A Calming Grace

A Certain PresenceIn the midst of fight­ing his ‘mal­a­dy’, Father Michael was think­ing about chang­ing his future min­istry. He was so impressed by the nurs­es, tech­ni­cians, clerks, doc­tors-all of the hos­pi­tal work­ers he dealt with on a reg­u­lar basis. He decid­ed that, if he were healed, he want­ed a hos­pi­tal min­istry. Hav­ing worked at Loy­ola Med­ical Cen­ter myself for sev­en years, I encour­aged him. I thought how won­der­ful it would have been to have the pres­ence of a Father Michael avail­able-not just for patients, but staff too.

And this is what he was think­ing of, more of being with staff for their needs , but also assist­ing at times with the min­istry to patients. So many times, in the course of patient care, the entire team would be so stressed and some sit­u­a­tions were so volatile and tax­ing. It would have been nice to have the sweet­ness of a Father Michael there to con­fide in or even just to vent-or again , be with, his pres­ence.

So my moth­er is in the hos­pi­tal. It’s a small­er local one where Father Michael spent much time vis­it­ing sick parish­ioners from St Vin­cent Fer­rer. And I almost feel like he’s still around in spir­it. There’s just some­thing very calm­ing there and it is com­fort­ing and feels so com­fort­able- like Father M.  Hon­est­ly, I noticed it right away. Maybe he is just grac­ing the place with his pres­ence again.I’m sure many of the per­son­nel were well acquaint­ed with Father Michael and remem­ber him. When things set­tle down, I’ll con­sid­er ask­ing the nurs­es and aides and see if they’d like to con­tribute to the sto­ries on this blog. I’ll bet they’d have some very mem­o­rable thoughts to share.

My moth­er had her surgery and was in and out of sleep the first day, recovering.Funny thing, she awoke from one of her naps and grog­gi­ly said. “Guess who I saw ? I saw Father Michael!”. Well, she had nev­er met him, but she has seen pic­tures. So I asked “What was he doing?” She said “Oh ‚we were con­vers­ing, he and I, and a young woman. I don’t remem­ber what we talked about, but he let me know he was Father Michael.” With my hangup on Father Michael’s celes­tial cler­i­cal attire prompt­ing me , I asked “What was he wear­ing?” My moth­er said “Oh, some­thing gray”. Kind of won­der about that.…. a fad­ed cappa?.…interesting.

I can see Father Michael want­i­ng to help oth­ers, as always. I don’t doubt that he’d want to con­tin­ue to use his peace­ful pres­ence among sick peo­ple. No sur­prise there. I sure do miss him.

Folks can talk for­ev­er (myself includ­ed) about the gift that Father Michael was. Some go on about how he gave us the best exam­ple and how we should emu­late him-as though doing that will some­how res­ur­rect him in us . No, we can’t. No one can be him. No one can take his place. We can try to be like him, but our gift will be dif­fer­ent-unique, lov­ing, but total­ly dif­fer­ent. We can only be our best selves and even then, we’ll nev­er be Father Michael. We all were so for­tu­nate to have shared his ‘shin­ing time’. I think that is why, for now, we still need to remem­ber and appre­ci­ate him.

I once shared a love­ly arti­cle writ­ten by Katie Peter­son Warn­er with Father Michael. I brought it to his atten­tion because I thought it per­fect­ly explained how all the things he did as our priest were undoubt­ed­ly won­der­ful. But to me, the most sig­nif­i­cant thing was what he was,


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