We received an invitation to Jeff’s Ordination to Priesthood the other day and a long history of ‘Michael Memories’ came flooding back.
Michael was here in the area many years ago for treatment of a rare and aggressive form of cancer that had spread through most of his body. He had taken a break from his seminary studies back east, gotten an apartment, and maintained an almost monastic way of life (prayer, work, study), absent from any form of community.
He would come and spend hours in the store, sitting in one of the comfy chairs, listening to the sacred music playing through the speaker system, and perusing several volumes from the New Books shelves until he decided on the few that his limited budget would allow. He once said he felt as though we were his ‘community’, at least temporarily, until Jesus healed him.
One day Michael came in with a large box of his ‘special’ books (most purchased from our store’s shelves) that he wanted given away to good people who may not otherwise be able to afford them. There was the Imitation of Christ, a Collection of Chesterton Essays, The Practice of the Presence of God, Treatise on the Love of God, Dark Night of the Soul, The Way of Perfection, Abandonment to Divine Providence, and this…
…a leather bound, lovingly used, full set of the Liturgy of the Hours. “Preferably another seminarian”, he said.
Michael looked ashen and frail and said he was returning home to Pennsylvania with his mom and dad where they would care for him in his final days.
“We prayed you’d be healed”, we confided softly.
Michael responded joyfully, “Thank you. Your prayer has been heard.” He caressed the black volumes one last time as if to bless them for their next owner. We hugged, and he was gone.
Not a week had passed before Mark came in to announce that he had been accepted into the seminary program of a neighboring state’s Trappist Monastery. Two years later he returned the set of Divine Office books to us and said he was not ‘the seminarian’ for whom the books were intended. It had been discerned that Priesthood was not his calling.
The books were wrapped in tissue paper and sat boxed on a shelf in our storage room, all but forgotten, until a few years ago when Jeff came in and introduced himself as a ‘seminarian on vacation who visits local Catholic stores when traveling’. As conversations go we talked ‘shop’ and he admitted that he used the Liturgy of the Hours app on his smartphone to pray the Divine Office but was hoping to one day have a nice leather set of the volumes…
Jeff included a note with his invitation:
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Vercillo, As promised, I have prayed two rosaries every day, one for you and one for the repose of the soul of seminarian Michael. At my Ordination and First Mass, and for every Mass thereafter, it will be my greatest joy to remember you and your many kindnesses bestowed on me during my seminary years, but most especially for the remembrance of Michael as his earthly dream is fulfilled in me. I have no doubt that he will be beside me as I offer the Sacred Mysteries to our Heavenly Father for the first time, and with me each day as we pray together, the universal prayer of the Church. In Christ, (Soon to be Father) Jeff.