Saturday, November 16, 2019

A simple prayer: Jesus, here I am, it’s Norma

When people ask how our family is doing in this difficult time, I usually mumble something like, just pray for a miracle, that's really all we need. That said, so many people have been Jesus with skin on we're so very grateful. Cards, e-mails, meals, invitations, even visits from complete strangers. Even the really awkward conversations that quickly become a tale of woe about their own problems, are meant well.  I read a story this morning about prayer, I'd like to share (from Magnificat, Nov. 2019, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, pp. 248-249)

Cardinal Nguyen Van Thuan (d. 2002) was a prisoner of the north Vietnamese for 13 years, and after his liberation people suggested he must have had a lot of time to pray. He told them he was often so exhausted from the confinement and silence, he couldn't say a single word, then he told this story.

"There was an older man named Jim who would go to church every day at noon for just a few minutes, and then he would leave. The sacristan was very curious about Jim's daily routine, and one day he stopped him to ask: "Why do you come here every day?" "I come to pray," Jim answered.

"That's impossible! What prayer can you say in 2 minutes?"

"I am an old, ignorant man. I pray to God in my own way."

"But what do you say?"

"I say: 'Jesus, here I am, it's Jim.' And then I leave." After some years, Jim became ill and had to go to the hospital, where he was admitted to the ward for the poor. When it seemed that Jim was dying, a priest asked, "Jim, tell us how it is that from the day you came to this ward everything changed for the better? How is it that the patients have become happier, more content, and friendlier?"

"I don't know. When I could walk around, I would try to visit everyone. I greeted them, talked a bit with them. When I couldn't get out of bed I called everyone over to me to make them laugh, to make them happy. With Jim they are always happy!"

"But why are YOU happy?"

"Well, aren't you happy when you receive a visitor?" asked Jim.

"Of course, but we have never seen anyone come to visit you."

"When I came here I asked you for 2 chairs. One was for you, Father, and one was reserved for my guest."

"But what guest?" the priest asked.

"I used to go to church to visit Jesus every day at noon. But when I couldn't do that anymore, Jesus came here."

"Jesus comes to visit you? What does he say?"

"He says: 'Jim, here I am, it's Jesus!'" Before dying, Jim smiled and gestured with his hand toward the chair next to his bed, as if inviting someone to sit down. He smiled for the last time and closed his eyes.

The Cardinal continued. When my strength failed and I could not even pray, I repeated: "Jesus, here I am, it's Francis." Joy and consolation would come to me and I experienced Jesus responding: "Francis, here I am, it's Jesus."

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