When my wife was an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion at Mass, she would also bring Holy Communion to residents at our local convalescent home. Often, she would tell me stories about the people there and how they loved having someone visit them and bring them our Lord. Eventually, I started going with her and I really enjoyed being with the elderly and bringing some joy into their lives. After I became a Eucharistic minister, I started visiting the home myself. I also called bingo for the residents. Along with other volunteers, we had a fun time calling the numbers and helping them check their cards to see if they had won the extravagant prize of 25 cents.
After entering the Diaconate program, we were tasked with choosing a ministry in which to work. Since I had enjoyed being with the elderly and was drawn to the Act of Mercy of visiting the sick, I decided that would be one of the ministries that I would like to pursue.
After my ordination I was assigned to my local parish, where I can visit the residents of the home and bring them Holy Communion. I love to spend time with them, either just in prayer or sharing a story about their week. Sometimes I am the only outside person they get to see. Some residents no longer have family to visit them, or they choose not to. Along with bringing them the body of Christ, I try to bring some joy to their lives in my short visits.
There is one resident that I have come to love visiting and who has taught me a great lesson. When I first met this man, he was very despondent and didn’t want to have anything to do with me or receiving communion. He told me that he was mad at God. He had spent his life doing good and working for the church and now here he was, not able to be at home, with crippled hands and a tough time speaking and remembering what he wanted to say. The first couple of times I visited him I would tell him how much God loved him and we don’t know why God allows suffering, but that he needed to believe in God and in His plan. I was wearing my “Deacon hat” and talking to him using theological words and phrases that I had learned in my formation. I wasn’t talking to him as a friend.
After several weeks of him saying that he did not want to receive communion, I decided that I would just sit and talk to him. I asked him to tell me about his life. He began slowly telling me how he had served in the Army in Korea and worked as an ironworker before working at a church cemetery and as a sextant, setting up the altar for Mass and assisting priests and altar servers.
As he spoke I just listened, and I could see that his speech was becoming better, and he was able to speak without struggling to say words. After 15 minutes, he turned to me and said, “Okay, I’ll receive today.” I was moved to tears, but somehow, I was able to say the prayers and offer him Holy Communion. It was a long time since he had received our Lord.
I learned a lesson that day: the best way to bring Christ to people is to be Christ ourselves. When we open our hearts instead of relying on our brains, love, and compassion flow in abundance.
By Deacon Dan D’Amelio