Sunday, October 26, 2003

So What Am I Doing?

I imagine some of you might wonder what I'm actually doing while I'm here. And since so many of you have generously contributed to getting me here, I want you too know what you have helped to accomplish.

Firstly, Msgr. Malanowski is very grateful that I'm here. He had all but exhausted himself in the past two weeks in being with the family and their supporters for 18-20 hours a day. Because I'm here, he's been able to take a break. He took a long nap Friday afternoon, and feels much better for having gotten some decent sleep. He's very grateful to all of you for helping me to get here.

Msgr. Malanowski has told me that one of the greatest disappointments he has had is the lack of support from local clergy or the diocese. I am the only priest, besides monsignor, that has been with the family or at the Hospice keeping vigil with Terri's supporters since the feeding tube was removed. I can't tell you how happy people are to see me when they come here to join the supporters: they're truly grateful to see a priest with them "on the line".

I spend most of the day with the family or supporters. Sometimes leading prayer, sometimes answering questions or clarifying points of Catholic teaching. Sometimes I take part in discussions with the family and their supporters on matters of strategy. I actually feel quite privileged and honored to be so trusted by them so quickly, both in a spiritual and a more prudential sense. I was a stranger to them a week ago. But they have welcomed me and taken me into their confidence in a touching way. That, I have no doubt, is the power of the priesthood at work.

Because a large number of the supporters and vigil-keepers are Evangelicals, there are frequent opportunities for Ecumenism and Apologetics in the best senses of the words. I have had a number of fruitful conversations with Protestants concerning questions about the Catholic faith. I think these are very fruitful because the bona fides of those present is established by their very presence. No one doubts the good faith or will of those here to support Terri, so a lot of baggage is left behind at the outset. I've been told that there have already been a number of conversions or re-versions as a result of these encounters. My own day was made today when I was able to convince several Protestant ladies to join me in praying the Litany of the Sacred Heart. I have a devotion to the Sacred Heart, and love the litany. I explained what it was to the ladies, and invited them to join in. At first they were skeptical, but after a little while they were joining in the responses with evident good will. Now that's ecumenism!

I would very much like to see Terri, but the list of authorized visitors is limited to family, some long-time friends, and Msgr. Malanowski. And all of them are only allowed to see Terri with one of the husband's designated "minders" present. So Bob and Mary have told me that it will be all-but impossible for me to get in to see Terri. But I can pray for her, and lead her supporters in prayer, and give comfort, advice, and support to Terri's family. I know I'm being of real help, and that's enough.