Loneliness in America—A Growing and Deadly Epidemic spurred on by the Covid-19 Pandemic; where is God in all of this?

LONELINESS                                                                                                                        cs.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

I have learned that loneliness has no boundaries. It stretches out its tentacles and wraps them around those who may have lost a spouse, a child, a parent, a sibling, or even a dear friend. I have been widowed twice and know full well how loneliness can create a desolate place in the widowed equation.

Loneliness holds no prejudice. It randomly chooses those it has decided to torment, and once it does, it attacks mercilessly. Its victims include people from every conceivable walk of life,  especially the unsuspecting. Many times the dull ring of the phone or a knock at the door is all it takes to hurl someone into the pit of loneliness. It can attack anyone at any time, and it has become a social condition of almost epidemic proportions.

Incredibly, during early March of 2020, loneliness was gifted with a new victim to feast on: it extended its ravenous appetite into the pandemic known as COVID-19, aka the coronavirus.  Loneliness and the pandemic joined forces with “experts” and began to ravage thousands upon thousands of people with loneliness, especially senior citizens.  One way was to take away their chairs and sofas. Let me explain.

I have been bringing Holy Communion to the homebound on Sundays for over twenty years. It may be the most uplifting thing I do, and I know I have been spiritually rewarded many times over. It was early March when I confronted a new wrinkle among my visits. I have one lady, Virginia (she is 98), who resides in an apartment which is part of a  single person, independent living facility. It is a reasonably long walk from the parking lot to the building entrance. Once there, you use a keypad to gain access. I scroll to Virginia’s name and get her on the speaker. She buzzes me in.

As the sliding doors open, I stop short. No one is there. Every Sunday, there are four or five, maybe six, people in the lobby sitting around chatting and just visiting with each other. They know my name, and I always get a friendly welcome from them.  We exchange a few pleasantries (I usually joke about something), and then I go on my way.

But this Sunday, the lobby was empty. I just stood there because it took me a few seconds to realize that the furniture was gone. There was no sofa, or chairs, or coffee table. Management had decided that “protecting” the residents against COVID-19 was of prime concern. So they had the furniture removed. That simple decision changed the lives of the half dozen people I knew in ways management could not have imagined. It also changed the lives of many others, of whom I was not aware. Management’s action was successful; with no place to sit, the tenants remained in their small apartments—ALONE.

The situation impacted me deeply. I have been visiting the sick and homebound for a long time, and they do not ask for much. However, in their low profile,  quiet world, they look forward to sitting together (if possible) and just talking about whatever it is they talk about. My visit is a big deal for them. I see each of my folks from maybe ten minutes up to thirty minutes, depending upon how much “chatting” is needed. I may be the only visitor they see all week. Yet my visit buoys them up for my next visit, which is a week away.  The folks that gather in the lobby every week are non-Catholic and do not receive Communion. But I do get to say a short prayer with them, and they like my doing it. So do I.

But on this Sunday morning in March of the year 2020, things changed in a way no one could have ever imagined.  The powers that be decided we should be isolated from each other.  They want us to avoid each other, not touch each other, and become individual entities. But we are social beings and like it or not; we need each other. We need to touch and hold and shake hands and hug, especially among family and friends. Mandated loneliness could prove to be, in some cases, more deadly than the actual virus.

The headline for this piece used the word epidemic in referring to loneliness. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the loneliness factor, not just in America, but around the world. Cigna referenced a ‘Loneliness Index,” which shows how loneliness is an actual epidemic in the United States. This worldwide health service company used the UCLA Loneliness Scale (yes, there is a loneliness scale) in a questionnaire used to determine a person’s social isolation and their subjective feelings. What follows is from their report of May 1, 2018.  

  • 47 percent of Americans sometimes or always feel alone
  • 27 percent of Americans feel no one understands them
  • 40 percent think that their relationships have no meaning and feel isolated
  • 20 percent feel they feel close to no one and have no one to talk to
  • AMAZINGLY—the Generation Z people (18 to 22) are the loneliest generation. How scary is that?
  • Social Media users have a 43.5 percent loneliness factor which was comparable to the 41.7 percent for those who do not use social media.

