Catholic for One Day
By Father Vic Subb, Glenmary Pastor
Holy Family Mission, Lafayette (Macon County), Tenn.
Divine Savior Mission, Celina (Clay County), Tenn.
As Glenmary missioners, we always seek ways to invite people into the Church. Sometimes it is the people in the pews who do the inviting. In either case, it is the Holy Spirit working through us that does the moving.
John—a 94-year-old man living in the Lafayette, Tenn., mission area where I serve as pastor—started coming to Holy Family mission several years ago with his daughter Diane. At the time, Diane was Catholic but John was not. At first he just waited in the car while his daughter attended Mass. But after several months of encouragement by the mission members, John started to attend Mass.
The parishioners welcomed him, found him to be an enjoyable man, and were glad to see him worshiping with them instead of sitting in the parking lot. John did not have a lot of means, but he would bring cough drops to share with other people after Mass, and they looked forward to receiving their treats. Those cough drops were John’s small way of giving back and sharing what he had. And he enjoyed the fellowship in the small mission community.
Several years passed during which John was faithfully present at Mass each week with his daughter. We would regularly invite John to join the RCIA and enter the Catholic Church. He would say, “Some day, but not now.”
One Sunday I noticed that John was not at Mass. I asked Diane why not, and she told me that John had been falling and was in a nursing home because he needed physical therapy. I visited him several times during the next few months. He was jovial, always asking how everyone in the parish was doing. He always offered me a cough drop. John seemed to be getting weaker, though.
Then Diane called one day and said that her dad had a heart attack and was moved to a hospital in Nashville. I visited John and could see that he was very weak. We prayed and talked.
Before I left, the Holy Spirit prompted me to ask, “John, I would love to give you the sacraments. Would you like to be Catholic?” John’s eyes lit up and he replied, “Yes, Father, when I get out of here.” I was overjoyed that he said yes, but I still left with the concern that John might never get out.
Two days later Diane called and said, “Dad has taken a turn for the worse. I think that he is dying.” I wanted to drop everything and go to see John, but I was visiting the sick two hours away.
I called the hospital to talk to the priest who ministered there. After several minutes, I was connected with him and asked if he could visit John. I explained John’s desire to become Catholic.
The priest went straight away to visit John, who made a profession of faith and received first Communion and the last rites.
The next day I left home very early in order to visit with John. When I entered the room, Diane and her husband were with her father. John’s breathing was very labored. We began to pray, and during the prayer John took his last breath and died. It was a peaceful parting with his family around him.
I was honored to witness John’s journey continuing to eternal life. I believe that John is passing out cough drops in heaven.
After my beautiful experience with him, I reflected that it was the Spirit which encouraged me to ask John again if he wished to be Catholic.
After his death, Diane told me that her dad had wanted to be Catholic, but he was concerned that his health would not allow him to walk up the church aisle to receive Communion.
I knew John to be a good Christian, but as a missioner I had the tremendous desire to offer him the sacraments, since our Church is so rich in this way.
May you rest in peace, my friend, knowing that your journey with me has reminded me how blessed I am to be a missioner.
This article appeared in the Autumn 2015 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.