Several minutes before celebrating Mass at the retirement home, the attendants wheel the guests into a large room. Each week the congregation differs as new faces appear and old ones disappear. They greet me with the same wonderful smiles, some coming at intermittent times as they doze off for a brief nap during Mass. At Communion, they receive their Lord with great devotion, some able to take a full host, others only a sliver of the precious Body of Christ. The Lord is present in this holy spot in the Word, the Priest, and most especially in the Eucharist. He is also present in the fragile bodies of the men and women who gather to worship and give thanks for their lives.
When leaving, I often recall the dignity of every human being and the precious gift of life itself. The struggle of these elderly people to participate at Mass is a powerful reminder of the gift of a healthy life. Their efforts challenge us to be more appreciative. While remembering them, we give thanks for our health and express our gratitude to God for every life moment.
A priest of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology at the Athenaeum of Ohio, Father Bob Hater is also Professor Emeritus at the University of Dayton. Order Fr. Hater’s new book, Common Sense Catechesis: Lessons from the Past, Road Map for the Future. Related reading: check out A Year of Grace: 365 Reflections for Caregivers.