If we think about the actual numbers, these percentages refer to it is mind-boggling. In a nation of almost 330,000,000 people, 20 percent is 66.000,000 of us. When we say 47 percent, we are almost at 150,000,000 people. How can close to half the population of the United States of America, feel alone? How can 66,000,000 people feel close to no one or have no one to talk to? And all of this is prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and its forced isolation.

Over the past 25 years, there is a 58 percent drop in attendance at club meetings, a 43 percent drop in family dinners, and a 35% drop in having friends over. Children have regulated play-time while deprived of social development. We reach in our pockets and pull out electronic devices that allow us to instantly reach each other day or night anywhere in the world, but how many of us are talking to each other. This behavior is fertilizing the seeds of future loneliness.

Is our primary mode of communication now email? How many young people can even write a letter or address an envelope? Job applicants interview over the phone or skype, couples break up via text message. Families are also having birthday parties for a loved one on ZOOM. Is this a GOOD thing?  Where is the hugging, the handshaking, the cheek kissing, the eye contact? We need that—it is who we are. Are we teaching the younger generation how to be lonely? How many families are holding hands as they thank God for the food they are about to eat, together, as a family?

Loneliness is brought upon us by things we have no control over, such as death, injury, accidents, and natural disasters. This, we understand, because this makes sense. Why are so many, especially among the young, feeling so alone with no one to turn to? This must count as one of the saddest commentaries of our era. This does NOT make sense.

The remedy may be right in our face, but the secular world will never factor it in. You see, nowhere is the name of God mentioned in these findings. In fact, nowhere is the importance of the  God-based, family even considered.

Regarding our faith, often called the One, True Faith, we have this incredible gift of The Holy Eucharist. Our core teaching is that Transubstantiation occurs when the priest says the words of consecration over the bread and wine during the celebration of Holy Mass. The bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ Himself. It is NOT symbolic. Yet 70% of professed Catholics reject this dogmatic teaching. This leads back to the loneliness factor.

We have this beautiful tradition of having Eucharistic Adoration.  Christ, truly present in the consecrated Host, is placed in a monstrance and put on the altar. We believers can come and visit with Him, sit with Him, talk to Him, even simply just look at Him. On First Fridays, we have all night Adoration at my parish, which ends with  8 am. Mass on Saturday morning.

During the night, there will be those of us who will come and sit with the Christ present in the Eucharist, and just “hang out” with Him. For you lonely Catholics who do not believe, you are missing so much. You do not need to be alone. Jesus is there for you—and for all of us—all the time. If you are feeling lonely, why not call your local parish and ask them when they have Adoration. Then go over and sit with Jesus. You will not be alone.

Getting back to God and family would be akin to putting the lynchpin back into the hub of life. Then, people, kids included, might be taught that they can turn to Jesus and think of His words from Matthew 28:20   And behold, I am with you always, until the end of this age.

Interestingly, the first three words of the Bible are; “In the beginning—” Could the Bible or an app for the Bible be the beginning for someone to believe that they are NEVER alone?

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted
is the most terrible poverty.”
St. Teresa of Calcutta

Copyright©LarryPeterson 2020

 


Mariantonia Sama, bedridden for 57 years with her legs bent as if crucified; to be proclaimed Blessed by the Church

Mariantonia Sama

By Larry Peterson

Mariantonia Sama was born on March 2, 1875, in the Catanzaro, located in the southeastern section of Italy. Her father died a few months before her birth, and her mom was on her own in caring for her new baby. She was quite poor, and she and her child lived in a tiny home located on a street that was only about five feet wide. The dwellings surrounding the little house were all larger, and besides being small, their place was never exposed to pure daylight.

Mariantonia was baptized on March 3 in the local parish, and her paternal grandmother and maternal great-uncle stood in as her Godparents. Mariantonia received her First Holy Communion and her Confirmation sometime during 1882.

