Allow me to share a couple of stories from the rehab / nursing homes of the parish. This is my joy in life, going to the rehab / nursing homes / hospitals / …
I’ve been regularly visiting an elderly lady, Diane by name, at Valley View nursing home for many months. She received all the sacraments and last rites and got all the Pontifical blessings and indulgences. We prayed together some hours previous to her passing on, preceding the rest of us who remain – for the moment – here on earth.
I told her that she was leading the way, that we would soon follow. She expressed some fear. But grace was with her. She took in my words, inept as they were, about being at peace because Jesus has a good grip on her soul, flooded with grace as she was with so many sacraments and the rest. She became so peaceful. She was so very thankful. “Thank you, Father,” she weakly whispered many times. Such a gentle soul. Such a good soul.
As I heard from one of the nurses later, the door to her room was open, as usual, and, across the hallway, many of the residents were eating in the dining room, which also had its doors open. What I report next tends to give shivers to the listeners, with smiles and wide eyes of wonder. As seen from the dining room, a super bright light filled Diane’s room, like the flash of a soul come to life after a long exile upon earth: “The light was so very bright, and filling her room, so bright” recounted one of the residents in the dining room. That’s, of course, when she died. May her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen. Hail Mary…
Marie’s good sister, Cathy, is the one who put that sticky note pictured on the top of this post on the door of Marie’s room just as I was about to knock. “No priests allowed” – with a smiley face, mind you. Hahaha. What it means is that I’m not allowed to have a room in the rehab / nursing home and be one way to heaven before anyone else. They want all the sacraments and such so as to be on their way in good order.
There were many visitors there. Lots of laughter, some tears. Marie received a pretty devastating diagnosis. Going back another day, I was greeted outside the room by this new sticky note:
Not that I’m a “good priest.” Hahaha. You might as well say, “No Father George allowed.” Anyway, this thing about being a good priest quickly turned into a discussion about purgatory, what with me saying that even though I’m so evil and bad, I still want to go to heaven. Miss Marie, as always, is want to say the following:
“Oh, that’s right Father George, just go ahead and go to heaven right now and then end up in purgatory until the. end. of. the. world. Or, you can wait until Jesus calls you and then you can go straight to heaven. Your choice, Father George.”
Stunning, really. Said like a modern day Saint Catherine of Siena who spoke so eloquently about purgatory.
This went on to a discussion about Saint Therese of Lisieux and her desire to go straight to heaven. She was berated by an elderly nun who said that she herself feared Jesus as the great Administrator of Justice and that she expected to be in purgatory. She died before Therese did, and appeared to Therese from purgatory to say that she was there because of concentrating on justice over against mercy. These two go hand in hand. Saint Therese, trusting in Jesus’ friendship, who Himself is eager to be good friends with us, calling us His friends, seems to have gone straight to heaven.