by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Mom spent Mother’s Day in the hospital. She contracted a serious infection on one of her toes.
Mom is allergic to penicillin and several other antibiotics, so her doctor thought it best to admit her to the hospital where she could receive intravenous-y the antibiotics her body could tolerate.
At moments like this, I regret being out of St. Louis. I called several priest and lay friends, asking them to pray for Mom and, if they were near the hospital, to look in on her. During her first day in the hospital, Mom was visited by three of my priest classmates and several other friends. Though naturally she did not like being hospitalized, she enjoyed holding court with her steady stream of visitors.
My brother (Fred) and sister-in-law (Brenda) devote a lot of time throughout the year to shuttling my mother to doctors’ offices and running other errands for her. They took my mother to the hospital and assisted her through the admission process.
Brenda’s mother, who lived in a small town about three hours south of St. Louis, died a few months ago. Fred and Brenda had committed this past week to help other members of the family prepare Brenda’s mother’s home for sale.
I had not planned on going into St. Louis for Mother’s Day. However, it was a rare Sunday when I had no public commitments. With my mom in the hospital and my brother out of town, I made a last-minute decision to drive to St. Louis on Saturday night.
I was not able to get on the road until about 8 p.m. Usually, I stay at the semi- nary when I visit St. Louis. However, last weekend was graduation at the seminary; consequently, all of their guest rooms were occupied. I decided rather than at the last minute trying to arrange to stay at a rectory or friend’s home, it was easier to spend the night at a motel.
The owners of Drury Inns are devout Catholics who are exceptionally generous to the church. I decided to patronize one of their motels near the hospital.
I called their 800 number for reservations. When the woman taking my reservation learned my last name, she commented that her elementary school principal was a “Mrs. Naumann.” I asked her if she attended St. Thomas of Aquin Grade School. When she acknowledged that she had, I informed her that my mother was her principal.
She inquired about my mother’s health. I told her that my reason for coming to St. Louis was because my mother was in the hospital. She was excited to tell me about how much she loved my mother. The reservationist lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo., so she regretted that she could not visit my mom.
When I arrived at the motel around midnight, the employee at the front desk welcomed me and said: “You must be Mister, I mean Father, Naumann.” I confirmed the accuracy of his intuition. He happily informed me that they had reduced the room charge by $45, giving me a “hospital rate.” I was stunned and, of course, gratified by this unsolicited act of kindness. I was certain that my mother’s former student had advocated for the discount.
I had not told my mother that I was coming into St. Louis. She would have worried because I was on the road so late. Plus, I thought it would be fun to surprise her. When I walked into the room, my mother’s expression was priceless. It was a mixture of shock and joy.
A nurse’s aide was attending to my mom when I arrived. We struck up a conversation. She was excited about graduating from St. Louis University’s School of Nursing next weekend.
She kept staring at me, like she knew me from somewhere. She asked me
if I ever celebrated Mass at the college church. I told her that I no longer lived in St. Louis, but in Kansas City, Kan. She asked me: “What parish?” I told her that I was the archbishop.
Suddenly, I could see in her face this light of recognition as she exclaimed: “You confirmed me!” Turns out, she was a parishioner of Holy Cross Parish in Overland Park and a graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
She asked if there was anything that she could do for me. I told her that I wanted to celebrate Mass in my mom’s room. She assured me that we would not be disturbed. It was a wonderful grace to be able to celebrate Mass for my mom in her hospital room.
After Mass, my mother had several other visitors. One of our deacons (soon- to-be priest Nathan Haverland) stopped by. Nathan every week takes my mom shopping or on some other errand. A couple other friends dropped by. Except for the pain in her toe and that she was having a “bad hair” day (my mother was upset that she had been unable to wash her hair for a couple of days), Mom thoroughly enjoyed the day.
As I drove back that evening to Kansas City, I received several other phone calls from friends asking if there was anything that they could do for my mom. Every time, I thanked people for all that they were doing for her; they deflected my gratitude by expressing how much they treasured my mother’s friendship. They love my mom’s spunk, wisdom, prayerfulness and humor!
I could not help but think how blessed I was with such an extraordinary mother. She never complained about her illness or discomfort.
She accepted it with the same faith-filled disposition that characterized her attitude toward life for the past 90 years.
Even more, I was so grateful for the many friends who were ready to help in any way possible. All of these friends I had gotten to know through either
my seminary formation or priestly ministry. What a blessing to belong to Jesus and his church! The church is a huge spiritual family. From the Drury Inn reservationist to the nurse’s aide to the priest and lay visitors, we all had this beautiful connection through our shared faith.
What a gift is a loving and faith-filled mother! What a gift also to have the church as a spiritual mother! Our Catholic faith is such a treasure! It not only offers us life in Jesus, but it makes us brothers and sisters with millions and millions of other people.
With such a large faith family, even Mother’s Day in a hospital becomes a joy!