It Takes a Great Heart

Entrance to Giverny under the Snow/MonetThis cold and snowy weath­er is rem­i­nis­cent of last year in Chica­go. I do think we had a lot more snow last year though. I vis­it­ed Father Michael and I got to be pret­ty good at par­al­lel park­ing in Pilsen, tak­ing my chances and cross­ing my fin­gers as I maneu­vered into the snow-banked spaces. I almost always parked two to three blocks away from St. Pius. There was always car­pool traf­fic for schools and many park­ing spaces being held by chairs or oth­er objects.

I’d call Father M (he want­ed to know when I’d arrived) and he’d say “Are you here? Where are you parked? I don’t see your car”. Often he’d say“I’m look­ing out on Ash­land and there is an open spot right across from me.Why don’t you just dri­ve over and grab it”. Now knew by the time I got over there, the space would be tak­en and I’d be out of luck. Father Michael didn’t under­stand my reluc­tance to try; he was a man of faith, after all. The Lord takes care of His spe­cial­ly beloved-His priests -and avail­able park­ing just might be a giv­en for them. But the rest of us.…no.

Father Michael liked to take short walks when he was feel­ing more ener­gized. I was priv­i­leged a few times to have him walk me to my car after my vis­its. Then I would dri­ve him back to St Pius and he would be so pleased that he had ‘exer­cised’. Such a sim­ple thing to do to make his day!

I remem­ber one icy ‚windy day when Father and I decid­ed to walk to my car. When we reached it, Father wait­ed on the side­walk as I pulled the car away from the piled snow to allow the pas­sen­ger door to open. It took a minute or two; some rock­ing, it was so slip­pery. I almost pan­icked as I looked over at the curb. Poor Father M stood there shak­ing so vis­i­bly as the wind whipped around his slight frame. He looked like he was going to cry. When he was final­ly able to get in the car, he went from not being able to talk because of his shiv­er­ing-to yelling at me for me being so slow. I felt so bad. I had under­es­ti­mat­ed the wind chill and the sun was going down, too. It was my bad judg­ment that Father Michael would be ok for the walk.

Father Michael was always cold. Even when he was well and tem­per­a­tures mild, Father M always wore a sweater! He used to joke about it. So often in his last year, he spoke of the cold. He dread­ed going out in it. In fight­ing his can­cer, his  body’s cold sen­si­tiv­i­ty was height­ened. Yet he was always keen­ly aware of the plight of the poor and the home­less. In one email he talked of being so chilled to the bone and anx­ious to get to the warmth of his bed, yet he told me-

I’m going to pray tonight for all the home­less out in this cold. There is so much suf­fer­ing.”

I was cer­tain­ly aware of the suf­fer­ing that extreme weath­er caused every­one. Effort­less­ly Father Michael could always put a face on that suf­fer­ing and elic­it a deep­er response. Father Michael’s sim­ple words were so powerful,so trans­par­ent­ly true, they went straight to the heart. How I miss him and his great heart.

The tragedy of the world is that so many are unloved. Ros­es always look beau­ti­ful and smell sweet, and hence they are a prize to be pos­sessed. Sweet­bri­ar, how­ev­er, has fra­grant leaves, and they are nev­er so fra­grant as when it rains. The com­mon peo­ple of the world are like these leaves; they have some­thing fra­grant about them, par­tic­u­lar­ly when the days are dark and cloud­ed and rain falls in their lives. Any­one can love a rose; but it takes a great heart to love a leaf.” — Arch­bish­op Ful­ton Sheen