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,his being.Father Michael called the article ‘powerful’. Here is a link:

http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2013/04/katie-warner-the-war-between-doing-and-being/