I am an EMHC and Honored to be One

Christ truly present on the altar                    Catholic Stand                                               

By Larry Peterson

I wish to clarify something right away. I am NOT a Eucharistic Minister. I am an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion (EMHC). Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion is the proper term for the people involved in this ministry. The term, “Eucharist” is never to be in their title. That term is reserved for the priest alone. (see Redemptionis Sacramentum).

I have been involved in many ministries over the years and have been an EMHC for 23 years. For me, nothing can compare to being an EMHC. It is all about Jesus, the person receiving Jesus, and you being the one who has brought them together. It does not get any better than that.

I rarely miss a visit to my homebound friends. As of this writing, I visit nine (9) every Sunday. Five of them are in their nineties. Honestly, it makes my day. Ironically, it makes their day too, (and sometime their week)  because they hardly see anyone during the week except home-health aides and folks like that.  All I come with is a smile, a church bulletin, maybe a prayer card and, of course, their BEST FRIEND.

I have a journaling book, and in the back, I have compiled names of people I have brought Holy Communion to over the years. I want to share a few of these folks with you. These are Catholic people who have lived their Catholic lives to the best of their ability. Many of them were children during the Great Depression and lived through World War II and into the 21st century. Like my friend, George.

George B.

George was  in the U.S. Navy and stationed in London in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg. He survived that, came home and wound up at Pearl Harbor. He was there on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked. He and a Marine corporal manned a 50 caliber machine gun and shot down two Japanese Zeroes. The two of them then proceeded to pull men out of the burning water near the USS Arizona.

After the war, he was in the circus for over 20 years. George died several years ago at the age of 97. I loved his stories. He was a walking history book, and he would get all animated when he was telling you about his adventures. I brought him Communion every Sunday for more than two years. What an honor that was.

Anne S.

She was 90 and would be dressed to the “T” every Sunday when I arrived. She would ask, “Why does God keep me here, Larry?”

“Anne,” I would say. “He needs Prayer Warriors. That’s what you are, and that’s why you are here. There are many souls in Purgatory. They need your help.”

She would always smile and point to her Rosary and her prayer books on the table next to her. She would point to them and say, “Yes, I know. I do keep busy.” Recruiting “prayer warriors” is an important part of what I do. Anne has been gone for five years.

And my little pal, Scotty.

Scotty Walker.

He was a St. Jude baby because of a tumor on his brain stem. That was in 1977 when he was only two years old. He was now 25. Only 4 feet, 4 inches tall; he started   his own lawn service when he was about 17.

Scotty wore a big straw hat, and his nose would be just above the lawn mower handle as he pushed it along. At the same time, he was studying for his GED. He worked his tail off until he could not any longer. I brought him Communion every Sunday during the last two years of  his life. He died in 2002 when he was 27. I miss him a lot.

Virginia

I have been seeing Virginia every Sunday for almost five years now.  Sunday, March 7, was her 99th birthday.  She lives on the first floor of a senior independent living center.

I arrived at the center around 10 a.m.  I went to the rear of the building to use the paging system, accessed her number and dialed, but there was no answer.  I kept hoping someone would leave so the doors would open, but no one came out.

Since she lived on the first floor, I walked around to her apartment window.  I was not sure if she was sleeping, had fallen, or, God forbid, worse.  I climbed around four-foot-high hedges to get to the window and began banging on it only to off an alarm system.

No one came so I finally gave up and left.

When I arrived home, I managed to get someone from the center’s management on the phone.  They could not give me any information.  I asked nicely, “Just cough if she is dead.”

“Sorry, sir,” was the reply.  “We will give your name and number to her son, who is her contact person.”

No one ever called.  I had the church office call twice, and the pastor himself called, to no avail.

On April 1, Holy Thursday, Virginia called the church office looking for me.  (She could not find my number.)  She had fallen and had been taken to the hospital.  They quarantined her for two weeks, and she had returned home on Wednesday, March 31.

I was finally able to visit Virginia again on Easter Sunday.  I brought her flowers and a Mass card for Easter and her birthday.  And when her 100th birthday is celebrated next year I intend to be there.

