On a recent week-end, I found myself racing from house to house, ministering to the dying, while my faithful brothers and sisters were celebrating Divine Mercy Sunday.
Since I’m careening across three counties on my rounds, I can almost always snag an opportunity to assist at Mass on Sunday. But it was not to be.
No matter. Every morning, I pray, “Arrange my day to your good pleasure.” So I can only conclude that His good pleasure was tending the suffering on His day. (And the church gives me a pass for this. Failing to assist at mass on the Lord’s day, which includes the vigil on Saturday night, is only acceptable if you are sick, tending the sick, or absolutely incapable of getting there. By absolutely incapable, I do not mean hung-over, tired or cranky. I mean, physically impeded by distance, gunfire or freakish storms.)
When I pulled up to check on a man in his thirties who had managed to drink himself to the brink of death, I saw a garishly painted statue of the Blessed Mother in the front yard. (First I called it hideous, and my husband admonished me. “How could a statue of Mary be hideous?” Well, in my experience, people will mess up every chance they get, even when fashioning holy objects. Don’t believe me? Check this out: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-19349921)
From the doorway I could see that the man was in very bad shape. But people under fifty can live for days and days gripping onto the tiniest thread of will.
Suddenly I had the urge to take off my brown scapular and put it around his neck. (In over twenty years, I’ve never done this before.)
“Is he Catholic?” I asked his sister.
“No. Yes. Well, his mother is Catholic, so I guess that means he is, too.”
I decided to finish my assessment, then go out to the living room and ask his mother permission to put my scapular on him. But I got an even stronger nudge to “do it now!”
Even though I’m a slow learner, I have finally caught on that when I get a strong nudge, it’s best to follow through. So I took off my scapular and put it around his neck, whispering, “Now you belong to Mother Mary. She will keep you safe and lead you straight to Jesus.”
And he died! That very instant!!!
I thought about this when I heard Stevie Ray Vaughn on the radio this morning. Stevie had an amazing conversion and died soon after in a helicopter crash. It seems to me that God snatched Stevie at the perfect moment, before he had a chance to return to his former evil ways.
Over the years, I’ve told many patients who were afraid of going to sleep, “God won’t snatch you up when you’re not looking. He’ll wait for you to take a swan dive into His arms.” (Pretty presumptuous of me, now that I think of it! But everybody’s got to sleep.)
Sometimes He does snatch us up. I’m guessing that He does that, knowing the moment when we are most disposed for giving our final “Yes!”, with the ultimate goal of having us safely home, where we belong.
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His mercy endures forever.