"To be honest, at this point only two things interest me: my oncologist's advice and if you can teach me to pray."
So began a two-year correspondence between a medical doctor who became a priest, Benedictine monk, and now prior of Montserrat—the monastery that is a spiritual, cultural, historical, and environmental icon in Catalonia—and an accomplished and beloved cardiologist, scientist, mentor, daughter, sister, wife, mother, and friend with a newly diagnosed lung tumor. In this profoundly honest book, two spiritual seekers on two different life-paths walk together through the valley of the shadow of death, praying the psalms in joy and anguish, doubt and praise.
The letters and conversations shared between Magda and Fr. Ignasi offer deep and poignant insights into the very human—and quotidian—dynamics of the life-and-death journey we all face.
Magda Heras was born in Terrassa, Catalonia (Spain), and never lived far from the city of her youth-except as a visiting cardiology researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City-but she eagerly traveled the world, often with her husband and daughter.
Ignasi Fossas, OSB, was born near Barcelona, where he received his medical degree. He is a Benedictine monk, holds a degree from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy in Rome, and studied management at IESE School of Business (Barcelona campus). He has served as prior of the monastery at Montserrat since 2011.
Elaine M. Lilly, PhD, is a freelance academic editor. Her business, Writer's First Aid, provides prepublication support for scientific/medical researchers whose first language is not English (mainly Catalan or Spanish). Her deep love for Magda and her extended family, for Catalonia (her husband's homeland), and for the Catalan language led her to translate this book into English.
"This book, while written in simple conversation, has a powerful message for all of us. Death comes in different ways but comes unavoidably to everyone. The dialogue between a Benedictine priest and an accomplished medical doctor reveals the tangle of emotions that emerge as the reality of death inexorably draws near. The book is not only enlightening but certainly worth a second reading."
Irene Nowell, OSB, author of Wisdom: The Good Life
"This poignant and emotional correspondence witnesses to the mutual accompaniment of two contemporary medical scientists towards deeper prayer. The dialogue demonstrates and charters how the prayer of the psalms, especially in the face of life-challenging situation, can empower us to live fully in this world."
"What a beautiful book this is—one about dying, yes, but at least equally about living well, with a fully-human spirit open to deepening friendship, to the development of prayer life (especially through the medium of the Psalms) and to appreciation of the created world. Magda and Ignasi's correspondence is never saccharine or self-pitying; it acknowledges difficulties both spiritual and material. Yet it ultimately demonstrates—with instruction and reflection, questioning, lyricism, humor, and matter-of-fact description of the progress of cancer—how alive we can be, how much we can give each other even as life wanes. I wish I'd had this book when my husband was dying a decade and a half ago; I'm certainly going to share it with my hospice patients."
Susan H. Swetnam, author of In the Mystery's Shadow: Reflections on Caring for the Elderly and Dying
"One of life's great challenges is to walk genuinely through the valley of the shadow of death with another human being, maintaining the mystery, not taking refuge behind easy, stock answers. This lovely book tells a story of when it happened-through unfailing relationships and through learning to pray the Psalms. Delicate, sensitive, and highly insightful."
The Reverend Dr. James O. Chatham, Pastor, Presbyterian Church (USA)
"This riveting book documents the journey of an internationally-renowned cardiologist and scientist in her fight against cancer. An adventurous read, the book makes the reader eager to find out the progress and outcome of treatment. Under the guidance of a monk, author Magda Heras navigated the book of Psalms for prayer and inspiration in each event she faced on her journey. Equipped with her strong faith and personal relationship with the Lord, Heras feared no evil, even as she walked through the darkest valleys of life. Her witness in connecting faith and science reminds us intellectuals to ponder the ever-important life questions, `What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?'"
Dr. Kai-Nan An, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine
“A moving account of a brave woman’s passage to eternal life.”
Spirit & Life
"This volume serves not only as a journal of the conversation but also as a resource for personal prayer. Illustrated throughout with pictures of Magda during those two years, this unique work will be welcomed not only by those who struggle with life–threatening illnesses but also by their loved ones and caregivers."
The Bible Today
"Even Though I Walk captures the magnificent humanity and steadfast courage of Dr. Magda Heras. Through her spiritual pilgrimage with the increasing reality of a dwindling number of days in this life, Magda's writings inspire the most doubting skeptic. Knowing her in health was a joy and privilege but sharing her intimate ponderings as she approached death is a munificent treasure. This book should have special meaning to those who deny the intersection of faith and science or those who search in vain for a `cat with five feet.'"
Michael B. Wood, MD, Emeritus President and CEO, Mayo Clinic
"Even Though I Walk sets new criteria for spiritual direction: The Psalms are the revelatory text. This book breaks new ground for cancer treatment and care."
Mary Margaret Funk, OSB, author of Renouncing Violence: Practice from the Monastic Tradition