Well, it has been quite a year. Even as we enter 2021, the remnants of what was is still clouded by what could have been. We need to heal. I remember being asked what makes me a good priest. I replied that if I am a good priest, it was because of the lessons I learned at my mother’s dining room table. A place where everyone was welcomed, and no was ever excluded. A mother who taught me to welcome was to love. But, as the pandemic has deepened, I have another. I never forget when I bled. I think that is the hallmark of what we are at Saint Miriam: we love because we have bled.
Before I was appointed at a Pastor, I was a Trauma Chaplain at Albert Einstein Medical Center for many years. When the pandemic hit hard in back this past March, the hospital, like many, shut its doors to visitors and that included clergy. But Catholic patients, in particular, were challenged as they needed to receive the Sacrament of the Sick. The Holy Father began permitting virtual or distance/no contact anointing and I was soon summoned back into chaplaincy service. I now visit – either in person (when permitted) or virtually – an average three to five patients a week. I answer the call and serve as needed. I bring healing and hope, if only from a distance. It is hard and I realized today it has taken a toll on me as I feather chaplaincy into my pastoral position.
My phone alerted me to an incoming call about 8:05am this morning. It was Einstein and my first instinct was to press the “Decline Call” button. I was tired. I had a difficult day yesterday and did not sleep well last night. As my thumb navigated to the red button, an inner voice reminded me that someone was alone. I answered the call, and with the help of a wonderful nurse named Samantha, I met a woman sitting vigil at her husband Larry’s bedside. We spoke, she cried, she reminisced; I anointed him, then we visited some more. Before I hung up, she asked me to remember Larry. I promised that I would. Then it came. “You saved me today, Father.” Mary Lou shouted out. “I was alone and about to give up my faith when no one would come to help me, but you came. You saved me.” And there it was. God is here.
The image I used today was from a greeting card sent to myself and my cohort on the homelessness front, Tom Frey. It reads, ‘Thank you for you and St. Miriam’s (sic) for reminding us – when we forget for while.’ I am glad we help people remember. I pray I will never forget.
As we navigate the turmoil that 2020 spilled into 2021 and as we become bewildered by politicians and plagues and insurrections and indifference, let us remember the times in which we bled and then help another.
I pray, with your support and prayers, Saint Miriam will be here to welcome you back when this is all over. No matter what, I know that we always remember when we bled.