Last night, a gift of grace! "Merici" came to die From nearby nursing home
Our doctors did their best Her heart and lungs were spent With ninety-four long years
Merici’s hour drew near Without a single kin No family / friend appeared
An echo from the past “My God! My God! Oh, why Have You forsaken me?!”
I whisper in hear ear I stroke her clammy hand My sacred space, beside her
Heart rate first read sixty The monitor’s slow descent… To forty…down…to…naught
Merici’s voyage to God Unseen, unshared, unmourned Except for privileged me
“Be kind, accepting, Lord! Forgive her any fault! Embrace her! Again! For me!”
I voice a hope-filled prayer: Our middle name is “Weakness” But Thine is truly “Mercy!”
After more than sixty years of priesthood, forty-two spent at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois, Father Frank Keenan, C.P. retired from active ministry a couple of years ago and now resides in a local nursing home where he writes poetry and gladly shares stories of his life as a Passionist.
Before TV had taken us hostage, yearly religious gatherings like Christian Revivals, Jewish High Holy Days, Chautauquas or the Muslim Hajj, brought communities together face to face in hopes of renewal. The community I grew up in called those meetings, Missions. Once a year for an entire week, members of our parish, Immaculate Conception, would come out each evening to see and listen to the preaching of the visiting Passionist missionary. The week climaxed with his sermon on the passion of Jesus. There he stood on a stage three feet above the already raised sanctuary with a larger than life crucifix at his side, telling the story of the life and death of one young Jewish man, Jesus. He had me and I suspect the rest of the community, totally mesmerized. Somehow in the retelling of this story, I made sense of my life’s experiences, especially that of the death of my mother when I was ten.
Alas, those days are gone for many. The community no longer gathers en masse at the local church to be inspired and to learn how to make sense of the joys, the suffering and the movement of our journeys through time.
A modern update of that Passionist missionary, for me anyway, is Alyssa Monks, a graduate of Boston College and the New York Academy of Art. Ms. Monks is a three-time awardee of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation Grant for Painting, a member of the New York Academy of Art’s Board of Trustees. She took me back to the days of my childhood, when I watched her TED Talk, “How loss helped one artist find beauty in imperfection”. Like the Passionist preacher of my childhood, she helped me make sense of the joy, the suffering, the deaths and the movement of my life. Thanks Alyssa.
Dan O’Donnell, a layman has covenanted with the Chicago Community. In addition to the standard covenant, Dan promises to work at connecting all partners known and unknown, to a conscious following the the way of Jesus, the way of the cross which Dan believes transforms all failure, democratizing the human journey