Redemptorist Community News
Comings and goings: Fr Charles and I will be away with the Pastoral Area clergy for meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Fr Andrew is with Marriage Encounter this weekend. Fr Michael Henesy and Fr Kevin Callaghan are returning from time away with their families and Bro William has returned after over a week in Broadgreen Hospital and is making good progress.
I'm back again by Fr James Casey C.Ss.R
Yes, I’m back, although I don’t know for how long. I left Bishop Eton and checked in to the Royal Liverpool Hospital at 7.30am on the 18th July 2016. A few days previously I had visited my brother in Glasgow to assure him that there was nothing to worry about and to avoid my never seeing him again if things did go wrong. I didn’t think they would, but when the patient is 82 years old and the surgery is of the car crash variety, there is room for doubt. But when I was told I had between six and nine months to live and surgery was proposed as my best chance of a cure, I was all for it. My mind was in “bring it on” mode.
I was wheeled into the operating theatre. I had been there before and so was pretty relaxed. It was a matter of breathing deeply and drifting off, for an indeterminate period of time, to a happy place, from thence to be awakened by the kindly voice of a Filipino nurse purring in my ear: “James how are you?”. At least that is how it happened in the past. This time it was different. I have no recollection of ever awakening from that general anaesthetic, or being coaxed out of sleep by some kindly nurse. No, I was locked , it seemed, in another world, in a very unhappy place, a dark place populated by drug addicts, gun runners, kidnappers—me being one of the kidnapped with no possibility of ever being ransomed. You see, I was being moved from one dank window- less place to another. There was no way I would ever be traced.
Mind you, I did resist, especially when I came to believe that my cancer was a fiction and that I and other elderly folk had been conned into hospital for experimental purposes. I fought back physically. I remember the struggle as they tied me down and I resisted with all my might. Months later when I was back here in Bishop Eton a parishioner told me her daughter, a nurse at the Royal, had been involved in one of my battles against the powers of evil, i.e. half-a-dozen nursing staff. Apparently I called the lady’s daughter a witch. Considering the state of mind I was in, or out of, at the time, she got off lightly!
Let me tell you that my operation for oesophageal cancer was carried out successfully. What set me back and laid me low was a sudden post-operational infection. While I hallucinated and raved, the doctors, nurses and staff of the Royal worked hard to keep me alive and did so with awesome good will. Such was my mental and physical state that several weeks passed before I was fully aware of where I was and what was going on around me. And it was then that I began to stand still . Days became interminable; I lay there and prayed that they would end, but they wouldn’t!
Nights were equally obstinate; there was no way they were going to give way to the days. I must confess that as I lay there, I languished — oh how I languished. You see, if there was no way the days were going to give way to the nights and vice versa, life would be at a standstill and I’d be lying there forever, a forlorn old creature hooked up to feeding tubes and electric wires, hoping there would be a powercut.
And talking of prayer, my advice to those preparing to go into hospital is: pray before you get there! This I learned years ago when I was seriously ill in Rome. I was suffering from a bacterium capable of killing me and I never said a prayer—I couldn’t. For the past sixty years as a religious and priest I’ve been more than happy to pray several times a day. I’ve studied prayer and lectured on prayer, but that has been no help when sickness was draining the life out of me. During my stay in the Royal I doubt that I ever managed to finish a Hail Mary. But, thank God, a phalanx of folk was doing the praying for me. What’s more, I was inundated with “holy” cards wishing me well and assuring me that, not one Mass, but novenas of Masse s were being offered for my return to good health. There were so many of those multiple Mass cards that the Masses promised are probably still being said — even now. If I suffer a relapse, I’m probably still covered
I was all of six weeks in the Royal. As time passed and I became a bit (but not much) brighter and more aware of life around me, I continued to languish. Who could blame me? I was, without warning, introduced to hospital food. Enough! I’ll only upset myself if I say more. I remembered the mouth-watering menus I was presented with when in hospital in Rome. I remembered, too, how we were asked to indicate whether we wanted red or white wine to accompany our meals. To tell the truth I wanted neither red wine nor white wine. There was only one thing I wanted and that was OUT . Like the big child I am, I wanted to go home to our beloved Bishop Eton—yes, to the building, but more importantly to the community that gives life and purpose to the building. Waiting for the day of deliverance/homecoming was anything but easy.
What eased the pain of waiting were the constant visits to the Royal of the different members of our community. Not a day passed without a visit from at least one member of the community. Often, they arrived in threes and fours, helping each other along, and in danger of being mistakenly admitted. This kindness continued during my immediate convalescence at Christopher Grange and has continued to this day here in Bishop Eton, where our home-grown paramedics still attend to my daily technomedical needs.
I’m back home again, and I’m ever so grateful for all that has been done for me. During my illness, I did live through some dark, even frightening, times, but despair was never an option. There were too many on my side. We were a power to be reckoned with. As we lived through this experience, grace, normally thought of as a theological truth, became a lived reality—became words of encouragement, a warm embrace, little acts of service, a willingness to wait and watch and listen and love. We were a grace-fuelled community and we were winners. As they say daftly on television these days: ‘Why don’t we all give ourselves a big round of applause?’
First Published in BE Alive June 2017
Comings and Goings:
Fr Andrew is away this weekend and next weekend with Marriage Encounter. Bro William has had a short spell in hospital this week, but is recovering well. I almost had to dash to Scotland this week to give a priests’ retreat for Fr Denis McBride because of the grave illness of one of our priests, Fr Terry Creech. Happily another solution has been found, but it is further reminder of the constraints under which we are all working.
We will keep Fr Terry and all our sick confrères and parishioners in our prayers.
JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS: Congratulations again to our jubilarians, Frs Michael Henesy and Anthony Hunt, who were ordained in this church fifty years ago today. There will be a simple reception in the Fisher-More hall after the 11.30 Mass for those who wish to greet them.
In these days we are rejoicing with four members of our community who have reached remarkable personal milestones.
Last Friday (8th Sept) Frs Jim Casey and Tony Johnson reached the Diamond Jubilee of their Profession of Vows as Redemptorists and next Sunday (17th Sept) Frs Tony Hunt and Michael Henesy mark the Golden Jubilee of their Ordination, which actually took place here in our church. We will mark the occasion at the 11.30am Mass on that day and the congregation will be invited into the hall afterwards to meet all our jubilarians.
Comings and Goings:
Fr Michael Henesy and Bro Michael Duxbury have had to delay their arrival by a couple of days, but should be with us before the end of the weekend.
Fr Andrew and Fr Charles leave for Perth this Sunday to be present at the next phase (European Meeting) of our General Chapter. Fr Andrew is our elected representative and Fr Charles has been co-opted to help with the minutes (and probably some translating).
Fr Andrew should be back next weekend, but Fr Charles has other meetings (including one for vocations) and will not be back until towards the end of the month.
Fr James Smale is preaching for Zimbabwe in Plymouth this weekend.
Fr. General on World Day of Prayer for Creation
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