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The urgent call to the Wilmington rectory: ‘Father, she needs to hear God loves her’

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A man raises his arms in prayer at the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale in Rome March 17, 2020. Many churches in Italy remain open for prayer amid a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (CNS photo/Junno Arocho Esteves)

By Father Richard Jasper

The call came in to the rectory yesterday with an out-of-state area code, the caller identifying himself as the son of a 90-year-old woman on hospice care in a local northern Delaware nursing home.

“Father, my Mom is dying. I know they won’t let you in to anoint her because of Corona, but I was wondering …”

Chrism Mass
Father Richard Jasper joins the recessional at Chrism Mass 2019 at Holy Cross in Dover. Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

He pauses to compose himself, the words catching in his throat.

“I was wondering if you could do some sort of prayer service over the phone. My Mom can hear you; her heart can hear. She just can’t respond.”

And then this comment, which made me realize just how much we all need God when the Cross is heavy: “Father, she needs to hear God loves her and is with her in her suffering.”

Three weeks ago, I would have rushed to the assisted care facility (as any priest would), anointing this woman with the sacred oils and speaking the words of healing as the rite prescribes.  It is another moment in the Church’s sacramental life that reminds us all that there is so much more to this journey than just the present moment; that our souls are made for eternity.

Opening up the ritual book, I began reading Scripture over the phone into the ear of the woman who spent her entire life raising a family who were now gowned in protective wear and permitted this last moment together in her room.  I read the passage from John 14: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in me.”  Then, hoping it would bring her soul peace, I told her that our Lord forgives her and lovingly waits for her, as did Our Lady and all the saints and angels.

Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Have faith.

If there is one ‘Jesus statement’ that we need to keep hearing these days, it is this one.  Write it on your hearts, stick it on your fridge, and place it next to your laptop.  The Lord never abandons us in our hour of need, and will move heaven and earth to reach the souls that cry out to him …

Even if His words come by phone in a non-traditional, “let’s break through the roof and lower our friend to Jesus” kind of way.

Our God’s love and mercy can NEVER be limited.  And He is always so good … always.

An hour later, the same area code appeared on the rectory’s caller id:

“Father, Mom just passed so very peacefully.  Thanks for the prayers.  We’re grateful that the Church was there for her.”

And thank you, good and faithful son, for doing what you needed to help your Mom get back Home.

Father Richard Jasper is associate pastor at St. Ann, Wilmington.