A Rewarding Ministry

I have been blessed to part of this ministry.  Seven of the people I visited received Viaticum from me.  It was not planned that way – it just happened.  I pray for each of them all the time.  So far, my list includes over 40 people who have passed on, including my wives (my first wife died in 2003, and my second wife died in 2017).

I would suggest you look in to being part of  this ministry.  You get to leave the church accompanied by Jesus.  Then the two of you get to go visiting His homebound or hospitalized people.  It is a beautiful thing.


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

 


Meet a few of the Hidden People of Lent

LENT–fast–give–pray                                                                allevents.in.jpg

By Larry Peterson

I left church on Ash Wednesday and, just like everyone else, I had freshly smeared ashes on my forehead.  I was ‘ready” to embrace the Lenten season. There was one difference. Four of us had small vials of ashes in our pockets along with our pyxes which contained the Holy Eucharist. We are EMHCs,  (Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion) and, besides Holy Communion,  we are privileged to be able to distribute ashes on Ash Wednesday.

My three friends were going to different places: one to the hospital, and the others to different nursing homes. As for me, I make individual home visits and I had five to do.

Three of the people I saw were in their mid-nineties, and one was eighty-six,  Then there was the “baby” of the group; TERRI. She is all of fifty-nine. This poor woman, because of a botched hernia operation last May, almost died, has had several surgeries since and faces another eight-hour operation in April. Through it all, when I arrive,  she always has a ready smile on her face. How uplifting that is to see.

So please; come with me as I stop at the homes of a few more of these “hidden” Catholics. You might enjoy the change of venue; (I will just use their first names).

EVELYN My first stop is at Evelyn’s. She is 94 years old and is always impeccably dressed when I arrive. Her hair is done, her makeup is on, and her lipstick has been perfectly applied. Evelyn is from New Jersey, and we get along great. I have been seeing her weekly for three years. She always asks, “Larry, when do you think God will take me. I’ve lived long enough.”

 I always tell her she is only “upper middle-age” and God needs prayer warriors so that is her job and to get out her Rosary and get busy working.

She smiles, reaches over to the table, and lifts her beads. “What do you think these are. I’m wearing them out.”

We both laugh, I hug her, and it was on to see Marie.

 Marie is 95 and is “all business.” She is waiting at the door for me, and it opens before I even knock. I ask her how she is, and she will answer, “Oh, I’m fine, thank you.” I am usually only with her for about five minutes. She smiles and tells me to have a nice a week and asks me to pray for her son who is having car trouble. I tell her I will even though he has “car trouble” every week.

“BIG JIM” Jim is an 86 year old ex-Marine, former Greyhound dog trainer and a baker. I arrive at his place, and after about fifteen minutes, I  will leave with three packages of freshly baked cookies and a loaf of still-warm banana bread. Jim has been sick since Thanksgiving with a deep infection that went into his lungs and caused blood poisoning; I know he is better because he is baking again. Praise the Lord.

VIRGINIA The highlight of my entire Lenten Season may be what happened next and I just wanted to share it with anyone who might read this. It just shows how little things can mean SO MUCH to someone.

My friend Virginia rarely has any visitors. Sunday she told me that her birthday was March 6, and she was going to be 97 years old. I knew she would spend the day alone. So Tuesday night I stopped in the supermarket and got her a small red-velvet cheesecake topped with cream and a cherry.

 I walked into Virginia’s small apartment and she was just sitting there as she always is. I said to her, “Before we do anything I have something for you.”

I took the small cake out of the container, placed the candle I had in my pocket in it, and lit it. Then I said, “I can’t sing Virginia but this is for you.”

I began to sing ‘Happy Birthday,’ and the biggest smile broke out on her face. This was followed by tears running down her cheeks. They began running down mine too. It turned into an unexpected special moment and her reaction demonstrates how sometimes the tiniest kindness can mean so much to someone, especially a lonely person in her late 90s.

Wishing everyone an uplifting and spiritually rewarding Lenten Season.

copyright©Larry Peterson 2019