By Deacon Derick Cranston
Does God still talk to us? Is it possible to find “God in the moment” as St. Ignatius taught? Does God speak to us, say, through Scripture? I found myself wondering these same things during a recent night at a hospital where I volunteer as an overnight chaplain.
During that night I visited with a middle-aged man with multiple brain tumors. He knew it wouldn’t be long, and he wanted to give one of his daughters durable power of attorney before he lost his ability to make decisions. Speaking with a person who knows the end is near can be very profound. Later that night, I spent time with a family whose 91-year-old mother and grandmother passed away. Finally, I found myself baptizing a baby born prematurely at 23 weeks who soon passed away. I then sat with the father who had just lost his son and whose wife was in critical condition.
After a night with very little sleep, I had a home blessing later that morning to attend to. I normally look forward to doing these blessings, but I was emotionally and spiritually drained and just wanted to go home and take a nap. When I got to the home, I was met by a wonderful couple and their four smiling, energetic and beautiful children. They were very kind, and after the blessing they invited me to eat breakfast with them. The kids were crawling all over me and talking to me in Spanish because they did not know any English yet. They had just moved here from Peru three months ago. I don’t speak Spanish, but it was really fun interacting with the kids, as they were all smiles and very affectionate. Their parents — like most parents would do — admonished their children for pulling on my leg, etc., but I told them that it was okay, and I enjoyed the children’s affection and playful spirit. When it was time to leave, I blessed each of the children and they were thrilled.
When I read the Mass readings for that day, I knew that God was with me at every moment. The first reading, from James, went: “Is anyone among you suffering … is anyone among you sick? Then you should call the presbyters of the Church and they should pray over them” (much like the night I had experienced). The Gospel reading, from Mark, told of the scene where Jesus said, “Let the children come to me … because the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Then he embraced the children and blessed them…”
Seeing the tiny, dying baby whose head was smaller than my fist and who was 6 inches long at the most, was a very inspiring way to end the night and begin the morning. It is reassuring to know that although there is death and suffering in the world, there is also joy and happiness, death and resurrection. It is the story of our faith; it is the story recorded in the Bible, which speaks to us down through the ages. Were the Scripture readings that morning a coincidence? Maybe, but I don’t think so.
(Deacon Cranston is pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish in Riverside, Holy Trinity Parish in Richmond and St. Joseph Parish in Wellman. He can be reached at derick