Friday, November 23, 2012

Cycle of Life

On Tuesday, Jessie, an older man was buried and on Wednesday, Riley, now five months old, came home from the hospital since his premature birth at six months.  The cycle of life is always flowing in the missions of Eastern Tennessee.

Since my last blog, this cycle of life has been witnessed in various ways.  Fr. Aaron celebrated his first baptisms; we had our first Quinceanera (15th birthday for Latina women) at Blessed John Paul II and we had one newborn presented in church.  At the same time, we have had the sad news of two parishioners being diagnosed with cancer.  One for the first time and one discovering her cancer has spread despite treatment.  This cycle of life beginning and life ending is the norm of parish life.  Yet, going back to Jessie and Riley, we discover the "Glenmary factor" at work here.

Flowers presented at Quinceanera
Jessie, originally from New Orleans, never entered our church, not even his body upon his death.  Br. Craig met Jessie in the Nursing Home during his weekly visits.  He mentioned that Jessie would like to see a priest.  Then we discover that Jessie is in a coma in the hospital.  Fr. Aaron and Br. Craig went up to see him and anoint him.  They both visited frequently and came to know his friend Patricia.  Jessie and Patricia were not married but shared life for a number of years.  Upon his death, again Br. Craig and Fr. Aaron, accompanied Patricia through her grief.  As they planned the funeral they discovered that that no one would be Catholic attending the funeral, yet she knew that Jessie would like to have a funeral Mass.  Thus a number of parishioners took time out for their Thanksgiving preparations to attend the funeral which was held in the funeral home.  Who knows what the impact of this Christian witness and strong loving support will do to help people grow in their faith in Jesus Christ.  Yet, this is the heart of Glenmary evangelization, ministering to everyone in the county regardless if they have faith or no faith.

Similarly, the story of young Riley, is another example.  Here just under five months ago, Br. Craig and I drove to Knoxville just before midnight to anoint Riley's mother before the emergency delivery with her just entering her sixth month of pregnancy.  Two days later, I was there to bless little Riley who was born 1 pound and 10 ounces.  At that time, I gave them a Padre Pio medal that I purchased at his shrine in Italy and that was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI which they placed at the foot of his bed.  Yesterday, I enjoyed my Thanksgiving day meal with his extended family.  His father, Chris, who is not Catholic, assured me as I blessed Riley again, that the Padre Pio medal I gave him remains at the end of his bed where it has been since I gave it to them.  The depth of Catholic devotion in miracles through the intercession of the Saints has become meaningful to this young man.  God moves in His own way at His own pace.  We just respond where grace, hope and mercy are needed.

Community Thanksgiving service in Rutledge
Thus, at the ecumenical Thanksgiving gatherings I participated in, I was able to offer genuine thanks for the Glenmary mission team that the Lord as sent here and the opportunity to introduce the Catholic way of life in Union and Grainger County, especially where inactive Catholic and non Catholics life intersect.

1 comment:

  1. What wonderful words to read: that you all reach out to everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof. Brother Craig does such a good job when he comes to the senior center to volunteer. The seniors as well as Melanie and myself get such a kick out of him standing on his head and doing his funny whistle. I've had some wonderful theological conversations with him and gotten some wonderful perspective. Thank you for all that you do to help everyone!