day with a specialist and extra rehabilitation exercises on his own.

The day after Thanksgiving, out of the blue Murray felt a twitch in his left foot.

“I thought it was a spasm at first, but then I started going like this,” he said, tapping his left foot.

“It was very emotional for me. But a miracle is not magic. In response to my prayers comes god’s grace.

“I asked and received the Holy Spirit,” he added. “The Holy Spirit brings with it power and grace, and grace is the key. I’m not totally passive, I have to cooperate with the graces.”

In April of the following year, aided by a troupe of physical therapists, Murray took his first few steps inside parallel bars.

Murray’s legs kept growing stronger. So much so that in July 2012, he walked into the Kessler Institute with the help of a walker.

“They were just astonished,” Murray said.

A priest with the Redemptorist order of the Catholic Church for more than 40 years, Murray spent much of his time as a traveling preacher before his accident.

“I sensed a call; that’s how it all begins,” Murray said.

The Rev. John Murray of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Sunset Park, paraplegic for a year, believes he was healed through the power of prayer.
JEFF BACHNER/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

The Rev. John Murray of Our Lady of Perpetual Help church in Sunset Park, paraplegic for a year, believes he was healed through the power of prayer.

“Now, I’m a special model of God’s graces.”

He celebrates mass several times a week at the Sunset Park church, a couple of blocks away from where he was born.

The church is set up for assisted living, but Murray’s mobility is better than many others residing there.

He gets around using a mix of crutches, a walker and occasionally a wheelchair. “I’m pretty independent compared to the others,” Murray said.

The resilient priest performs physical therapy several times a week and remains hopeful that he’ll continue to progress. “I’m still recouping,” Murray said.

The doctors thought I wouldn’t be able to move again. Now look how far I’ve come. I take it one day at a time.”

For Christmas, Murray is planning to travel to West Milford, N.J., to spend time with his family.

As always, he’ll be thanking the heavens for his remarkable turnaround.

“Prayer is powerless. It’s God’s graces that comes of prayer that are powerful,” Murray said.

“I have a deeper faith and a deeper appreciation of God’s grace. He is constantly bombarding us with his gifts…It’s not all God’s grace, it’s God’s grace that begins it all.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Daily News 

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Author: sabrinacaserta

Sabrina Caserta, born and bred in Bronx, New York, is a freelance reporter whose work has appeared in the New York Daily News and Street Sense- a homeless-run street paper located in the District. As a member of Roger Williams University’s class of 2016, Sabrina studied Journalism and Political Science. This fueled her passion for social justice reporting, including issues of homelessness, institutionalized racism, poverty, education and the environment. She also served as the Project Director of the nation-brand initiative, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, and as a Resident Assistant for three years. As an avid reader, health enthusiast and travel addict, Sabrina enjoys yoga, cooking and writing in her spare time. She aspires to one day be an investigative journalist and travel the world. Twitter: @sabrinacaserta Email: sabcaserta AT gmail DOT com

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