What do you do?

by Jill Ragar Esfeld
jill.esfeld@theleaven.org

A few days ago, I met Jeanine, who is pictured here standing in front of the chapel at Lumen Christi monastery in Kansas City, Kansas.

Standing beside her is a mutual friend, Marti.

Marti introduced me to Jeanine when I ran into them at a local coffee shop. It didn’t take long for me to surmise that Jeanine, so slender and frail, was not well.

Marti quietly informed me that her friend had stage-four cancer and was coming to grips with the harsh reality that her treatments were no longer effective.

What do you do when faced with a person carrying such an unbearable weight?

How do you respond?

I was in a similar situation a few days earlier when my friend Chuck returned from visiting a brother recently diagnosed with leukemia.

Chuck had been hopeful, believing the disease was treatable.

But cancer is a rollercoaster, and doctors were now saying his brother’s health might be too poor to withstand the treatments needed.

Chuck told me he was devastated.

What do you do? How do you respond?

I knew Chuck needed a place where he could find peace and comfort while thinking about his brother.

As Catholics, we always have that place.

I asked Chuck to follow me in his car, and I drove to the adoration chapel at Holy Trinity in Lenexa, not far from his house.

I introduced him to the chapel, the practice of adoration, and told him “You can come here any time you need to talk to someone. Jesus is here. He knows all about your brother.”

Chuck liked the chapel and the idea that there was a concrete action he could take when concern for his brother overwhelmed him.

I’d given him something to hold on to, and I knew he would return.

My response to Jeanine was a little different.

As a devout Catholic, she knew adoration well. But I thought of something more I could do for her.

I told her, “I can give you a taste of Heaven.”

And last Friday morning, I did just that by driving Marti and Jeanine to Lumen Christi for Mass.

I’ve written before about the peaceful atmosphere that permeates this simple chapel when the Little Sisters and Brothers sing their celebration.

But no matter how often I go, I am always amazed by the experience.

Jeanine was, too.

Brother Christoph’s homily that day seemed to be directed right at Jeanine. So pointed was it, that she began to cry.

And though I didn’t know her, I felt perfectly comfortable wrapping my arms around her and holding her in that moment.

I could feel the Holy Spirit with me in that hug.

After Mass, Brother Christoph held Jeanine’s hands and told her, “You can come here any time you want, and we will pray with you.”

What a wonderful message that was for this suffering soul.

Helplessness is a terrible feeling. It is the first flagstone on the path to despair. But, as Catholics, we are never helpless when faced with a person in pain.

We have at our disposal, every minute of every day, a place where we can take those who need comfort; a place where Jesus is always, body and soul, waiting to hear our concerns.

Evangelization means letting people know that.

And letting Jesus take it from there.

I ran into Chuck the other day. He pulled a brochure about eucharistic adoration out of his back pocket and showed it to me.

He said, “I’ve been going every day. I don’t know what I’m doing there, but I think if I keep going, I’ll figure it out.”

He will.

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