Mariantonia and her mom became very close, as all they had was each other. Mariantonia’s mom was illiterate, and so it was for her daughter. Together, using a borrowed mule, they would load it with wheat and take it to the mill. They would exchange it for flour, which they brought back to town. The flour was traded for bread and other food to eat.

Sometime during the year 1886, Mariantonia, her mom, and some relatives walked to the Saturo River to wash clothing. There was a mill along the riverbank, and it provided a semblance of running water to use in clothes washing. On the way, Mariantonia, who was very thirsty, stopped at a large puddle and bent down and drank the water from it. It seemed clean, but unfortunately, it was contaminated.

When Mariantonia and her mom arrived home, the child curled up, screaming in pain. Her unexplained and frightening behavior continued for more than a month, and during this time, she would not only shake, but her body would seem to vibrate, and she would babble sounds that made no sense. People began suggesting that the girl was the victim of diabolical possession. Her behavior transformed from docile to hostile, and she would scream terrible words. This situation went on for eight years. Some doctors thought it neurological, others emotional, and still others, gastrointestinal. Many thought it was time to give this over to God.

In 1894, when Mariantonia was twenty years old,  a well-known woman in the area known as the Baroness Enrichetta Scoppa,  took it upon herself to intervene in an attempt  to help Mariantonia and her mom. She organized a trip to the Carthusian convent of San Bruno, where the monks would pray over her, and an exorcism would be conducted. Mariontonia was carried inside a box for eight hours to get to the convent.

Once inside the convent, a silver bust of St. Bruno holding his skull and bones was shown to Mariantonia. It took five hours of exorcism in front of the bust and crucifix before the devil abandoned Mariantonia’s body. People heard a growling voice say, “I leave her alive, but I leave her crippled.”

Mariantonia believed that the bust of St. Bruno was smiling at her. She also seemingly felt much better and was able to get up. Her recovery was attributed to the intercession of St. Bruno. She was taken home and seemed better for a short time. But before long, she was once again bedridden. This time with her legs bent at the knees. For the next 57 years, she would remain in that position, crippled by arthritis. Her legs were bent as if she had been crucified.

People began coming to see Mariantonia looking for advice, to obtain grace, spirituality, and even a miracle. Baroness Scoppa had allowed the Sisters of the Sacred Heart to settle in her vacant palace, and they made Mariantonia an honorary “sister,” even covering her head with a black veil. She became known as the “Nun of San Bruno,” and she was never a nun at all.

Mariantonia died on May 27, 1953. She was 78 years old. Even after she died, they could not straighten her legs, and she was buried that way. She had been holy in life, and even after her death, miracles were attributed to her. On December 18, 2017, she was declared Venerable.

Vittoria C. from Sant’Andrea was the miracle case validated for Mariantonia’s beatification. Between December 12 and 13 in 2004, she was cured overnight of a degenerative osteoarthritis. She invoked Mariantonia during the night to help with the pain, and it vanished and never returned. This miracle was approved by Pope Francis on July 10, 2020. The Beatification will take place in 2021.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020


Little Nellie of Holy God the Toddler who inspired a Pope.

 

Little Nellie of Holy God wikipedia.jpg

LITTLE NELLIE of HOLY GOD

By Larry Peterson

Brief intro: 

What follows is the miraculous and wondrous story about a little girl who was known as “Little Nellie of Holy God.” Her real name was Ellen Organ, but everyone called her Nellie. By the time “Little Nellie” was only two years old, she already knew what the Holy Eucharist was.

___________________________________________________________________________Ellen Organ was born in Ireland on August 24, 1903. Shortly after Ellen’s birth, she was baptized into the Catholic faith at the Church of the Trinity in the town of Waterford. No one knows why, but from that point on, Ellen Organ was called “Nellie.”

