We continuously lavish praise on athletes and celebrities that we often forget who the true heroes are. We applaud a singer’s performance or an athlete’s feat but never thank the everyday people who dedicate their lives to help others without fanfare and sometimes no appreciation. Teachers, paramedics, firemen, and police officers are the real heroes.
Today we have lost a true hero, an exemplary human being. Detective Steven McDonald who suffered a heart attack and has now passed away.
On July 12th, 1986, a young NYPD Detective was shot and paralyzed after being shot 3 times by a teen he stopped in Central Park. What was supposed to be the start of a normal life with his wife Patti Ann, who was 3 months pregnant, became a nightmare.
Steven McDonald however, is no ordinary person…his life through the power of his faith and family became a shining example of perseverance, love, and forgiveness. I urge you to read his beautiful story in these two great pieces:
The Power of Prayer
Recently before Christmas, I attended reconciliation services at my Parrish. I hadn’t confessed my sins in over 30 years and was naturally embarrassed. Father Tom spoke to me of grace and of the power of prayer. He even explained how difficult it can be for him sometimes to pray.
Then he told me of his friendship with Steven McDonald. Little did I know that Steven and his family actually live close to me and have attended my church. He said to me that recently, Steven came to speak to the children and provide words of encouragement.
Afterwards, the priest spoke to Steven and marveled how strong he had become over the years. Rangers fans who have been watching him speak during the Extra Awards Ceremony will also note that over the years, his ability to speak improved. What started as a few words at a time, became complete sentences. When father mentioned it, Steven replied, “I knew I would. I pray every day.”
What Father Wrote In The Bulletin
Father Tom wrote this in our bulletin before Christmas. It’s about Steven McDonald’s recent visit to the Parrish. Out of respect for my church and Steven McDonald’s family, I will not link or reveal the Church…it simply isn’t my place.
Detective Steven McDonald spoke to our Confirmation candidates on Wednesday night. He told them of being shot and severely wounded nearly thirty years ago by a teenager in Central Park. He told them of nearly dying but wanting to live. He spoke with gratitude for those who saved his life. Many of us know his story.
His story of being shot was weaved into a larger story, the story of his faith, his relationship to God, his love for the Eucharist, his love for the Blessed Mother, his love for prayer. His listeners greatly respect Steven’s story.
I have heard Steven speak many times, the first time more than 20 years ago at my first parish, Holy Family, Hicksville. I have celebrated Mass for Steven in his home. Over these past twenty years I have seen Steven grow stronger. His voice is now strong and clear. His breathing on the ventilator seems more rhythmic. I marvel at his continued strength and stamina. He has travelled the world, Lourdes, the Holy Land, and so many other places. His injuries have not dissuaded him from doing so much. His story of forgiveness is profound.
Steven speaks of the day, thirty years ago, of his son Conor’s Baptism as a very significant day. Steven recounts his wife Patti Ann telling others at the Baptism that Steven was grateful to be alive, grateful to be part of the NYPD and wanting to forgive his shooter. Now, Steven is strong enough to recount the story himself.
Now, what does Steven’s story have to do with God in my sleep. After his talk I went with Steven to his van and we chatted privately. I remarked about his increased strength these past thirty years. He immediately responded, “Father, what would you expect?” He then spoke of the many good people in his life and he spoke of how he prays. He prays a lot. He prays in his van. He prays the rosary. He attends Mass. He asked me for my blessing. He prays at every opportunity. He loves the Rangers; he might pray for them! Along with the loving care he has received, Steven’s faith and prayer have strengthened him, empowered him, healed him.
Our personal conversation was quick and Steven went home to Malverne. I went to bed. I only realized in the middle of the night the real power of Steven’s message. His faith and his prayer are profound. He has formed such a close relationship with Jesus and Mary. He speaks of a friendship with St. Bernadette of Lourdes. It was in the sleep of night that God helped me to realize the power and depth of prayer in this man’s life.
What Steven McDonald Means to Me
Ever since I can remember, Steven McDonald has been part of what it means to be a Rangers fan. The Rangers started the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award in his honor after the 1987-88 season. His annual speech at the end of the year is uplifting and motivational.
Steven McDonald is as much a part of the fabric of the Rangers as is Sam Rosen saying, “It’s a Power Play Goal!” or John Amirante singing the National Anthem. While the award will carry on, he will be sorely missed.
We all know that things change. His passing however should only increase the importance and prestige of that award. Now as we learn more about his life in service to his faith, we understand what the “extra effort” really stood for.
It’s not just about competing hard and giving everything you got…it’s about going the extra mile emotionally and spiritually. It’s about giving more to your fellow man. It’s about helping those in need. And it’s about forgiving those who have hurt you, even if what they did was unforgivable.
Rest In Peace, Your Service Is Complete
cover photo courtesy of Drake