Kevin Wells '86 read from his book 'Burst: A Story of God's Grace When Life Fall Apart' before a nice crowd the other night in our Alumni Lounge. Kevin will be interviewed tonight at 5pm on the Al Kresta Show on National Catholic Radio (1160 AM in DC).
Dr. Daniel McMahon '76, Principal, wrote this review of Kevin's book, which he read before introducing Kevin the other night:
Burst: A Story of God’s Grace When Life Falls Apart
By Kevin Wells
146pp, Servant Books $11.00
Disclaimer: I was fortunate to teach Kevin Wells when he was a student at DeMatha. I wish I could take credit for contributing to his skill, his passion, and his faith—but I can’t.
Kevin Wells’ Burst: A Story of God’s Grace When Life Falls Apart fits comfortably on the shelf alongside other works of spiritual autobiography, but its great strength is in its contribution to the literature that investigates the purpose of human suffering and our response to suffering—both in ourselves and in others. In brisk, plain prose Wells begins his story with the evening where he almost lost his life as blood began leaking into his cerebellum. Those frightening moments of confusion and pain, the immediate response of his wife Krista and assorted medical personnel and the notification of his extended family are rendered straightforwardly with an expert reporter’s attention to detail. Like all good reporters, Wells has sunk the hook and he circles back to tell his life’s story to that point—and then to go from that frightening night to the present day.
Unlike so many rite-of-passage stories wherein characters have a confrontation with death or face some sort of trial that causes them to fundamentally change their lives, Wells’ story is of a life of remarkable consistency and steadiness, built on a foundation as strong and secure as the masonry work done by his family. Wells recounts the importance that prayer plays in his life at all the stops, not just when the going is easy or when life is hard. By weaving prayer in to the fabric of his life Wells is, perhaps, uniquely qualified to face trials that might break another person.
Using the significant events in his life as bricks in the edifice of his narrative, Wells conveys his parents’ wonderful influence, the finding of friends and jobs, his courtship and marriage to Krista, their subsequent problems conceiving children, the joys and tribulations of adoption, and the wonders of parenthood. Wells’ rendering of his life-long admiration for his uncle, the great priest Monsignor Tommy Wells, is particularly touching. In face of Kevin’s and Krista’s own pain they are devastated by the news of Msgr. Wells’ horrific murder and they find not so much that their faith is tested as that their faith is a lodestone keeping them on a path of discernment that has them question at all points how they might best fit their lives to God’s plan—not bend God’s plan to fit their lives. This is considerably more difficult than it sounds, for one has to be willing to listen for the voice of God whispering for our attention amidst the cacophony of modern life and our own desires.
We live in an age that does its best to demystify the miraculous and in some ways miracles are always conditional. They are events that we cannot explain away given our knowledge. In this case, Wells’ healing is a miracle—his brain heals itself in a way no medical professional could predict or explain. Wells’ good friend and the best friend to his uncle, Fr. Stack, has a healing ministry and comes to pray over him. And countless others from all the communities that he and Krista touched are also praying for him—and Kevin is healed. But perhaps few people have done so much to deserve—if it can be phrased that way—a miracle. Throughout his life Wells has sought to be a faithful servant to God and to “love his neighbor as himself.”
Despite its deep spirituality, Burst is not somber or pedantic or preachy. It is leavened with amusing anecdotes that range from the vicissitudes of rooting for favorite baseball teams and interviewing childhood heroes to parental gaffes such as failing to tell your wife where you are going and engaging in too much horse-play with your kids when you are not well enough to do so—mostly because their sense of play is so contagious that you need to play with them.
In a particularly lovely passage Wells goes to Lourdes and, by digging deeply and with ruthless honesty into his own life, he manages to find connections to others, to realize in the words of another author that “brotherhood begins in shared pain.” The lack of self-pity displayed by several profoundly damaged people is inspirational to Kevin who refuses to ask “Why me?” in response to the God’s request that he carry his particular cross. As Kevin is inspired by his fellow travelers at Lourdes, we are inspired by him. Wells’ quiet insight is that all of us are broken in some way, that we need each other and that, if we are candid, hopeful, faithful, inquisitive, caring, and loving that we’ll discover many miracles in our lives—not the least of which is to render Jesus incarnate as we gather in His name.
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