Sometimes when I get a “sick call” I find that I feel more blessed than the person receiving the Sacrament. I know that theologically that’s not true, it’s just a feeling. Still I feel a great deal of joy in some of these experiences.
One evening that happened in a very profound way. I was called to a home not far from our Parish. An elderly man was passing and his family knew that the time was near. When I arrived at the house I was greeted in both Spanish and English. There were a lot of adults and children, teens and older people there. The house was full and there was a lot of food. It wasn’t a party, it was the Hispanic tradition of family. The man’s oldest son escorted me to the bedroom. I don’t know how many children he had because there were so many. They were ready for prayer, but I could tell they were not themselves experts in reciting prayers. They wanted me to lead everything, and so I did. We made the sign of the Cross and I proceeded in “Spanglish”, a mix of English and Spanish. Nobody seemed to notice. That was the language of the house. When it came for the actual moment of Anointing I did it slowly and clearly, so that everyone could hear the words. Then I did something that I’d never done before. I asked that, starting with the eldest son, everyone in the house give the man a blessing too. They could bless him any way they wanted. And so it began, the procession of blessings and love. I stood for the first few. His oldest son apologized for the things he had done wrong when he was young and then gave his dad a kiss on the forehead and made the sign of the Cross on his head, his lips and his heart. There were tears of both sadness and joy on both of them. Then the second son, a daughter and on and one it went. I took to a chair and watched this procession in awe and joy. This was a family sharing the Grace of God in the best way they knew how. It lasted a long time, and I relished every minute. When they got to the littlest children there were smiles and laughter from everyone. Even a baby or two were passed over him and by now he was blessing people back.
When I got up to leave the family offered me food and I had a taco to go. When I got to the front lawn the men of the family stopped me and asked if I was a Marine. I laughed and said, “No, I just have a short haircut”. Two of them were former Marines, one a Police Officer and all of them were big, tough looking guys who probably could have scared the daylights out of me if they wanted to. But for that moment I was part of the family. I got big bear hugs and I was offered a beer. I said, “No, I don’t drink alcohol” and they teased me, but didn’t pressure me. They thanked me and I thanked them. By then I had a couple of tears in my eyes too; tears of joy at God’s Grace working in a family who accepted me and loved God.
When I got back into my car and drove home I said a prayer of thanksgiving. I don’t know who or how but someone had slipped an envelope into my pocket with enough cash to buy a big dinner for the Priests of the house on the following Saturday. I told them the story and they’ve started doing the same thing, when possible.
God’s love can be anywhere. Can you bring that love and blessing into your family?