Holy Deaths and the Holy Ghost

   On the Solemnity of Pentecost, my sister Wendy went to the 9:00 Mass at St. Helena’s in Fort Morgan.  The vocations director for the Archdiocese of Denver, Father Crisman, said the Mass.  He told two stories in his sermon.  The second story, he said, could sound like the beginning of a bad joke:  There was this black woman on a respirator with three women at her bedside:  one German, one Italian and one Irish.  Here is the real beginning of the story.

   Father was working at his computer when the phone rang.  It was the hospital asking for a priest to give last rites before life support was removed.  It wasn’t his turn to take emergency calls, but he decided to take this one. 

   When he arrived at the hospital, he was led into a room with a black woman hooked up to many machines including a respirator.

    He could see that the machine monitoring brain activity had a flat line and that all vital signs indicated that this woman’s earthly life was about to end.

     She was covered in a sheet up to her chin and was surrounded by three women, one Italian, one German and one Irish.  He asked them how they knew of the patient, and they told him that they were all sisters.  Father’s incredulous look led them to explain that they had all grown up together in a Catholic orphanage.    

   Father began.  He anointed the left hand and then reached across to put the holy chrism on her right hand when she suddenly bolted upright and tried to talk.  Father remembered that in the seminary he was told this would sometimes happen during an anointing indicating that there might be some unresolved concern left for the dying in this world. 

   Father asked the three women if they knew of  something that their sister needed to take care of before death came.  They all nodded.  The dying woman and her daughter had not spoken to each other in years.  This daughter had been called and was expected to arrive within the hour.

   Father finished the anointing as the monitors continued to show that her life was ebbing.  The daughter did arrive.  The two were left to themselves.  By the time the priest and sisters rejoined them, a reconciliation had taken place.  Without anyone removing any of the life supports, the woman closed her eyes in a peaceful death.

   The first story the priest told was another one of heroic strength being given to someone whose death was near at hand.  The circumstances were very different.  This story took place outside.  It was a story of a father and son who were together most of every day and who enjoyed each other’s company.

    There was no indication that either father or son was near death, but the situation quickly changed and both lives were put in great danger. The son survived because his father was given heroic strength to keep him alive, but within this gift was the father’s call to his heavenly reward. The son’s name was Joseph and the father was Tom Vander Woude.

   Completely different situations, but the same Spirit at work to give the needed strength to a parent for the good of the child.  The Third Person of the Blessed Trinity fills the hearts of the faithful, giving them the fire of His love.  He burned within the heart of a woman who grew up an orphan and had become estranged from her daughter, and He burned within the heart of a father in Nokesville who with his wife raised seven sons who were near and dear to him throughout his life.

   The Holy Spirit renews the face of the earth one heart at a time.  May our hearts glow with His divine love as we take inspiration from the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of a mother we do not know and in the life of a father whom we are proud to know.


Jezu, ufam Tobie        


With the latest great gathering of Our-Seton, I probably should be writing about that.  What I have been told about the evening, except for the rain, all sounds wonderful.  We will write about it soon, but I was very excited hearing about this sermon so I wanted to post about it before Trinity Sunday.  In a lazy, hazy, crazy summer mood, I feel like posting only when the spirit moves me.  However, we will keep to a schedule.  In honor of the 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit, we will post on the 7’s.  So we will see you again on June 7th.