Sunday, July 5, 2009


Tonight I knelt beside a man who is dying. He is my age, and he has only a few weeks, perhaps a few days, to live. He has no wife, no children, only an unmarried sister to care for him; and so my daughter and I went to visit him. As I prayed the Rosary just inches from him, a keen sense of his sufferings swept over me. Each breath he took was an agony for him, and his hand clasped a small crucifix ever so tightly. How hard it was to watch him endure the pain, how much harder for him to suffer it! The hospital room felt empty and cold--even harsh--being devoid of so many human touches, filled as it was with equipment and medical devices.

Our humanity--what is it really in this world? I think that, after our duty to God, it is really not much more than the opportunity to offer to each other little kindnesses and compassion, the chances which God gives us to show His love to our fellow creatures in this life: this life which passes so quickly before us all. We are the way in which He goes about doing good in the world, said Saint Teresa of Avila. We are His hands, His eyes; His touch comes through us, His love shines in our faces, if only we will be His instruments. It is so simple; it is not so easy.

As I said goodbye to this heroic man, my eyes met his; and I saw the beauty of a soul resigned to God's will. His face, even through his anguish, was radiant with the light of peace. I promised him that I would pray for him; and I asked him to pray for me. He smiled and said that he would. His prayers--clearly I have received the greater gift tonight.