Today three extraordinary people, an elderly priest, a Servant of God, and a teenager, the first 8 years ago, the second 20 years ago and the third 9 years ago, each died – or more accurately I trust – entered their heavenly reward.
One cold wet night a drenched, hungry, unbelieving hippie knocked on a rectory door and a priest opened, welcomed him in, gave him dry clothes, fed him, gave him shelter for the night and the next morning, after a hearty breakfast gave him money, a book of the Lives of the Saints and a word: “Our Lady wants you.”
Many, many years later, the Servant of God, Catherine Doherty, Foundress of the Madonna House Lay Apostolate [ www.madonnahouse.org ] fulfilled a promise to the former unbelieving hippie and gave him a motto for his ordination: Christ is everything.
Not long after ordination he was made a Pastor and one day a woman came into the church with a small, handicapped child who looked at the statue of Our Blessed Mother and declared he had found his mother – and the woman who was not his mother but his care-giver [ he was a permanent ward of the state ] arranged for the child’s Baptism.
As the years passed that child suffered immensely, offering himself as a victim-soul for priests. He had only one request of the Lord which was to live to be a teenager.
His wish was granted and I was blessed to give him Viaticum and be there when the Lord came for him.
I also was the priest who did likewise when the Lord came for the priest who had taken in the hippie.
While not present when Catherine died I was one of many priests who, along with the members of the community she founded, prayed at her wake and funeral.
The Lord, we perhaps too easily say, does indeed work in mysterious ways and He and His Mother are very inventive in the ways in which they enter our lives, never to interfere – but always, lovingly, to present us with experiences of kindness, of love.
It is, I believe, their way of smiling upon us!
Many people years ago saw only a hippie, that priest saw a person; Catherine always saw Christ in everyone and always sought to comfort Him in everyone she met; that child – well now there is a great mystery, how an un-baptized child was given the grace, first time inside a Catholic church, to recognize Our Blessed Mother!
Maybe it was Her smile!