A Thanksgiving

Christ sometimes speaks to us through others



In a low-rent Beacon Hill tenement where I once lived, I visited almost daily a disabled pensioner who was a former horse jockey, recently suffering from blackouts. He had had a metal plate embedded in his skull after a racing tumble, and it caused him unpredictable fainting spells. His merely crossing the street was an exercise in terror, from the real fear that he might collapse in the middle of on-rushing traffic and be crushed to death.

In the course of our chats, I learned he had served during WWII and had a Purple Heart. One day, after I’d listened intently to him, he said, “I went to war for people like you.” I was deeply moved by this sentiment, and when he died shortly after, I prayed for the repose of his soul in the back of the church during his funeral Mass.

I sat in a rear pew, cloaked by shadows, avoiding recognition by family mourners kneeling near the casket. As a priest chanted funereal verse, my un-ordained gift to the deceased was a sincere prayer of thanksgiving. I’d translated his words to me that day as if Christ had spoken to me on his deathbed, “I bore my cross and died for people like you.”

Richard M. DellOrfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography: Path Perilous, My Search for God and the Miraculous.

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