Sr. Elizabeth’s ministry to the chronically ill
I had on my list of patients a number of chronic cases or shut-ins who weren't too sick i. e. able to be up and around afflicted with some chronic ailments such as rheumatism or palsy or cripples from falls or heart cases. I visited them when I could. To these I brought a Sacred Heart picture and exposed it well in view in the house so that Our Lord would watch over them for me. These cases worried me at times because one didn't know when a bad turn would come and I'd want them ready. But here again Our Lord helped me in wonderful ways.
I suppose, Father, that has happened to you many times, to go just where the spirit moves you. Many times I was urged to go, here and there just on time to have my chronic patients anointed when struck suddenly either by a shock or other cause like in Mary W's case.
She lived alone with her father. She was in her 40’s and had palsy. I went in once a week to clean her up. I had been on Saturday, but then in the beginning of the next week I was strongly moved to go again. Mary wasn't on the second floor as usual. After calling her 3 times I went up to the attic and found her lying on a bed up there. One look told me she was dying. She had had a heat shock. It was the 12th of July. I just had time to call a priest who anointed her. She died 20 minutes after. Our dear Lord was watching for me and gave me the high sign.
Mrs. D. had suffered a broken hip. She recovered enough to walk around a little in her house. As we got very busy. I said to Mr. D.: “I won't come anymore now. If anything turns up, call me.” Mr. D. was 80 years old and kind of sensitive. He was vexed with me because I hadn't gone in to see his wife for some time. He would turn his head away and ignore me when he'd see me. I didn't pay attention to him. This went on for some time, when one hot July day the 9th I happened to pass by his house. He was on the piazza smoking a cigar. I was urged inwardly to break the ice and I said, “How do you do? Mr. D.” He gave me a cold greeting, and I added, “How is Mrs. D.?” She is coo, coo.” was the reply. For a minute I didn't pay attention to the answer. But after a while it dawned on me, she is coo, coo, that means she's mental. What has happened? I took the resolution to go and find out the next day. By hook or by crook I must get in. I was wondering if I wouldn't be put out.
After dinner, the next day, I was knocking at the door. Happily the granddaughter opened and I said, “May I see Mrs. D?” She said, “wait until I ask grandpa.” I heard him grant permission from the kitchen. Up I went, but what was my surprise the minute I looked at Mrs. Donahue lying in bed. She was in a comatic state and very near her end. I tried to open the windows as it was extremely hot, but they were nailed. In her delirium she had tried to go out by the window. So Mr. D. had nailed them. I said, “Catherine, run for the priest. He anointed her and she died the next day.
Poor Mr. D. was a different man by that time. He hadn't realized what was taking place and wondered how in the world I had gone to his house without being called, just in time to assist his wife at death and have her receive her sacraments. He used to say to me, “Sister, I'd kissed the ground you walk on.” I would have been very embarrassed if he did. That didn't worry me, but his soul did. He had been baptized a Catholic and that was the limit of his Catholic life; he lived as if he wasn't one. His wife's death impressed him greatly and the grace of God, the Good Shepherd was running after him. “Sister, he said to me, “what must I do to be admitted to the church and buried with my wife?” “That's easy enough,” I said. “I'll ask a priest to come down and see you.” The priest visited him, instructed him summarily. He made his first confession and first Holy Communion in his 80s. Not long after, he took seriously ill and on going in his room to take care of him, I see hanging on the wall, a huge picture of the Sacred Heart. My Great Friend, was there watching His game. He was anointed a month before he died. A good thing he was because he got up afterwards, even went out. But they found him dead on the floor near his bed on the 2nd of October. The doctor judged he had passed away a couple of days before. He lived alone and used to keep his door locked. One didn't know whether he was out or in. How thankful I was to the Sacred Heart for all the blessings showered on them.
In 20 years I was in Newport, many of the cases we went to were incurables. In all this time I had but one patient who died without receiving her Sacraments. I had warned on time but God knows what happened.
The Sacred Heart and Our Blessed Mother watched over my dying patients. How peacefully they left this world, prayed to sleep as it were. Our Blessed Mother came for so many of them on her feast days, or on the eve of the feasts.
You see, Father, as I told you before, I had consecrated myself to her in a very special way in 1922 and I renewed my consecration and still do so, on her feast days, using the consecration of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
To be continued