Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not only the patients need to be patient ..

A hospital chaplain needs to have thick skin, patience and a healthy sense of humour.

On my rounds one day I bumped into two men in their hospital gowns and bare feet chatting at the door of their ward. They were new admissions in for a few days of tests before possible heart surgery. I passed by in my 'blacks' and Roman collar and gave a cheery 'Good morning'. Instead of answering they looked me up and down with some disdain, computed that I was of no relevance to them, and continued chatting.

It was the same the next day though on the third one of them managed the tiniest 'G'day' from the corner of his mouth. On the fourth day they were both trapped in their adjoining beds with the "Nil By Mouth" sign dangling above their heads. They were not happy. I approached the first one and said 'Operation today?' 'Yeah, mate .. er .. Father.'

'Don't worry, these heart procedures are nothing these days. They're just routine. You'll be right,' and before he could answer, 'Where are you from?'

'Dubbo.' 'Oh, the good country. I love that sort of country, almost outback. Let me give you a blessing before your op.' What could he do but say 'Ok'?

So I put my hand on his head and prayed. His friend in the other bed didn't have the heart to refuse my offer of a blessing, most of his energy was going into the pre-op jitters.

Next day they were there in ICU - looking like two wounded rabbits. Each had a big vertical scar down the middle of his chest and each was clutching a towel folded up against the suture. They were not in a good mood and suffering considerably. I knew not to start joking around, gave them a quick blessing and left.

The next two days saw big improvements, there were no complications and the pain left their eyes. 'Can I give you a blessing this morning?' 'Sure thing, Father.'

The last time I saw them was back in the Coronary Care Unit. I was walking past their room to check the names on the board and they called out 'Hey, Father, you've forgotten the blessing!' 'No, I haven't, I was just getting the list from the board.' We talked for a good while that day. They knew they were going and would probably never see me again but we were almost friends. There was a warmth in that room, an understanding - I might even say, the Holy Spirit.


  1. Cool! What a great story, and so much nicer knowing it's true :) God is good! And you're not bad either, Father ;)

  2. That was pretty cute the way you "bullied" them into getting blessed. Hee hee! What a smooth operator you are! They received graces not only unbeknownst to themselves, but unrequested! Bravo! What a way to win souls for Jesus!

  3. What a wonderful story! It's amazing what one can do (in this case you) when they have true faith. You remind me of the famous Abraham Lincoln quote, "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."

  4. I loved it.....wonderfully written, too. I enjoyed the quiet humour and the great pen-pictures...especially the description, "like wounded rabbits". Graphic!

    Best of all was the outcome... and what a wonderful ambassador for God you were!

  5. What a great story Father! I stumbled across this blog recently and I think you've got yourself a faithful reader now. God bless you.

  6. With the best job in the world, hard to figure the vocations crisis!

  7. EXACTLY Mark! It's all about a good example, a good witness, in the end. Someone who can be faithful in what he does, and love the life he leads, in spite of ups and downs and suffering etc. In fact, someone who loves the Lord and wants to serve him, I suppose. Give us good priests and we will have plenty of young men wanting to follow (not to mention plenty of 'ordinary' Catholics wanting to grow in holiness!). Give us bitter, disobedient, unhappy, unfulfilled, uninspiring, grumpy old priests, and the young men run a mile.

  8. Lovely UJ! I was thinking though, what does a wounded rabbit look like?

  9. that is a wonderful story father! wonderful. we have to request a priest here if we get sick, and sometimes, the priest can't come as he is very busy.

  10. Father, the first thing I thought of when I read your post was what? Bare feet in the hospital? Where are the hospital slippers? You know, with the prevalence of MRSA, VRE and CDIF one should never go bare feet in a hospital anymore.

    It is wonderful the way those men gradually came to accept your blessings; it is as though the closer they came to the possibility of death, the more open they were to receiving your spiritual help.

    I am glad you wear your clerics for your hospital visits. It is always so good to see our priests dressed in the clothes of their Divine Office.

  11. Great story, thanks 4 sharing.
    The last couple of sentences brought a tear to my eye...maybe because my uncle was part of the story, and it was a joyful tear in response to the change in those 2 men;)
    Makes me think you must have several touching hospital stories!

  12. This is sooo cool, Fr. John! I am proud of you!

    God's abundance of blessings be yours.