By the age of two, Nellie displayed a deep holiness rarely seen in a child, especially one so young. While walking into Mass, holding her dad’s hand, she would regularly talk about seeing “Holy God.” It was something she began saying without having heard such an expression. Her mom and dad had no idea why she said that. Even the priest could not figure it out.

Little Nellie had two brothers and one sister; she was the youngest child. In 1906, a great sadness entered their lives. Their mom, Mary Organ, became very ill with tuberculosis. Nellie stayed by her mom’s side day after day, but after a short time, her mom died. Nellie, who was only three, was hugging her when she passed on.

Nellie’s dad, since he was in the army, could not provide proper care for his children. He turned to his parish priest for help. The priest helped get her brothers located with the Irish Christian Brothers. Nellie and her sister, Mary, were taken in by the Good Shepherd Sisters. The nuns treated the girls kindly, and Nellie was happy to call all of the sisters, “Mother.”

Nellie had a young girl assigned to sleep in her room with her. Her name was Mary Long, and at night she would hear Nellie crying and coughing in her sleep. She told the sisters about it, and Nellie was transferred to the infirmary, which was like a small hospital at the school.

When the doctor examined Nellie, it was discovered that she had a crooked spine. They learned that when she was only a baby, someone had dropped her, permanently damaging her spine. Even sitting up was very painful for Nellie, but she never complained. The doctor was amazed that a child of three would attempt to hide such pain. But try as she may, Nellie could not “fake” being well.  You could see the pain on her face because she kept trying to smile, but it was too hard to do. All the sisters could do was keep Nellie as comfortable as possible.

Nellie astonished the nuns with her insight and knowledge of the Catholic faith. The sisters and others that cared for her did not doubt that the child was not only humble but also saintly. These were qualities rarely seen in a three-year-old.

Nellie loved to visit the chapel, which she called “the House of Holy God.” The child fully understood the Stations of the Cross. Upon being carried to each station, she would burst into tears seeing how Holy God suffered for us. She also developed a clear understanding of the Blessed Sacrament.

Living on a military base, Nellie remembered how the jail was called a “lock-down.” She, therefore, referred to Jesus in the tabernacle as “Holy God’s lockdown.”

One day Nellie was given a box of beads and some string. Being a three year old she put some in her mouth and inadvertently swallowed them. People saw her gagging and choking and rushed her into the infirmary. The doctor present was able to remove the beads from Nellie’s throat.

They were all amazed how brave the little girl remained as the doctor probed into her throat, removing the objects. She never made a sound. At this time, it was discovered that, just like her mom, she had advanced tuberculosis. The doctor told the sisters there was no hope for recovery and gave Nellie only a few months to live.

Nellie loved the Holy Eucharist deeply. She desperately wanted to receive her First Communion. But she was only three years old and way too young. So she would ask the sisters to kiss her when they were coming back from Communion so she could share their Holy Communion. She told them she knew Jesus was in their mouth and that she could sense His presence.

When a priest, Father Bury, asked her, “What is Holy Communion?” she answered, “It is Holy God.” Then he asked her what would happen if she were allowed to receive Holy Communion. She answered, “Jesus will rest on my tongue and then go down into my heart.” Little

Nellie Organ knew exactly what Holy Communion was.

Nellie told of the visions she was having of “Holy God” as a child and the Blessed Mother standing nearby. Her faith was so pronounced that the Bishop agreed (since she was close to death) to confirm her. She received her Confirmation on October 8, 1907.

Then, on December 6, 1907, after considering all the facts, the local Bishop, in consultation with the priests, allowed Nellie Organ to receive her First Holy Communion. Nellie Organ died on February 2, 1908. She was three years and nine months old.

Nellie Organ’s story spread throughout Europe and reached the Vatican. It was presented to Pope Pius X.  It was perfect timing because the Holy Father had been looking for a reason to lower the age of receiving First Communion from the age of twelve to the age of seven. However, he was not sure about doing it.

When Pope Pius X read the documents about “Little Nellie of Holy God,” he immediately took this as a sign to lower the age. The Pope immediately issued a Papal Decree called Quam Singulari, changing the age of receiving First Holy Communion from 12 years old to age seven.

