Friday, April 8, 2011

ANOTHER FALLEN ANGEL IS LEAVING US

Another of my fallen angels is dying, a priest who was thrown out of our Church, who was so loved, but was accused, who did so many wonderful things before and after, and now he is heaven-bound. Until his health began to fail, he worked very hard to establish a place where other men go for solace and soul restoration; a place where they can use their hands to help build a chapel, or walk among the gentle llamas. It is a place where priests hold retreats, or visit to be alone as they soul-search, or they can be with other men who, like themselves, need a respite from what has become a daily grind – being a priest. It is also a place where Father gives men fresh out of jail or prison a second chance and a place to stay, and only asks in return that they do some chores on the ranch.

When several of us visited his ranch, he took me to meet his herd of llamas knowing of my great love for animals. The llamas greeted us, and I lovingly rubbed their furry faces, and met a baby llama born the day before. Father’s dog who had accompanied us saw the new addition to the llama family and he wanted to meet the baby. But the baby was skittish and wanted no parts of the dog. The baby’s mother lay on the ground contentedly chewing her cud. Whenever the dog got too close the baby would jump over her mother to the other side. The mother was not concerned because she knew the dog meant no harm to them. Baby was not of the same mind. It was a funny scenario.

Finally we left, taking the dog with us in the truck and returned to the house. There were several buildings on the property in various stages of construction. Father could not do it all, and when he had helping hands, they would often begin other projects. The result was a number of projects half finished or half done – viewers’ choice. That evening Father celebrated Mass in his tiny chapel. He warned us that mice in the unfinished ceiling sometimes peeked at visitors during Mass. I looked forward to seeing them, but they never showed.

This priest is dearly loved by all who know him. He has walked among many of you. I met Father a few years ago when he concelebrated at a memorial Mass for another fallen angel in New Mexico. There were four priests concelebrating that day, along with three women in attendance. I will never forget that Mass for one of the first priests I met via letters. He wanted nothing more than to apologize to those he abused, but that was not possible. He suffered from his past behavior, but only God could judge him. Very few showed him the love and compassion that our Church teaches us to do. That priest died of neglect – sheer neglect from the prison staff, and indifference from his diocese – and I vowed to never let that happen again.

Back to the wonderful priest I am writing about. Occasionally he and I spoke on the phone. He always referred to me as, “Excellency” because of my diplomatic career. I called him the same. He would tell me that the llamas were asking for me. They were so precious and he was so gentle with them, along with the two dogs and a cat who recently joined the household. Father’s health has been declining, and when we were unable to reach him, we were concerned. The same thing happened near the end of last year. We learned that he had been in the hospital. Now we wondered if he had been hospitalized again. Dee, who has known Father for many years, finally contacted the local church to see if anybody there had news of Father. It was from the church secretary that we learned that Father is very, very sick. Dee called him and then she called me and gave me the news. She also managed to speak to a nurse who visits Father daily.

I just had a brief conversation with Father on the phone. His voice is very weak and he spoke with difficulty. I tried desperately to fight back tears. At one point he said to me, “It’s not that bad, it’s just that I am not used to being sick.” It is not that bad, no, it’s far worse than he knows. For the past two or three years Father has battled a number of illnesses. We are told that that this will be his final battle. A nurse visits daily and tries to keep him comfortable. Two friends are there looking after him, and other old friends are pouring in to see him. He knows he is loved.
This is reminiscent of the death of Bishop Pat Ziemann not long ago. Dee and I spoke to him the day before he died. I remember Dee telling him that her husband, John, would greet him at Heaven’s gate. Through tears I told him I loved him and was praying for him. I wanted to ask for his blessing, but I knew he was too weak.

And so another of my fallen angels goes forth to meet our God. I know his heart and God knows his soul. We all know that he is ready to meet his Savior, but what a loss to those of us who know and love him. After we spoke, I hung up the telephone, bowed my head and talked tearfully to our Lord. I asked Him to take His beloved priest into His arms, that he not suffer, that he be received into Heaven where he can pray for his brother priests. I thanked God for allowing me to know this gentle, loving man who is forever a priest in that sacred Order of Melchizedek.

May God shed His grace on us, one and all.

4 comments:

  1. You are a brave women, the Church needs like you dear one. I always consider myself a true prodigal son, ha...if you see my blog you will see why.


    Pax,

    Dave

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  2. Thank you, Dave. I LOVE your site!

    c

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  3. Dear Charlene

    How beautiful! He will be in my prayers. Do you know if there is a site that has names and addresses of Priests in prison? I am one of those faithful Catholics who cares deeply about the Priests who have been thrown away.

    May God bless you for this ministry.
    In Our Lady's Heart
    Catherine

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  4. Catherine, I do not know of a site that has names and addresses of priests in prison. <please send me your email adderss to ccduline@gmail.com for more on this. <i am in Rome now and will return in early June.

    Many thanks for your comments.
    ccd

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