“Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have." – Lk. 24:39
“I don’t think we have met. Where are you from?”
While I was waiting for my husband a few weeks ago at the Religious Education Congress, one of our Archdiocese’s Auxiliary Bishops came over and introduced himself to me. When I responded with the name of our town and parish, he proceeded to recount a vivid experience of the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick that took place many years ago in our parish. His beloved seminary professor was at the center of the story.
Although he used no names, something about the story felt so familiar to me. I said, “I know that man. I altar served for him for 10 years. Everything I know about the real meaning of the Eucharist is from standing beside him. I felt him praying...Fr. Charles Miller….That’s him isn’t it?” For another 10 minutes or so we went back and forth each sharing fond memories and anecdotes of this powerhouse of a Vincentian priest. Before we parted ways, the Bishop commented on the vast number of lives (especially priests) that this man had influenced. We were struck by the sheer number of detailed memories of his lessons we both remembered even decades later. When Jason walked over to us, Bishop simply said, “Your wife and I have a mutual friend.”
In the last three weeks, I have returned to that conversation repeatedly and recognized it as an Easter moment. As we shared our memories that day, it didn’t feel like 13 years since Fr. Miller’s passing. I felt his prayerfulness and presence alive. I appreciated in a whole new way how his love for the Eucharist was infused in the world through the people he taught and formed. His life has continued to bear fruit long after he has gone to be with the One he loved so dearly.
I felt like the disciples on the road to Emmaus or the Apostles encountering the risen Jesus. We recognized our mutual friend in the powerful witness of his life. “Look at my hands and feet, that it is I myself.” It is truly the risen Christ, made tangible, made flesh in his witness. In all my years in faith sharing groups and on retreats, I never felt my “heart burning” in recognition of Christ quite this way before.
This Easter, I am still holding on to that burning.
Apostles on the way, pray for us. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for us. Fr. Charles Miller, pray for us.