Pope St. Pius X commons.wikimedia.org

After issuing Quam Singulari, Pope Pius X, took up his pen and wrote, “May God enrich with every blessing —all those who recommend frequent Communion to little boys and girls, proposing Nellie as their model.”

Pope Pius X. June 4th, 1912.”

 Pope Pius X was canonized a Saint and became Pope St. Pius X on May 24, 1954

 

 

Copyright © Larry Peterson 2017 All Rights Reserved

cradlingcatholic.com


The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) Take a peek inside the Love that is the Holy Trinity

Catholic Mass                  en.wikipedia.org

By Larry Peterson

I attended Christmas Day Mass at 8 a.m. in my church; Sacred Heart in Pinellas Park, FL. We have a Mercedarian priest, Father Mike Donovan, who has been with us for several months and he was the celebrant. Father used the Roman Canon in this Mass. (Canon is the word used that refers to the fundamental part of the Mass that occurs between the Offertory and before Communion).

Before 1970, the only canon used during the Mass was the Roman Canon. Today’s standard missalettes carry six Canons; Eucharistic Prayers I thru IV and two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation. The altar missal used by the priest has nine;  (the ones mentioned and there are three for children’s Masses). It seems the one most commonly used today is Eucharistic Prayer II.

The Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I) was put in place by Pope St. Gregory I in the seventh century. It remains virtually unchanged to this day. However, since the new versions of the Eucharistic Prayers were included in the Novus Ordo Mass, it seems that Eucharistic Prayer I is rarely used. I do not know why this is, but it certainly has withstood the test of time.

In the Roman Canon, there is a rare beauty captured by the words written, and these words create visuals that can carry us to a different place. If you focus, listen, and read quietly along with the priest, you may actually get a tiny glimpse into heaven itself. Just let yourself feel the words grab you, and transport you to a different realm.

When you “arrive” you may be able to peel back the veil and take a peek behind it. You might watch as the greatest love story ever told or imagined is taking place.  It is the story of the perfect LOVE that exists within God and among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit Who is God. This is about the most profound mystery of our faith and how this perfect LOVE is about to be shared with us. It is the greatest of gifts imaginable, and all of us who choose to accept it are about to receive it.  But how does the Canon of the Mass take us there?

I have before me a copy of the Breaking Bread Missalette for 2018. I also have a copy of the St. Joseph Daily Missal from 1956. One is post-Vatican II; the other is pre-Vatican II.  The Roman Canon is the same in both. So let me share just one of the visuals I have mentioned. First we should all be aware that all of the canons are directed to God the Father.

We believe that through the consecrated hands of the ordained priest, Jesus is going to sacrifice Himself to His Father for us. The Father will accept this Gift of His Son’s human life and return His Risen Son back to us in Holy Communion. This is the Great Mystery of our Faith.

I will only mention a few words from this magnificent, 7th-century document that I believe capture it all. After the words of consecration are said, and the Body and Blood of Jesus are on the altar, we all recite the mystery of faith. Then the priest continues with:

Therefore, O Lord  (referring to the Father) as we celebrate the memorial of the blessed Passion, and the glorious Ascension into heaven of Christ, your Son, our Lord, WE, your servants and your holy people, offer to your glorious majesty from the gifts that you have given us, this pure victim, this holy victim, this spotless victim,  the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.

We move down and read of Abel the just, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the offering of the priest, Melchizedek. So try to picture what happens next when God the Father hears our prayer:

In humble prayer we ask you, Almighty God; Command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high in the sight of your  divine majesty, so that all of us, who through this participation at the altar, receive the most holy Body and Blood of your Son, and may be filled with every grace and blessing

(Through Christ our Lord. Amen).

As we watch the angel take our gifts up to heaven and then return them to us from our Father, we finish with the following words (how many of us really think about them) before the Communion Rite begins:

Through Him , and with Him, and in Him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever. AMEN.

