When I returned to church, I came partly to find a priest with whom I could discuss some spiritual matters. I took way too much time to do this.I liked all the priests serving there, but just kept hesitating,(for months!) trying to decide among them.Previously I’d talked to priests only in confession and in meetings to prepare for my marriage. And, I’d grown up with priests in my family-but those were casual family relationships.In my mature adult life, I was just an ordinary parishioner who attended Mass and said “Good morning, Father” once-in-a-while. That was the extent of my communication with priests. So to desire a real meeting to discuss the spiritual was a big step for me.
From the beginning at St Vincent Ferrer, I was enthralled with Father Michael’s preaching. He was not a perfect preacher, as many would claim, but he was surely excellent. I could tell, he always prepared. Sometimes he struggled, sometimes he inspired and sometimes surely was inspired. So naturally, I thought about going to talk to him. I was sure he was a most holy person. Still, I held off, as I was put off by all his noisy socializing in the back of church after Mass. If ever a priest had ‘groupies’, Father Michael did! I found it difficult to reconcile the holiness and reverence I sensed from the altar and pulpit with the silly, sometimes unseemly person I’d see in the vestibule. I am probably alone in my opinion, but that is how it felt to me. So I was stuck between positive and negative about Father Michael- and I stayed on the fence for a long time.
One Sunday after Mass, I was literally “stuck’ in the vestibule. Another priest had said Mass and there were several well-known Dominicans who were visiting. They were all in the vestibule, greeting people, many had small groups around them chatting. It was quite crowded. And outside, it was raining. The people, involved in their visiting, or waiting for the rain to subside, were not moving or even aware that others were trying to get by to the doors. So I was stuck behind several people, aiming to get to one of the side doors. I didn’t feel like pushing, so I just waited and watched for an opening.
As I waited,the side door opened and in came Father Michael. He slid in and got his scapular stuck in the door. He turned and fussed with the scapular a bit, got it free. Father was all by himself for a change. He had a serious, placid expression on his face as he stood there so quietly. I looked on and he never looked my way nor at all the chattering groups. Father Michael stood there looking so serene, then moved toward one of the inner stained-glass doors. He peered through the clear part, viewing inside the church.
The following all happened in just a matter of seconds: I thought “My gosh, how odd to see Father Michael so quiet, so different- and instead all these other Dominicans loudly shooting their mouths off !” And in my head I heard a ‘voice’ that I’ve always attributed to my guardian angel, because it is so distinctive from the musings of my conscience. It said -as clear as a bell- “This is their Seer”. Of course I was surprised and thrilled. But in response, I thought ” Their seer ? That’s all I need, if I meet with this Father Michael-someone who reads my mind!” And as soon as I thought that, I received the immediate understanding that no, Father Michael was not any kind of psychic. He was a Seer….. of peoples’ hearts. And I knew at once that that was one of his most profound gifts.
Months later, when I was finally meeting with Father Michael, we talked about my experience. I expected that Father Michael would be polite, but disbelieving and careful with what he said to me. Instead, he was so happy! He said to me “Some of my brothers will say to me, ‘Michael , how did you know that?’ How could you tell? And I tell them I have no idea”. I was so gratified that he accepted what I had experienced. I told Father Michael that I now understood that he was a Seer of hearts.I stated that I was able to see that clearly in how he lived his life and his great, great tenderness for people. He thanked me sincerely for telling him.
As we came to the final days of Father Michael’s life, we had so many disagreements. I really had to look hard for the person I had come to know. I apologized a lot, not always understanding what I had said that was hurtful. One time, I said “Father Michael, I am so sorry. What I said to you came from my heart –and not from a bad place in my heart.” And he said, looking at me kindly, “There couldn’t be a bad place in your heart”. That was the Seer talking….
“But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince