Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Prayer, Sister Agnes, and Mr. Morrison: A True Story

"Repentance opens heaven." — ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

"I'm dying, Sister," Mr. Morrison said in a low, gruff voice. "I don't know what you could do to help me."
Sister Agnes looked at the old man sitting up in bed and somehow his face was familiar! "Well, I really would like to pray for you," she answered. "It's never too late to say a prayer."
As their conversation progressed, Mr. Morrison admitted, "I don't know if God wants to hear about me. I've done a lot of bad things in my life."
"No matter what you have done," the nun assured him, "God will forgive you. You just need to ask him with a sincere heart. And after you've died, I'll continue to pray for you."
The idea of prayers for the dead startled him. "After I've died? Why would you pray for me after I'm dead? What good is that?"

"There's always hope!" Sister Agnes insisted. "Are you Catholic?"

"No," the man said, "I never really spent much time in any church."
Sister Agnes explained, "Catholics believe that if you ask God to forgive your sins before you die, you'll eventually get to heaven. And we believe that by praying for people we can help them even after they have died. It's from the Old Testament."
The man said nothing more and, after he had gently closed his eyes, Sister Agnes quietly left his room.
When Sister Agnes returned a few days later, Mr. Morrison's face seemed even paler than before, and he labored for every breath. Even so, he struggled to sit up in bed as soon as she entered the room. "One of the nurses said you wanted to see me," the nun said.
"I'd like to know more about what it means to be a Catholic," the man responded.
Sister Agnes smiled. "What did I say the other day that interested you?" she asked.
"Sister," he began, "for longer than I can remember, the people around me have only seemed to care about how much money they could make off me. Now you're telling me that people will care enough about me to pray for me even after I'm gone! I like the sound of that!"

In the days that followed, Sister Agnes met with the man regularly to teach him all that she could about the Catholic faith. After that, Mr. Morrison was baptized.
A few weeks later, in early June 1979, Mr. Morrison died. Hundreds came to mourn his passing. They remembered what a famous actor he was. But Sister Agnes could only remember how appreciative Marion Morrison (also known as John Wayne) had been. How grateful he had been to know that someone cared enough to pray for him, both now and in the days to come.
So it is with the "Church Suffering" that we act as "intercessors."

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