Dying…life…sickness…joy…death

By Bp. Keith L. Ackerman

Beloved in Christ,

It’s another day.

I awakened early to pray with my first Secretary in the Diocese of Quincy – a beautiful woman named “Lynn Joy” who is dying of brain cancer. She is a remarkable woman, and as I prayed with her over the phone with her husband and children and grandchildren present in the hospital in Peoria, I recalled how helpful she was when Jo was diagnosed with cancer in 1994. I remembered her running up hills with me in the Holy Land, and I remembered her laughing daily in my offices in the Diocese at all of my bad jokes. Just before going to bed, I prayed with my last Secretary in the Diocese of Quincy, Father Harold – a Benedictine Monk – as his father died in Puerto Rico. He flew from Peoria in the Diocese of Quincy just in time to administer the “Last Rites” to his father who died as he held his hand. In between these “beginning of the day” and “end of the day” events I prayed for many others and spoke with many of our people. I spoke with Cn. Donlon as he prepares to be consecrated a Bishop and for Deacon Fred Hotz as he prepares to leave for Kenya to minister to many – representing SOMA (an international ministry) and us – St. Timothy’s. I spoke with happy, angry, confused and sad people – simply trying to get through another day.

I meditated all day on the mystery of life as I celebrated our son Keith’s 46th birthday on this Feast of St. Mark. Obviously I am proud of him, as he embraces those who are often forgotten, and throughout the course of his ministry is like Simon of Cyrene.

As I saw my wife this morning, painfully getting out of bed, due to her constant and unending pain from fibromyalgia, and I watched her painfully type much of the day..another bulletin…another article..another pamphlet….and then off to bed with more pain, I thought of how each one of you walk the Way of the Cross day after day without one complaint. .. without one excuse…without one reason for stopping what you do in serving Jesus. Eleven telephone calls today from parishioners confirmed the fact that each one of us has some type of pain, and each one of us keeps walking.

I am so very proud of you as I walk with each one of you, and as you invite me into your life. I feel so very much the words of the Centurion in Matthew 8:8 – that we use day after day at every Mass, “Lord I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof…..”. In every instance from this morning until this very moment, I have had the privilege on being invited into peoples’ pain and joy – from my own house to your house – to houses in Peoria, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other cities and countries with which I connected today. “Speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.”

Tomorrow is another opportunity…more crosses for our people…but more empty tombs. As the saying goes, “I used to cry because I did not have a new pair of shoes until I met a man who had no feet.” Thank you for washing feet with me. Thank you for seeing the face of Christ in the eyes of the broken.

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