The sign taped to the door read, “Please keep this door closed!”
I knocked. There was no answer. Taking a deep breath, I cautiously pushed open the door.
All the lights in the room were off but there was plenty of daylight coming through the window to see him. He was propped up in the bed, sleeping comfortably. I considered whether or not to wake me but I was given this responsibility so I had to try. Several feet inside the door, I quietly spoke his name. He didn’t stir, so I started to back out of the room. Suddenly his eyes shot open and he frantically searched for the sound that had awakened him.
I caught his eyes and said, “Hi. I am Al Watts from St. Patrick’s. I have communion if you’d like to receive.”
He stared at me for a second trying to comprehend the words I spoke. A smile then formed on his face as he nodded and said, “Oh, please.”
I squirted hand sanitizer on my hands from the bottle on the wall and rubbed them together as I approached him. He felt around in his sheets and pulled out a rosary which he held firmly in his hands.
I said the prayers and then placed the communion host in his hand. He took the host into his mouth and closed his eyes, likely saying a private prayer to himself.
As I went back to the hand sanitizer on the wall, he said to me, beaming, “You made my day. God be with you.” Rubbing hand sanitizer on my hands I replied, “God bless you,” and left his room, remembering to close the door behind me.
I never know why the people I visit in the hospital are there. They certainly need healing of some kind or another. Once a month I bring communion to them, part of a team of parishioners who come each day to visit patients in the hospital. It is among the most joyous things I do. I get to see God work.
Before I began this ministry, I always pray that the Lord give me the words to say and that He bring healing. I believe whatever I say to the patients is what God wants them to hear. Then, when I give communion, I see a weight seem fall off of them and a brightness come to their eyes, no matter their ailment. It is an incredible experience to witness.
Catholics believe that the host, the unleavened bread consecrated by a priest, is the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. We believe that when we receive communion, we are consuming Christ and that He is coming into our body. Most other Christian denominations believe the unleavened bread is only a symbol of Christ’s body, not Christ himself.
It’s a hard concept to wrap your brain around and one I did not fully understand until I began bringing communion to patients at a nearby hospital. Seeing the transformation patients undergo gives me no doubt Christ is truly in the communion host.
But their joy of receiving the Lord is not the only joy in that moment. I feel fulfilled as well. In fact, I feel like I am maybe receiving more healing than the patient.
I have found that helping others helps me too, maybe more. For most of my adult life, I have served others as a stay at home father, a leader in a non-profit organization and in this ministry providing communion. In all of these experiences I have felt fulfilled in a way I never imagined when I was younger, imaging my life as a successful businessman.
It shouldn’t be surprising to any of us. Christ told us as much in Luke 6:38, “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing…”
Service is healing to the receiver and the giver. It’s what makes the world a better place and I am grateful to do my part.
Father of 4, Husband, Catholic, Historian, published author, LGBTQ+ ally, runner, sports fan (he/him/his)