December 23, 2011, Steven and I visited Father Sheehan for the first time since July 2004, when I’d last spent time with him at Our Lady of Refuge in Roma, TX.
“Hi, Father Sheehan! We’ve come to ask if you’d like to join us for lunch,” I chirped excitedly.
I wanted to hug him hello, but he was stunned to have two strangers call on him at the Oblate Madonna Residence in San Antonio, TX! I’d never expected that, since he’s regularly mailed greeting cards to us over the years.
Father quizzically searched our faces, mine especially. He wanted to smile, but he wasn’t really sure about letting his guard down.
“Should we have called first?” I asked. “I looked online for your phone number and found only the one for the house here. I wrote the number on the back of your card, but I didn’t think to call ahead. I figured we’d just drop by; and then, if we couldn’t have access to you, I’d call.”
Seeing the card in my hands, Father admitted, “I can’t deny it’s my handwriting. I have to know you, or you wouldn’t have that card; but I don’t know who you are. What are you doing here? What do you want?”
“We came to take you to lunch,” I repeated, hopeful that Father would agree to join us. I wasn’t sure if he was kidding or if he really didn’t remember me. “We can leave, if you like. It’s just that I’d written to let you know we’d be in town this weekend, and we were hoping to spend some time with you. Didn’t you receive my cards?”
Father Sheehan was struggling to remember who I was.
Steven and I were strangers to him, but we couldn’t just leave. I knew who he was, so I wanted to reassure him. “It’s okay that you don’t remember me. I remember you, and that’s good enough!” I said cheerfully. I wanted him to know that my feelings weren’t hurt, but not until I wrote this post did I realize that he was concerned for himself. And, really, he had every right to be.
Patiently yet enthusiastically, I shared a lot of memories going back to September 12, 2002, when we first met at Immaculate Conception Cathedral and became fast friends. Yet Father’s recollections eluded him.
“Who are you? Why are you here?” Father asked pointedly, almost making my eyes water.
Then, like a frozen moment in time, we looked directly into each others’ eyes and— just like that— Father Sheehan’s memory seemed to thaw.
“I think I vaguely recall,” he declared, sounding less apprehensive and more receptive to our visit.
We both relaxed.
“So does this mean you’ll join us for lunch?” I asked invitingly, fully prepared to show Father a good time no matter what.
With Father in his familiar comfort zone, he once again became the lighthearted person who’d been our beloved family priest back home. He mischievously joked and teased in his usual happy way.
Even though the weather was bitingly cold, our renewed friendship warmed our spirits. Father gave us a tour of the grounds and the facility before asking, “Have you seen the chapel?”
“Whaatt?!!! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!” I exclaimed, anticipating a delightful topping on the Dairy Queen strawberry sundaes we’d enjoyed earlier.
For five precious hours, Father Sheehan had gifted us with crescendoing joy. He’d been silly, entertaining, and informative all at once. But, ever the masterful storyteller, he’d saved the best for last.
The Oblate Madonna Residence chapel, like Father Sheehan’s recollection that the stained-glass windows were the same ones from when he’d entered the seminary there at age fourteen in 1949, was a huge Secret Santa surprise. Simply amazing. Oh-so special. A wonderful walk down memory lane.
Novena… God our Father, we thank you for having called Saint Eugene de Mazenod to follow Christ, the savior and evangelizer. Through his intercession help us to reach out with the healing touch of Christ, who calls us to holiness and to mission. May we build communities which are signs of your presence, and share the Good News of salvation with all peoples. For this we dedicate ourselves, through Christ, our Lord.
Saint Eugene de Mazenod, share with us your love for Christ, help us to stand firm in goodness, and be with us in all our efforts. Amen.
May God, through your intercession, guide me to accept the difficulties in my life and to work toward a happy and healthy solution. May I accept God’s will in my life with strength and love. I ask this through his son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Special favor… God, our Father, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, you called St. Eugene de Mazenod to gather priests and brothers as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate to annouce the gospel, especially among the poor and neglected. May we be inflamed with the zeal for announcing the gospel of Jesus Christ, our savior, and receive through his intercession the special grace we ask for at this time…
St. Eugene de Mazenod, pray for us.
Links of interest… Brownsville diocese… Immaculate Conception Cathedral (ICC): diocesan website / national registry / parishes online / photos… Our Lady of Refuge… Sacred Heart Church (ICC mission): photos… St. Eugene de Mazenod: about / biography / book / church (about / dedication / info / Mass times) / founder / litanies / novena / prayer / saint / speaks to us (blog)…
WP posts… Angels keeping watch… Building community… Connected tangents… Father’s guided tour… Father now retired… Gifts… Heart of hearts… Holy relics… Marian devotions… Promise of hope… A real church… Soulful… Sweet Jesus… Two angels
Filed under: Advent, call of service, chapels, prayer, spiritual gifts, St. Eugene de Mazenod | Tagged: building community, God's master plan, Oblate Madonna Residence Chapel-San Antonio TX, overcoming adversity |