I wrote this as a memory of Father Michael for my parish bulletin. Editing there changed its meaning, so this is the real thing!
I corresponded with Father Michael by email beginning in May, 2012. I had some personal issues I needed to discuss with someone holy-and Father Michael surely was the man. In order to lay the groundwork for some of these, I first wrote several long emails to Father Michael.One of the long emails was about an NDE-like experience I had during the birth of my oldest son. Father Michael wrote back to me :
That is an absolutely beautiful story. I can only imagine the joy of being in such perfect peace and bliss. I long for that. For me these are simple affirmations of the certainty of heaven and the goodness of God. To meet three people of such significance in your life, a grandmother, a nun, and a sister whom you didn’t ever know. Whow!!
You have been blessed beyond measure. That is why my hope is that your son will come back ‘home’. I think our only joy is when we are peaceful in the Lord. Then everything else is manageable.
Do come to the sacristy. Tomorrow, I will be there but only for a few minutes. I am having b’fast with one of the elderly ladies.
Upon receiving Father’s note, I was immediately struck by his words “I long for that”. Throughout his ‘malady’, and even before, when his sickness seemed just like stomach trouble, I often thought about what Father Michael really wanted. I often felt-and dreaded- that Father Michael was sooooo good, (though not perfect!) that the Lord would surely give him what he longed for.
For me, this awareness of Father Michael’s yearning, gave the suffering, forbearance, courage and faith of his cancer journey such meaning. Praying for him, I struggled often in trying to balance my selfish desire for his ‘complete healing’ with the knowledge that Heaven was what he truly wanted and so deserved. So often in these past months I have remembered Father Michael’s ”I long for that”. And now it is his…