Graces Flow through Interactions with the Homebound
Father David J. Bonnar 1
There is an abundance of graces that come every day with being a parish priest. Many of these flow from interactions with the faithful who, time and again, do more for my faith than I can ever do for theirs. For example, I find great strength in the people who come to holy Mass every day. Not even inclement weather or a pandemic can stop them. They are such a model of faithfulness.
During the first wave of the sexual abuse crisis in 2001, I found great solace in the faithful who came to holy Mass on Sunday. It helped me to hear them profess their faith, not just in God, but in his Church.
I must confess though, it is not just these disciples of Jesus who come to holy Mass who inspire me in my faith. Ever since I was ordained, I have always derived great strength from visiting the homebound and bringing them Jesus in the holy Eucharist. It is always a privilege to enter the home of a parishioner to pray with them on behalf of the Church. Their simple, childlike faith has always brought food to my soul and strength to my heart.
The other day, I was blessed to visit a married couple. Ralph is 99 and Helen is 95. They have been happily married for 65 years. They were sitting side by side in their dining room eagerly awaiting my arrival. They were effusive in their welcoming of me, not just to their home, but also to the parish as their new pastor. Right away, they made me feel at home in their home. But more importantly, they were welcoming Jesus into their home. Because of the pandemic, they have been unable to receive holy Communion. Thanks to their daughter, we were able to arrange a visit.
Following the celebration of the anointing of the sick and the distribution of holy Communion, we had the opportunity to engage in conversation. In the background behind them was a shelf containing an array of family photos, one of whom featured a priest who happened to be a relative of whom they both were so proud. I learned that Ralph and Helen were parents of four children but lost two of them back-to-back some years ago. I could not imagine the pain they had to endure from those losses. Together, they weathered something that no parent should ever have to do. But there they were, next to each other, true to their vows to love each other in good times and bad times.
The more I looked around the room I came to see that Christ and the Church have always been at the center of their love and lives. Ralph shared with me that, in the old days, he used to be a big help to a previous pastor. I don’t know if he could appreciate how much he and his bride were helping his new pastor. Their joy overwhelmed me.
As I looked around even more, I noticed a shrine dedicated to some saints. And then I saw something I never saw before — a shrine with the images of some of the most recent popes.
Wow! My eyes then peered above the doorway to the kitchen and there, on a wooden plaque written in Polish, was the description of the Fourth Station of the Cross.
When I walked out the door to get into my car, it was clear to me that I was not only blessed to have been once again in a home, but I also had just left a couple who had made their home and family a Church. What fidelity!
Thanks, Ralph and Helen, for witnessing God’s love throughout the years. Christ truly dwells in your hearts and home. Your joy and fidelity for Christ and his Church after all these years is amazing and certainly worthy of gratitude.
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 16 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.
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