Friday, August 03, 2007

Fatima and Eternal Life

On Thursday, July 19, I returned from a very blessed trip to Portugal. The majority of time was spent on pilgrimage in Fatima; however, we also were able to tour some other parts of that beautiful country. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Fatima, I highly encourage you to go. It is one of the most peaceful and prayerful places I have ever been. For those who don’t know the story of Fatima, it was ninety years ago this year when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children six times from May to October proclaiming a message of prayer and penance. Over the years, it has become one of the most visited Catholic shrines in the world.

Matthew Kelly, a young Catholic author and speaker whose books and talks I have come to enjoy, said that he travels to Fatima each year “to find answers.” His sentiment became a reality for me as I left for Fatima in the midst of a very painful experience. In June, I wrote about My Father’s Day Gift and how two students from Rhode Island College called me on that day to wish me a Happy Father’s Day. Two days before I left for Fatima, one of those students, Vicky Cadorette, died at the age of 20. Vicky was a spiritual daughter to me. Her death was sudden, and all of us who knew and loved her are still deeply grieving.

A priest possesses a real fatherly affection for the people that the Lord has entrusted to his care. Vicky was one of those people in my life. And the bottom line is that it has been one of the most painful experiences of my life. But, in a beautiful way, it has been a real experience of spiritual fatherhood: a father weeps and mourns when he loses one of his children.

As painful as this time has been, however, I would not trade spiritual fatherhood for anything in the world. The Lord is so good that he allowed me to be at Vicky’s bedside in the hospital to absolve her from her sins and to give her the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick before she died. I was able to spend time with her family, and I was able to spend time in silent prayer by her side. Even though she was unconscious, I know she received grace from the sacraments and prayer, and I know that she is now with the Lord.

Faith and prayer sustain us during difficult times, and over the last few weeks I have spent a lot of time in prayer pondering God’s sometimes mysterious ways. During this particular time, I have come to a deeper appreciation for the Communion of Saints. The truth is, we still have a relationship with those who have died. I know that Vicky is with the Lord; therefore our friendship continues. I know she is praying for us.

For some mysterious reason the Lord brought me to Fatima two days after Vicky’s death and it was there that I experienced the Lord’s peace in a profound way. During difficult times, we are often robbed of peace. But with faith in the Lord, we can experience peace even in the midst of tragedy. Only with faith is it possible to grieve and at the same time to have hope and joy.

Catholic priests are called to proclaim a message of hope and salvation. Those who die in the Lord are alive in him forever. Death is not the end, but the beginning. If I were not a priest I would not have known Vicky Cadorette; and all who knew her were blessed by her life. As a priest, as a spiritual father, the Lord used me to bring her the sacraments at the end of her earthly life to prepare her for Eternal Life. For this, I am forever grateful.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace, and may the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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