I had such a great priestly afternoon today! I had the privilege of bringing the Sacraments to the homes of a few parishioners. The first home I visited was that of Henry and Phyllis. They attend morning Mass together every day and it seems as though their love for each other grows by an infinity each time I see them. Recently, Phyllis has had some medical issues and has been placed on the Daily Mass Disabled List for a couple of months. Henry faithfully brings her Holy Communion each day. After she received Holy Communion today, we sat in silence for a few moments and then Phyllis said, "May the Body of Christ preserve me body and soul for eternal life and may the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace." Then she said with her beautiful smile, "I'm sorry Father if I stole your line." In the midst of our conversation afterwards, Phyllis mentioned that their daughter is 65. Henry said, "Don't be telling him we're old enough to have a daughter who is 65!" You cannot help but smile when you are with these two beautiful souls. Those who are preparing for marriage ought to spend a day with Henry and Phyllis. They'd learn what marriage is meant to be.
My last visit was to another Daily Mass communicant who is in her last hours of life. She is surrounded by her family and the prayers of the Church. Virginia is a special lady. She always has a smile for everybody and you can tell she spent her whole life doing for others. Up until a few months ago, she came with a small cadre of other ladies to clean the sanctuary and sacristy of our parish church. Virginia was always booking Mass intentions for deceased loved ones. She never cared whether it was too late to get the name in the bulletin. She just cared that the Mass was offered for any number of persons on the occasion of their birth date, marriage date, or anniversary of death. I trust that Virginia will be greeted in heaven by a lot of grateful recipients of those Masses she had offered.
The middle visit today was particularly striking to me. I visited Dominic who is 91 years old and whom I've come to admire a lot in my time here as a priest. Henry and Phyllis are his neighbors and often take him to lunch with them. A few years ago I buried Dominic's son and that is when I became more aware of Dominic's presence in our parish. Nick--as he is called--is always dressed like a perfect gentleman at Mass; always in a tie and jacket. When he shakes your hand, you know that there's definitely somebody standing on the other side of that handshake. And, he always has an encouraging word for me. Although I'd love Nick just because my brief encounters with him after Mass each week always leave me smiling, there's more to the story.
Nick is a World War II veteran and served in the European Theatre of Operation. He was the Ball Turret Gunner on a B17 and flew 35 missions. If you don't know what the Ball Turret Gunner is, google it. He was the man who flew in a glass bubble on the belly of the bomber and was in constant danger. He told me today that on his first mission, he saw another bomber get hit right near him and the Ball Turret from that other plane zoomed right past him and nearly crashed into him.
Nick was bothered today because his health has prevented him from attending Mass for the past several weeks and it is the first time since World War II that he's missed Mass. World War II ended approximately 67 years ago.
As I looked with Nick at photos of his plane and of him and his fellow crewmen, I felt a great sense of privilege to be with this faithful man. But when I left, something struck me. Whenever I'm with Nick, he's always saying things to me like, "Father, I don't know how you do all that you do." Or, "Father, you're doing such a great job." Here's a guy who spent World War II in one of the most dangerous positions there was and whenever I'm with him, he spends the whole time complimenting me. There is a beautiful lesson in humility to be learned from that. I got to spend my afternoon bringing the Eucharist to a man who was a Ball Turret Gunner in World War II and who hasn't missed Mass since the end of the war. How privileged am I?
Today, I spent the afternoon with four individuals who have loved God for a very long time. In each encounter, I could walk away and say with greater certitude, "Everything the Catholic Church teaches is absolutely true." If Heaven is filled with people like these, then I definitely want to go to Heaven. Jesus really blessed me today by allowing me to witness up close the new life that is given to those who are caught up in the love of God.