Monday, May 25, 2009

Way to go


This lifted me to be a better person, the day I read it: a very moving account in The Shrine of the Holy Whapping via Damian Thompson of the final sermon of Mgr Bill Kerr - he suffered a stroke in the middle of it from which he died a few days later (how better for a priest to die - in the midst of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?).

Here is the text of the sermon:

I begin with an apology. [Big grin] I apologize if I doused you and I apologize if I missed you. [Comment about holy water followed.]

Today, I want to share with you an anniversary that is important to me. I speak of the anniversary of my ordination as a deacon and of my first assignment. On my way to receiving that first assignment, I stopped by the chapel to go over my resume with God. This was in St. Louis and ten parishes and a hospital were to be assigned to deacons. I told God, "I would do well in a parish. You know I'm not good with hospitals."

After that, I stepped over to the bishop's office. I met with the bishop and received my assignment – it was the hospital.

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately directed to the burn unit. This particular hospital was famous for its burn unit and very gravely injured burn patients were brought here. I learned that the chaplain was out for the day and I was faced with this daunting task without any instructions. It was the doctor and me. He advised me to look in the patients' eyes and not at their disfiguring injuries.

My first patient was a young man who had been burned by an explosion. He was in critical condition. This young man, who came to have a tremendous influence on my life, worked in a factory. He had been tasked with picking up rags and spent containers. He disposed of them in an incinerator. This was a chemical factory and unfortunately the containers held chemicals that exploded, seriously burning him in the process.

His name was Michael, Michael Anderson, and he said, "'Father,'" (he called me 'Father,') I always wanted to be a priest, and now I won't get to – so I am offering my suffering to strengthen you in your ministry.

Amazed and almost at a loss for words, I said to him, "Now, Michael, we will get through this, together." But Michael, who probably had a better sense of his situation than I did, responded by insisting he would offer his suffering for me and my ministry.

Next to Michael was another patient who was well known in the area. He heard Michael's conversation with me and told him to put in a good word for him in heaven.

The doctor told me it was important for the patients to scream, to help them relieve their agonizing pain. But Michael never screamed. He held his suffering to himself until he died.

During the next few hours, I got to know Michael. The singular circumstances of our meeting led to friendship, and a special bond between us. And, over the course of my life, I have repeatedly felt that bond and that friendship. Many times I have asked Michael to pray for me to strengthen me in my ministry.

I often think about the priceless blessings I received from being assigned to that hospital and from meeting Michael. God knows us and he knows where we belong, even if we do not know ourselves. We must pray… we must pray…Michael…

...and here the sermon ends.


What a remarkable man - called to minister in the midst of the slaughter wrought by Ted Bundy. God grant him his reward.

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