D.C. Concert Staged to Assist Catholic Blogger Thomas Peters
Doctors have been amazed by his progress to date, since a devastating accident last month; but he still faces a long and difficult recovery.
WASHINGTON — More than 150 Washingtonians, many of them Catholic, attended a benefit concert on the roof of the Investment Building in Washington to support Thomas and Natalie Peters Wednesday night.
Just over one month ago, Peters was severely injured in a swimming accident that left him in critical condition, with a broken fifth cervical vertebra and additional damage to his neck and lungs.
Peters, 27, founded the American Papist blog in 2006. In 2010, the blog was picked up by Catholic Vote, where Peters writes about Catholic news and social issues, with a particular focus on marriage and pro-life causes. His Twitter account, @AmericanPapist, has almost 18,000 followers, and his American Papist Facebook page is “liked” by almost 10,000 people.
According to Catholic Vote, Peters was one of the American bloggers selected for the first-ever convention of bloggers at the Vatican. One of his final blogs before his injury highlighted the top 15 quotes from Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Lumen Fidei (Light of Faith).
Other recent posts included titles such as “Why we can’t let the media give Pelosi’s latest abortion outrage a pass,” “Obama, Francis and Umbrellas” and “How to debate marriage on MSNBC.”
Peters, the son of prominent canon lawyer Ed Peters, has also served as communications director for the National Organization for Marriage. In this capacity, he has been on a variety of different television and radio shows to defend traditional marriage to a wide range of audiences.
In the weeks since his accident, Peters has been through extensive surgeries and physical therapy, as he works to regain strength and mobility. According to a blog about his recovery process, doctors initially did not believe that Peters would live past a vegetative state when they examined his injuries. In addition to the injuries to his vertebra, Peters’ lungs had filled with water, and he was unable to breathe on his own.
As time has gone on, though, he has slowly regained the ability to breathe without the ventilator; he had a tracheotomy early on to give additional support for his lungs.
Peters’ wife, Natalie, to whom he has been married for just four months, has been spending her days and nights in a Baltimore hospital with Thomas.
Kate Bryan, who was a lead organizer of the fundraiser and is a close friend of the Peters family, has known the couple since their days at Ave Maria College. She knew Thomas and Natalie before they dated, and she talked to the crowd about this new challenge that the couple faces.
“When you get married, there are certain changes that you anticipate,” she said. “You anticipate new jobs, having children, but you never anticipate something like this. This is difficult.”
When asked how Thomas and Natalie are handling this unique challenge, Bryan told the Register that they are people of strong faith and are handling it better than many would. She added, “We keep joking that Natalie is putting all of us other girls to shame.”
Bryan, along with the help of close family friend Billy Newton, the Catholic Information Center and other supporters, organized the event as a way to help others help Thomas and Natalie.
Bryan said, “So many people have been looking for a way to help — with prayer, with help at the hospital, with money. We wanted to give people the opportunity to do what they can, and we are also here to celebrate Thom’s life.”
Mitch Boersma, the COO of the Catholic Information Center in Washington, echoed these thoughts. He said, “Thom and Natalie have been good friends of the CIC. They have been an inspiration for many years. We saw a need as folks asked, ‘How can we help?’ We had the venue and opportunity [to help].”
At the beginning of the program, Bryan and Newton addressed the crowd of roughly 150 people. Bryan began by providing an update on Peters’ health condition.
He had undergone extensive surgery to repair his vertebra Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
“I got a text from Natalie,” she said. “Tube is out. … CAT scan says that the hardware looks great. … Doctors are happy with the surgery.”
Newton said that Thom is in relatively good spirits. When Newton asked him if he wanted anything to read as he recovers, Thom requested Last Letters From the Towers by St. Thomas More. “He’s not taking a break,” Newton joked.
Newton also thanked the crowd “for standing for someone who, frankly, can’t stand.”
Christian musician Luke Spehar provided entertainment for the event. He drove more than 11 hours to get to Washington in time for the event. He told the Register that he had a concert scheduled in Washington already, but he wanted to get here early to do what he could to help out.
As Spehar played, attendees bid on silent-auction items such as wine baskets, restaurant gift cards and book collections. In addition to monetary donations, the Peters family is asking for hotel points, frequent flyer miles and food donations for the Peters family. Peters’ family lives in Michigan, and it is difficult and expensive for them to travel to Washington, so they are hoping that donors can help them visit more frequently. Many attendees did so. According to the family's blog, the benefit concert raised more than $4,000.
Power of Prayer
For now, it is unclear what Peters’ path to recovery will look like. Many conservatives and Catholics are eager to have him back.
“We prayed, ‘God please don’t take him,’” one friend said. “He is such a good voice for life, marriage and the Church. We need him.”
Those who have visited Peters in the hospital are inspired by what they have seen during the early parts of his recovery. According to the recovery blog, one doctor could not believe the rate at which Thomas regained consciousness, and nurses are routinely impressed by his progress in physical therapy.
Doctors have noted how inspiring it is to see the faith of the Peters family and their close friends. In an Aug. 13 blog entry, "Surgery NOW + a Miraculous Story," Natalie recounted that the doctor — who had attended to Thomas since the first night he was rushed to the hospital in critical condition — stopped by his room last Sunday for a final visit before returning to his regular duties at another hospital.
“He had a gift and a card for Thomas, and he wanted to say good-bye. Thomas was asleep, and rather than waking him, Dr. A. stayed and talked with me,” Natalie wrote. “He said he wanted to personally encourage Thomas of how truly remarkable his recovery up to this point has been; he said, in fact, it's miraculous.”
“There’s something powerful going on in that room,” friend Kate Bryan told the crowd at the Aug. 14 concert. “And it is because of prayer and because of the Masses that have been said in that room.”
Chris Crawford writes from Washington.
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