All the Eucharistic Prayers are beautiful but I must admit, I do love #1 the most.

                                          ©Larry Peterson 2018


Brother Marcel (Nguyen Tan) Van had a spiritual sister who actually visited him; Her name was St.Therese of Lisieux

 

Photo Credit: wikipedia/commons/thumb/4/47/Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG/220px-Portrait_de_Marcel_Van.JPG

By Larry Peterson

Marcel Van was born in 1928 in a small village in Northern Vietnam. It was a predominantly Catholic village, and Marcel’s mom was not only an extremely faithful woman she was also well versed in the tenets of the faith. When Marcel was barely three years old, his growing faith was already obvious. He began to tell his mom that he wanted to become a saint and she made sure that she taught him all that she could.

Marcel loved to pray and practice his religion. He quickly developed a love for the Rosary and a growing attachment to the Blessed Mother. The boy’s love of Jesus filled him with the desire to make his First Holy Communion. His mom asked the pastor about this, and the priest agreed to let him begin studying for it. When he was six years old, he made his First Communion.

There was a developing desire within Marcel to join the religious life. His pastor and his mom saw to it that Marcel was sent to Huu-Bang to become part of the small monastery there. Father Joseph Nha admitted Marcel  into the pre-junior seminary. He became one of the “aspirants” to the priesthood.  These boys received their instruction from the older youths at the monastery who were called catechists.

In the beginning, Marcel was bubbling over with enthusiasm for his new life. He was preparing to become a priest, and what could be more wonderful. But the evil demon, Jealousy, was rearing its ugly head and was about to attack young Marcel.

Marcel was a good student, worked hard, performed all his duties, and was kind and generous. The parish priest was constantly holding him up as an example for the other boys to follow. Young Marcel’s good behavior started to expose the lax and disrespectful and even bawdy behavior of the older boys. The student catechists did not like it and became intensely jealous of Marcel.

One of the catechists, Master Vinh, was the ringleader. He began demanding that Marcel allow him to beat him before he could receive Communion. He deprived him of his food, took away his Rosary and committed all sorts of diabolical attacks upon the saintly youngster. Van actually ran away several times seeking a better environment. Master Vinh was found out and expelled from the monastery. Marcel Van left during Christmas season, 1941.

Complicating Van’s life were two cyclones that destroyed his family’s village and brought them to poverty. His father, in a state of despair, took to drinking and gambling. Then his older brother, Liet, became blind. Van’s family turned against him for leaving the monastery. His sister even blamed the family’s misfortune on Vans’ “failure.” Marcel Van left his home and for a time was homeless, actually begging for his food. He returned home, and his mom made him go back to the monastery. He returned but left after two months.

Things changed around for Marcel in 1942. A friend helped him get admitted to a seminary in Lang-Son. Six months later the seminary closed down, and Van was accepted into the parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus in Quang-Uyen. It was run by two  Dominican priests.

And so it was that one day Marcel Van was next to a table covered with books. He asked God to help him find a suitable book to read. Closing his eyes, he reached into the pile and pulled out a copy of  “Story of a Soul,” by St. Therese. He had never heard of her, but his life was about to change forever.

Marcel Nguyen Tan Van began to read the “Story of Soul.” He began to cry. The simplicity of Therese’s love for Jesus overwhelmed him, and his devotion to St. Therese became intense.   The “Little Flower” appeared to Marcel many times. She  became his teacher, constant companion, and even called him “little brother.” She told him that he would never be a priest but that he was to become a “hidden apostle of Love” which was a key source of spiritual support for missionary priests. He would become the “heart of priests.”

After the defeat of the French at Dien Bien Phu,  Brother Marcel Van volunteered to go to now communist, North Vietnam. He was arrested on July 7, 1955, and died in prison on July 10, 1959. He was 31 years old and rest assured his “Big Sister,” Therese, was waiting for him with open arms. He was declared a Servant of God in 1997, and his beatification process continues.

