Father Michael loved his ladies. These fortunate souls were usually home-bound and received regular visits from Father M. Some of them were quite elderly-in their nineties and even over a hundred years old. He loved bringing them Holy Eucharist and visiting with them. He admitted to being totally fascinated with their life stories and wise perspectives. Father Michael often mentioned how older people showed openly how their souls were preparing to meet God. He told me that the visits truly inspired awe in him. He approached them with reverence , respect and humor.
Father Michael had his own way of inspiring awe , to be sure. Many times I heard him say “And how are you today, my dearest, dearest darling?” as he answered his calls or greeted some ladies after Mass. Father Michael was a preacher to his very core. And I witnessed that charism spill over at times into regular conversation and everyday etiquette. A few words from Father Michael could easily be God’s grace to a needy soul. He just knew the right thing to say, or to make the simple meaningful gesture…..always something framed with love.
I once challenged Father Michael about the “dearest darling” line. I said it kind of sounded like his Canadian version of Auntie Mame. Well, that didn’t change anything in his view; it stayed a VERY Father Michael turn of phrase. And he used it often-even on me! I have to admit that being addressed directly like that had its warmth and charm . Those ladies were so blessed!
Father Michael continued the visits to his ladies,as best he could, throughout his illness. Calling on the lady friends while he fought his cancer was priestly -and an effortful, holy thing. He cherished bringing them the Eucharist. He relished their conversations. Father Michael was always a priest, first and foremost. Here is a text Father M sent me in February, about a month before he died:
“I had a good nite! Thank God! I was tired after doing the funeral of my 99 year old girlfriend. She and I were supposed to get together this Thursday since we hadn’t seen each other since Xmas. Hope you are rested as well. My objective today is to go for a walk.”
Second nature to Father M; no big deal. Those dearest darlings were surely blessed. Yet they walked meaningfully with Father Michael in his illness, and so blessed him.