By William Mich, BCC
Yesterday, on a beautiful Staten Island day, I had the opportunity to “walk the streets.” Walking up to a man and a woman in conversation, the man mentioned how the flood and wind had torn down a number of walls in the community. Men and women were now out in the streets talking, children were pushing carts full of bottled water and offering it to people trying to rebuild their lives.
As I continued to speak to the woman, Lynette, she asked me to come into her home and bless her 75-year-old husband Anthony. On entering the home, walking up a short flight of stairs, I noticed Lynette remove her shoes before walking up another flight of stairs into her main living area. I followed suit, removing my shoes, not realizing I was about to enter holy ground!
Sitting with Lynette and Anthony at the kitchen table, Lynette prepared some coffee, as Anthony ate a sandwich. As we talked and shared stories, I mentioned how my father was in the Navy, stationed in the Philippines. Lynette seemed to brighten up a bit, as she went on to relate the story of her own father. Lynette had an older brother Adrian, and when he was a newborn baby, their father went off to war. Removing one of Adrian’s shoes (Adrian is the patron saint of soldiers), Lynette’s father took this shoe and wrote on it dates and places he traveled to. Lynette then joyously retrieved this still intact and well-preserved relic of a time past. She carefully opened up a small box with its precious contents. Lynette continued the story, noting that even when her father went missing in action for six months, he continued to carry and inscribe dates and times onto this shoe.
Gently and with great reverence and awe I accepted this gift into my outstretched hands. Looking at it and turning it around, I found that even on the sole of the shoe were dates and places, still easily readable. Lynette continued her story, mentioning a letter her father had written, bringing it out of the tabernacle of a cardboard box she held, along with a letter about medals her father had received.
As she pushed the parchment toward me, I declined the offer to hold it, feeling not quite worthy to touch such a cherished gift.
Yes, holy ground indeed. We drank from the cup of coffee, shared Communion and as a Catholic deacon, after praying together, I was able to return my blessing to them, knowing all the time, it was I who was blessed!
William Mich, a Catholic deacon, is a pharmacist at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, WA. He arrived in New York Nov. 10, and wrote this a few days later in a message to the lead chaplain with whom he ministered.