Servant of God, Brother Marcel Van, please pray for us.

 


For Valentine’s Day–A Love Story Embraced by God (This is a true story)

 

pineterest.com

By Larry Peterson

It was the spring of 2014. Ed and Cathy Carmello (not their real last name) had only been my neighbors for a short time, less than a year I think.   They had met when Ed was 60 and Cathy was 40. They fell in love and, never having been married, happily “tied the knot.”  They had just celebrated their silver wedding anniversary and were simply enjoying retired life together.

There was a problem. Ed’s prostate cancer had returned with a vengeance and was destroying him quickly. Cathy was in her final battle with  Stage IV melanoma. Since I was a prostate cancer survivor and my first wife had died of melanoma, I was able to discuss their cancers openly with them. They knew I understood.

It was a Thursday afternoon around 4 .p.m. when I left to take my daily walk. I headed down the street, and there was Cathy standing on her front lawn supported by her walker.  I could see she was fighting to hold herself up. A bit anxious, I hurried over and said, “Hey, Cathy, what’s going on? Is everything all right?”

“I was waiting for you, Larry.  I need to talk to you.”

I was dumbfounded. “Are you kidding me? I never walk at this time of day, and you say you were waiting for me?”

“I just knew you were coming by.  I can’t explain it.”

A bit unnerved, I leaned against her SUV as she leaned heavily on her walker. “You know Ed is dying, right?”

“Yeah, Cathy, I know.  We talked about it.  He’s an amazing guy. What about your prognosis? Any change?”

She smiled and looked me right in the eye saying, “They told me I only have a few weeks left.”

I tightened my lips, took a breath, and asked, “What can I do?”

They knew that I was Catholic and an EMHC (Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion).  Cathy asked me if I could bring a priest over. She told me that they had been non-practicing Catholics and had not been to church in years. It was time for them to “make things right with God.”  I said, “I will put a call into Father as soon as I get back to the house.”

“Thank you so much.  That is why I was out here waiting for you.”

I simply nodded. She smiled and thanked me and I walked her back to the house. She did not mention herself once, only her husband.  She told me how she wished she could ease his suffering and how wonderful it might be if they could go for a bicycle ride just one more time.  Then she mentioned how she thanked God for every moment they had had together.

We went inside and she, Ed, and I hung out for about ten minutes just chatting.  Cathy excused herself and slowly walked back to the bedroom.  Ed quickly told me how he wished he could ease her suffering and how God had been so good to him allowing him to find such a great woman to share his life with.  I took in a deep breath. (You know, when God is present sometimes it is hard to breathe).

I called our newly ordained priest, Father Scott. He came over the next day and spent about an hour with Ed and Cathy.  Ed and the young priest both had roots in Roanoke, Virginia, and talked and laughed and had a raucous good time together. Even though the two of them were separated by more than 50 years, it did not matter.  It was as if they had grown up together.  It was beautiful.

Father heard their confessions, anointed both of them and gave them Holy Communion. He told them he would come back the first chance he could.  Sunday was Palm Sunday. It was the beginning of Holy Week, and he would be busy.  They all hugged and said good-bye. On Palm Sunday I had the honor of bringing them Holy Communion.

Easter Sunday I was again privileged to bring Ed and Cathy Holy Communion. In so doing, an unexpected sight was forever etched in my mind.  They were lying next to each other in bed, holding hands.  Ed smiled and said, “Larry, we are SO happy. This is the greatest Easter we ever had.”

He turned and looked at his wife who was smiling lovingly at him. She reached over and wiped his wet, happy eyes. They kept looking into each other’s eyes, and I thought they were maybe looking into each other’s souls. It was a moment that was filled with a shared spirituality I had never seen before. I could actually feel it. I have no doubt that at that moment Jesus was there with them holding their hands in His.

As for me, I thank God for their friendship and for being a part of their final journey. Sometimes I like to think that I took two people in love to the airport and watched them get on a plane for a a true flight to paradise.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2014