Wednesday, July 06, 2011

"I was in shock!"

A devout couple with whom I'm friends gave me a book on the priesthood, “Holy Hands”, by Fr. Clement Joachim Machado. Simple yet potent book!  Fr. Machado is a missionary with an amazing worldwide ministry who writes about the power and importance of the priesthood mainly through “eight stories of lives transformed by the priesthood’s amazing power”. It's excellent for both laypeople and clergy.  It has reminded me of the awesome gift I have been given as well as the examples in my priestly ministry in which people experience the Lord's healing through my hands. 

Here’s a sample of the book (pp.135-138):

Faith Overcomes Death

I recall from my days as a hospital chaplain in Ottawa, Canada, the tremendous effect of grace from chance meetings with patients, being content to be God's instrument on any given occasion. It showed me the power of Christ through the priesthood, and the power of blessing, and anointing. One case I'll never forget. It was around Easter time. In fact- this strikes me deeply on recollection, but there are no coincidences with God- it was the Feast of the Priesthood, Holy Thursday.

Two nurses told me one of their patients had died. He was a priest, Fr. Richard, who had served as a missionary in Latin America until his health broke down. He needed acute care, so he returned to his home archdiocese in Ottawa, Canada. He was in his 70s. He had a chronic illness, and all that day, his vitals plummeted- his skin color changed, his heartbeat was weak and irregular- he was in his final hour.

Then, his brain function was diminishing; finally, his heart beat its last.

I had gone to the nursing station to document my visit, as I was official chaplain and the protocol required record of pastoral intervention.

I had administered Anointing of the Sick with Viaticum a few months prior, but I knew I also could anoint him conditionally, if I was able to do so within 10 to 15 minutes of his supposed death- as there usually is a window between "apparent medical death" and "absolute death"- separation of his soul from his body.

Therefore the Church has always permitted a conditional anointing in a case where a soul has not departed from the body.

I returned to the nursing station after Fr. Richard's final anointing. But a nurse soon ran down the hall after me: "He jumped out of bed!" She had been preparing his body for the mortician, and he leapt up, opening his eyes. "I was in shock!" she said. She told Fr. Richard that all his vitals seemed to show he had died. He said he was hungry. He didn't leave the hospital, but was healthier than he had been in years.

Because of his chronic condition, he still required acute care. But he lived for two more years. See the power of the Church, the power of the Sacrament, not my own? It's incredible to say even the dead may be healed, restored, brought back to life. But these are signs of the Church. Christ said one of the signs would be that we would be able to raise the dead, heal people from demons. We have instances of this in the life of the mystics and the saints, too.

I recall another case of a woman, 50 years old, in extremely advanced stages of breast and ovarian cancer. She was dying. I anointed her, and the doctor said her death was imminent. "She'll likely not last a day," he said. Yet after the anointing, she revived. She got a burst of life and lived another nine months. Praise and glory be to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Her recovery took the doctors aback. In fact, the doctors were stunned and became humbled. In private conversations they said it was a miracle, and they were more open to God. Publicly, they couldn't say what it was, but that it was scientifically and medically impossible. Medical personnel seem like gods. They have a say over life and death. They're experts. They judge conditions and have a great gift to see the evolution of the disease or illness, and they can tell when a person is nearing the end. So they are very accurate in prognosis and diagnosis and the likelihood of death.

But some things cannot be explained…

"Oh, how great is the priest," said St. Vianney. "If he realized what he is, he would die."

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