When I was a young boy, a future colleague of mine, Father Patrick O’Connor, wrote an article “I Met a Miracle”. The miracle was middle-aged Jack Traynor, of Liverpool, England, who had experienced an instantaneous cure at Lourdes in 1923.
Father O’Connor and Jack Traynor met on a train in France in 1937, when they were both returning from Lourdes. They spent several hours together on the journey, and Father O’Connor was able to get the story of Jack Traynor’s miracle in his own words.
In 1914 Jack Traynor was a young married man in Liverpool. As a Royal Navy reservist he was called to active duty at the beginning of World War One. He was sent to the Dardanelles in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably the fiercest front of the entire war.
Traynor was in the first wave to go ashore, and they met withering fire from the troops stationed on the heights above them. They waited several days, and finally when they tried to storm the heights Traynor was badly wounded by heavy machine-gun fire. He was hit in the chest, the head, the right shoulder, and the nerves of his right arm were shredded.
He was taken to Egypt for treatment, and several efforts were made to restore the nerves of his right arm. Finally the surgeon recommended that the arm be amputated, but Traynor refused. There was an inch-long opening in his skull which they covered with a metal plate to protect his brain.
Both his legs were partially paralyzed, and he began to suffer epileptic seizures as often as three times a day. He was repatriated to England where the Ministry of Defense certified him as totally disabled, and put him on full disabled pension. They also provided him with a wheel-chair.
He remained like that for the next eight years. His day consisted in being lifted from his bed to the wheel-chair in the morning, and from the wheel-chair back to bed in the evening.
Then in 1923 Liverpool organized a diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes. Traynor did not have the means to pay his way, so he and his wife sold what belongings they had to cover his expenses. The priests told him not to go, because he would die on the journey. But Traynor insisted.
When they reached Lourdes on July 22nd, he was ordered not take the baths, but again Traynor insisted. He had many body sores which had to be dressed every day.
The pilgrimage was due to leave Lourdes early on July 27th. In the afternoon of July 25th Traynor was taken to the baths. In the bath his paralyzed legs began to shake violently, and the brancardiers thought he was having an epileptic seizure. So they hurriedly dressed him, and rushed him back to Rosary Square for the blessing of the sick.
Traynor himself relates that when the Archbishop blessed him and moved on to the next person, he felt his right arm shake, and suddenly he was able to make the sign of the Cross with the arm that had been dead for eight years. He tried to get up, but the brancardiers saw him, and got the doctors to inject him. They thought he just imagined he could walk.
They brought him back to the hospital bed, and gave him another injection to help him sleep. He woke up several times during the night, always convinced that he was cured, and able to walk.
At daybreak he quietly got out of bed, slipped past his guards, and ran barefoot in his night clothes to throw himself on his knees at the grotto to thank his heavenly Mother for his cure. The three doctors who had certified him as totally disabled looked on in amazement.
Jack Traynor returned to Liverpool a new man. He said that his heavenly Mother not only healed him, but also helped him to become self-supporting. He started a haulage business, and soon had several people working for him.
He lived a healthy working life for the next 20 years, until his heavenly Father called him home on December 7, 1943.
The following year I met my new colleague Father Patrick O’Connor, when I entered the missionary Society of Saint Columban.