Chef John Folse is pictured at the Marian shrine of Fatima. CNS photo/courtesy John Folse

Chef finds recipe for cure in Fatima trip

By  Bonny Van, Catholic News Service
  • June 6, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When meeting Louisiana chef John Folse, one immediately learns he is a man who believes in his Catholic faith.

Watching him walk, one also learns he’s a man who believes in miracles.

For 20 years, Folse walked with a limp in his left leg, the result of a debilitating injury to the calcaneus, or heel bone, in his left foot.

The incident happened on a Sunday afternoon when he fell off a ladder at home, crushing his ankle on the hardwood floor.

The following day, a doctor informed him of the extent of his injuries, explaining that of the “two worst breaks in the human body,” the back and the calcaneus, Folse had one of them.

According to Folse, the doctor said “the only way we can put it back together is with steel,” resulting in painful walking for the rest of his life.

“(The doctor) was right about that,” said Folse, who must stand for hours working in the kitchen or catering events at his properties or walking through his food company’s 100,000-square-foot warehouse. “So I’ve always suffered pain a lot with it, but you just get used to it and then you just live with it.”

Then last year, Folse, who always dreamed of walking the Way of St. James, or El Camino de Santiago, was encouraged to join a co-worker and her friend who were already planning to make the trek in November. 

The plan, according to Folse, was for him to walk as long as he could each day and to catch up with his companions by vehicle if needed. Weeks before the excursion, Folse said he received a call from a close friend in Baton Rouge, Sr. Dulce Maria, a Mercedarian Sister of the Blessed Sacrament. 

She told him that the Blessed Mother had a gift for him in Fatima but that he had to pick it up in person. Filled with doubt about his ability to both complete the walk in Spain and travel to Portugal, Folse said he quickly dismissed the idea.

Later, though, while studying the map of the places the pilgrims would visit, Folse said he realized that the final portion of the planned 118-kilometre walk, which ends at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, was only a three-hour drive from Fatima.

“I can’t even tell you the emotion that ran through my veins because I’m thinking to myself, ‘You know, this is impossible that I’m going to be doing this walk and here’s Fatima right here and Sister (Dulce) doesn’t know anything about my walk,’ ” he recalled.

Throughout the trek, Folse said, he did not focus on the pain in his foot. His group reached the end of the Camino and went on to Fatima, participating in the usual activities for the faithful, including a visit to “the apparition tree where the Blessed Mother had appeared” to the three children, Lucia Santos and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco Marto. Folse said during a visit to the home of the Marto children “the Blessed Mother gave me a special gift.”

“I saw a sign that said basement kitchen,” Folse recalled. “So, I walked down there and it’s kind of dark and there’s no windows there and I’m sitting on a little bench where his father scraped the pigs for the boucheries and in the picture, there is a light that looks like it’s from the sun and I know it’s the Blessed Mother.”

When the excursion to Fatima was complete, Folse and his travel companions stopped at a gas station on the way out of town, and it’s a moment he’ll never forget.

“I started walking across the cement to the store and I said, ‘My God! I have no pain in my foot at all!’ ” Folse stated.

Turning to his companions, he showed off the movement in his previously stiff left foot. Then, Folse said he did something he hadn’t done in decades — run.

“Then when I’m running around that service station with this foot, wide open and no problems with it anymore, I’m thinking to myself how many times you doubt (like), ‘Eh, Blessed Mother’s not calling me,’ ” he said.

“There are miracles in your life all the time, you just have to be faithful,” Folse said. “Most people don’t believe in miracles. Let me tell you what, you should because everything you’re fighting in your life, you’re a prayer away from solving that problem.

“You just have to keep that faith and know that that prayer is going to be answered. And sometimes it’s answered by not being answered. So you understand that part of it, too.”

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