Please offer a prayer for me through the intercession of the Servant of God, Fr. Thomas Frederick Price. Father Price was born in Wilmington, North Carolina in 1860. He studied at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained to the priesthood in 1886 (He was North Carolina's first native born priest). Within a few years of ordination, Father Price, infused with a zeal for evangelism, took the teachings of the Catholic Church statewide. In 1899, he established an orphanage near Raleigh, and three years later began a preparatory school to train men for the North Carolina missions. In 1908, he began writing the Blessed Virgin Mary a daily letter, sharing with her the challenges and joys he encountered that day. In 1911, Father Price's vision of spreading Catholicism was moving beyond the border of North Carolina.
He joined with Father James A. Walsh in founding the American Catholic Foreign Mission Society, popularly known as Maryknoll. In 1918, Father Price accompanied the first three Maryknoll missionaries on their assignment to China. One year later, he died of a ruptured appendix. His heart was removed and buried in Nevers, France, near the body of St. Bernadette Soubirous, to whom he was extremely devoted.
Father price spent many years of his priesthood in Wilmington, NC, going from house to house preaching the Faith. In the process, he brought my great-great grandmother into the Catholic Church. For his zeal for the Faith and his excellent priestly example, I am very grateful.
During his transit to Maryland in order to enter the seminary, a forceful hurricane struck his steam ship, turning it on its side. Young Thomas Price, who could not swim, had no life preserver and was swept into the ocean. Miraculously, he survived. He never spoke of the experience, except on one occasion many years later to his friend and classmate, the future Cardinal William O’Connell, during an afternoon walk on the seminary grounds. Much later in his life (and after the death of Fr. Price), Cardinal O’Connell recalled the story:
“Bashfully, in a quiet but assured tone of voice, this young saint [Fr. Price] related the authentic story which thrilled me to the depths of my soul…. Keeping his head as best he could, with all his physical strength, above the furious waters, he cried again, ‘Christ Jesus, save meor I will perish.’ Like a flash the sky seemed to open, and out of a speck of blue came the clearest possible vision…Mary, the Mother of Christ, appeared before his eyes. Upon her face was a smile, and, gently stretching forth her hand, she pointed to a great floating plank, which had been washed overboard from the sinking ship. Strengthened superhumanly by the perfect confidence of safety, he gained the plank, pulled himself upon it.. feeling nothing and thinking now and then of the vision, which would always remain indelibly imprinted on his soul. He began the Litany of the Blessed Virgin, and as he said, ‘In my joy I almost sang it’” (John C. Murret, Tar Heel Apostle (New York: Longmans and Green, 1944), p. 16).
My good friend David Myers drew a picture (posted above) of this episode in Fr. Price's life when he first learned of my illness. As I face these dark times, may I also look to heaven and Our Blessed Mother for strength, just as Fr. Price did so many years ago.