By Father Marty Goetz
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, worry about the future, or anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.”Sometimes it is hard to live in the present moment. Or when something happens to us in the present moment, we don’t realize how special it is. It might take a few days or weeks or months to realize how important the moment was. Something like that happened to me a few months ago.
This past July, a priest friend and I went to Coralville to visit Father Gene Benda in the nursing home. When we entered the room, his face lit up with the biggest smile. Fr. Benda was always that way. He always had a smile on his face and a song in his heart. This day was no different, even though he was suffering the effects of a recent stroke. He sang to us the Chiquita Banana Song: “I’m Chiquita banana and I’ve come to say — bananas have to ripen in a certain way….”
After our 20-minute visit, we prayed with Fr. Benda and blessed him. It’s something I do almost every day and something that I took for granted. And then we asked Fr. Benda for his blessing. Tears filled his eyes as he slowly and gingerly raised his hand in blessing. The words came slowly: “May God bless you … Father …. Son …. and Holy Spirit.”
At that moment, I didn’t think much about it. But two months later I received word that Fr. Benda had died. The first thing I thought of was his blessing and how important it is for me as priest to bless others with peace, forgiveness and love — to bless others with God’s presence.
The blessing Fr. Benda gave me that day in July has come back to my heart and mind many times, especially when I heard of the death a few weeks ago of Father Ron Young who was my pastor when I was a parochial vicar in Clinton. I thought of the many ways that Fr. Young blessed my life and priesthood with his friendship, support and understanding.
After the Memorial Mass celebrated in Clinton on Jan. 20, a parishioner came up to me and shared the following story:
“A friend of mine got drunk one night and couldn’t find his way home, even though he lived in Clinton. He was arrested and given community service. He had to help out around the parish, and Fr. Young asked him if he knew how to plaster. He did and after a couple of days, Fr. Young went and asked how he was doing. The man replied: ‘Father, if you only knew and had the time!’ Fr. Young said: ‘Try me!’ So for the next hour he went to confession and after that, he never drank again and has returned to the Church, never missing a Sunday.”
A wonderful story of blessing! A wonderful story of priesthood!
Are there people in your world that need blessing? Needy people, hurting people, people who need your love, care or attention? Actually, they’re everywhere, aren’t they? Maybe within your own family, or next door, or in the next cubicle at the office, or on the golf course or running path. As we have been blessed, we are called to bless one another!
Just think how great our lives, homes, neighborhoods, Church, work places, play places and world will be if we truly bless one another.
You never know how much meaning in the present moment that blessing can bring!