by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Recently, when I was in Baltimore for the meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, I arrived at the hotel several hours before the official check-in time.
The hotel employee (whose actual name I do not recall, but for the sake of this article I will refer to him as Robert) was very courteous and apologetic that the hotel was unable to accommodate my early arrival.
About an hour later, after eating lunch, I checked back with Robert at the registration desk, who communicated sadly that there was still “no room at the inn.” I thanked Robert for his efforts to help me. Then, he said: “Father, can I tell you what happened to me a couple of months ago?” I had no place to go, so I was happy to pass the time by listening to Robert’s story.
Several months ago, Robert was unable to find a reservation for a family that had arrived eager to check into their rooms. The hotel did not have any rooms available that were comparable to what the family was convinced that they had reserved.
The father of the family was furious. He was becoming more and more agitated by what he was convinced to be the hotel’s mistake. The man became increasingly belligerent, making quite a scene. Robert was aggravated by the man’s attitude and felt like responding to the man’s hostility by calling security. However, something (I am certain it was the Holy Spirit) prompted Robert instead to ask why the man and his family were in Baltimore.
The man’s demeanor immediately changed. There was sadness in his eyes. He told Robert that his five-yearold daughter, who was blind from birth, had recently been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer. They had come to Baltimore for his daughter to be evaluated and, hopefully, to begin a regimen of treatment.
Robert was moved by the man’s situation. He conferred with his manager and arranged for the family to receive an upgrade at no additional cost. Robert was able to get them immediately into some of the hotel’s best rooms.
The family stayed at the hotel for several days. Robert had become a hero and a friend to the family because of his extra effort on their behalf. By the end of their visit, all of the children were calling him: “Uncle Robert!”
A few months later, the man called Robert at the hotel. Robert inquired about the health of his sick daughter. The man told Robert that his daughter had died. Robert’s heart sunk. He was saddened and shocked. Robert knew her condition was serious, but he did not appreciate that she was so close to death. Despite her illness, the young girl seemed to be so filled with the joy of life.
Robert expressed his sympathy to the man. The man thanked him but consoled Robert, saying: “Don’t be sad. She is in a much better place.” He went on to tell Robert the most amazing and inspirational story about the circumstances of his daughter’s death.
The man said that, because of her blindness, his daughter could not read and she had never seen colors. Shortly before her death, the young girl began to quote passages from the Gospel about the resurrection that she said Jesus was whispering into her ear. She told her father that Jesus was showing her heaven as she proceeded to describe the brilliant colors she was now seeing for the first time.
The girl, with great excitement, said that Jesus was going to take her soon to the Father. Then with remarkable sensitivity to her earthly father, she said, “Don’t worry you will always be my Daddy. But I am going now to my other Father.”
Robert’s story sent chills down my spine. In the coming weeks, I will share with you some of the content of the bishops’ meeting. Yet, from an inspirational point of view, the highlight for my time in Baltimore took place at the front desk of the hotel.
You might want to recall this story if you encounter this week someone who is angry or belligerent. You may want to follow Robert’s example and choose not to respond to anger with anger, but rather to try to figure out the reason for the person’s hostility.
During this liturgical season, when we pray for the dead and ponder readings about the end times, let us give thanks for the hope given to us by the victory of Jesus over death and the share in his eternal life we received through the waters of baptism.
As we give thanks for our many blessings during this season of Thanksgiving, may our greatest gratitude be reserved for the precious gift of our Catholic faith! During this Year of Faith, may our friendship and love for Jesus grow; may we come to understand more completely the truth and beauty of our Catholic faith; and may we live in such a way that when the hour of our death approaches, we may hear Jesus whispering in our ear!