A Communion of Saints

I don’t always do eye exams on Catholic priests, but when I do, I prefer to be blessed.

And that’s exactly what happened yesterday when I examined an honest-to-God padre, Father C. I’ve examined my share of Baptist preachers and various charismatic sorts, even a couple of Episcopalian rectors, but as far as I can remember Father C. was my first Vatican-verified vicar. He was Irish too, which was simply gravy on the potatoes.

He was the second patient in as many days to created a stir in the waiting room. The first one was the man with the Crimson Tide elephant hat, complete with long, gray trunk, who came in Monday still high on the fumes of Mt. Cody’s “Rocky Block.” But when the tall, white-haired Father C. walked in still wearing his black priestly garb and clerical collar even in retirement, there were no rounds of laughter and shouts of “Roll Tide!” It was as if a 2-star general had just walked into an NCO-club. All the usual cussin’ and hollerin’ ceased, and it became so still and quiet that you could have heard a church mouse scamper across the rafters.

My technician was the first to alert me that the next eye exam was likely to take on a spiritual dimension. “Heads up, Catholic priest in the chair!” he exclaimed as he poked his head in my office. I’m not sure what he was thinking–I always try to enter a room with an air of confidence, congeniality, and cool, cultivated professionalism–but I guess he wanted to make extra sure I would be on my best behavior. As for me, my first thought was, Good, I’ve got a few things I need to get off my chest.

As I entered the exam room, I knew immediately from his benevolent gaze and friendly smile that the next 30 minutes would be no game of “God’s Gotcha!” I learned that he had fought in World War II and entered seminary immediately afterward. I’ve noticed that quite a bit of that over the years, men exposed to the horrors of war, seeking a life of serving God in order to deal with the things they’d seen and done. He was 88-years-old and in the sunset of his life, but his mind was sharp and he spoke with a calm and dignified tone, seemingly at ease with the path that he had walked and with the road that lay ahead. I remember thinking that if I have that much peace and integrity at 88–if I make it that far–then I will be able to count myself a blessed man.

Fortunately, his eyes were nearly as keen as his mind and soul. He had only mild age-related cataracts which did not require surgery and was free of macular degeneration, glaucoma and the other ocular diseases which steal into a person’s later life and rob them of their sight. I prescribed the best glasses that I could and told him to come back in a year for follow-up. He smiled when I said that, sprung from the exam chair, and as he shook my hand asked, “Do you think I’ll even be here then?”

Although it was a question that really didn’t require an answer, I smiled and replied, “Probably so.” And then he did something I didn’t necessarily expect but, deep-down in my soul where spiritual scars pull and tug, longed for nonetheless. He placed his hand on my shoulder (no Sign of the Cross, although I would have welcomed it) and said, “Be blessed. I want you to know that I’ll be praying for you forever.”

“Thank you,” I blushed, “I appreciate that.” I think I would have followed the man about anywhere at that point. But I went only so far as the door, waved goodbye, and sent him on his way.

I’ve thought about his blessing since then, and I guess at age 88, “forever” might not be all that long. But if what they say is true, that there is continuity and communion between this corporal plane and a life to come, then maybe he was right after all.

  1. Kristi Sweeney

    I wonder if sometimes, in our attempt to run away from liturgy and Catholicism, we forget the healing power of formally blessing people. What a wonderful experience for you.

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    I wonder if you might have just hit the nail on the head there, Kristi.

  3. Bill Cobbett

    Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

  4. mmlace

    Bill just quoted a portion of what is absolutely my favorite passage of Scripture.

    Of course, I also agree with Kristy 100% She’s right.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience of yours with us, Dr. Eyeguy. Always a pleasure.

    Always a blessing.

  5. JB

    Great post, Mike. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Greg England

    I grew up nearby … Tri / Quad Cities / Shoals area where we were raised with a huge anti-Catholic bias. We were sure Kennedy would turn the entire nation into Catholics! These days, I’ve been very blessed by some of the Catholics I have known. We have some Catholic deacons that help us out with funeral services and they are wonderful men! Thanks for sharing this post … made my Saturday morning!

    Several years ago I was visiting a church of Christ near Nashville that happened to have shared their building with an Episcopalian church that was in a construction process to build a new church plant. I think they had shared this building for over a year. Anyway, that morning the Episcopalian priest was present to thank the church of Christ people for their generous hospitality. He had some very nice things to say and then asked if he could bless us before he left. I had never been blessed in that way at church, but it was a memorable experience. And one that was most appropriate.

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    I still run into an anti-Catholic bias in my circle from time to time, but I think it’s a much smaller deal than it used to be. Really, with all the curses and carping flying around these days, I’ll take a blessing anyway I can get it. Sounds like you feel that way too. Thanks for the good story.

  8. Kristi Sweeney

    Is it supposed to be green?  I mean, your page.

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    Yes. I mean no. It’s supposed to be gray. Well, maybe a “light teal” which is sort of bluish-green-gray. You’re seeing green? You should probably pray about that. 

  10. Kristi Sweeney

    Well, your more verbose description is actually what I’m saying.  It is a “bluish-green-gray.”  I like it.  The red always startled me.

  11. mmlace

    Yeah, it is kind of a bluish-green-gray.  It’s alright, but I kind of liked when it was Razorback-Red.  Or was that Crimson?

  12. Mike the Eyeguy

    You both pass! The color vision test, that is. As it turns out, I had to change WordPress themes because the other one had some coding issues that made pictures look distorted. Mom, for instance, looked “mushed,” and that’s just not fair to leave her that way.

    So, I changed, and overall I like it. The bluish-green-gray, uh, I mean teal, is soothing. Plus, I think the black font on white background looks more professional, kind of like a newspaper column, magazine or maybe even a book.
  13. Kristi Sweeney

    How exciting!  This is the first vision test I’ve ever passed.  My ophthalmologist always looks a little sad when he gives me my prescription.

  14. Mike the Eyeguy

    Probably just sad that you didn’t opt for LASIK ($$!).

  15. Kristi Sweeney

    I wouldn’t mind LASIK.  I would mind having someone cut on my eyes though.  That just seems really gross to me.

  16. Charlie

    As your Catholic running partner, I enjoyed the post as I’m sure you knew I would.

Comments are closed.