Monday, December 27, 2004

Feast of St. John

Some visitors may believe that the blogger's habit of referring to himself in the third person -- a la your humble Contributor -- is of recent vintage. Such as: "Some people think that we should raise taxes. Bob Dole doesn't think so. Bob Dole will not raise your taxes."

In fact, it's a rather ancient device (even for ancient bloggers). Consider St. John the Evangelist, whose feast is today. In his Gospel, he referred to himself only as "the disciple Jesus loved" -- whence "the beloved Disciple". Much later, there was signed "your beloved brother", usually preceded by a request for money or some grandiose claim of superiority to his elder brother.

Thirty-two years ago today, brother John received his First Communion. Something weird that year -- early Seventies -- doesn't this usually come in May, with the girls in tiny veils and wedding dresses, and the boys scrubbed, pressed, combed, and presentable possibly for the last time until their own wedding? But, then, he was named for the beloved Disciple, and he was combed, well-behaved, and ready to receive.

Two years ago, he was out of the hospital, after having torn his thin-as-paper skin on Christmas Eve. How did it happen? Well, he was reaching for something that fell on the floor, and the drawer with the metal edge was open, and, while he was leaning over, his shoulder pressed on the wheelchair throttle, and he had just taken his painkiller-cocktail strong enough to kill a junkie.

That day, I had brought him communion. This office was granted a few years prior, when O'Brien asked if your humble Contributor would serve as a extraordinary eucharistic minister for the homebound, then lit his pipe waiting for an answer. Well, Father, that's like asking Kitty Kelly to write your authorized biography; that's like asking Boris Yeltsin to head up the Temperance League; that's like asking Dr. Ruth to take the cloth and give talks on abstinence. A slight, smoky chuckle from O'Brien. How about something direct and true: unworthy. "Ah, well, none of us are worthy, are we? So, then, you'll do it? Of course you will. Grand. Good man. We'll get you fixed you up with a pyx and a bit of an orientation. You'll do fine."

Beloved brother John was my last assignment, lasting just a few months: showing up on any given Sunday with the host. Search around for his copy of the abbreviated rite. Don't worry, we'll make another copy; just look on mine. Sign of the Cross. Confiteor. Lord's Prayer. Agnus Dei. "I am not worthy... but only say the word." Corpus Christi. Amen. Silence. Prayer for Health.

Then, after communicating, he'd crack open the café latté -- still hot (a long sniff before drinking); unwrap the Dutch apple bagel -- still warm (crumbs on the bedclothes); talk about th'old times and greater care in maneuvering the wheelchair.

Five weeks later, brother John had his Last Communion -- his viaticum. Not by me: Fr. Z came by the hospital. Friends and family dropping in. Some talk about life and death. Joking. Good nights. Lights out. Then, the phone call too early in the morning. Your beloved brother John.

"From his fullness we have all received."

(John 1:16)


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