Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 18, 2010
Priest's radiant smile had a lasting impact
It was 1951 when I received a letter that I was accepted for an employment position at the Youville Home in St. Albert. At this time, this wasn't my dream job because I assumed that elderly people were dull and cranky.
But I was young and eager to leave my poor, dysfunctional home so I hopped on the first bus.
Then the head Grey Nun informed me that I would have to report to the hospital chaplain, Father Godbeau, on a regular basic. Priests were viewed by me as God-like people who expected us to be still, quiet and serious. What else around here could dampen my spirit?
But I soon discovered that life and people aren't usually what we assume. Father Godbeau always had a radiant smile when he spoke to me and he had a way to tell the right joke, at just the right moment.
It wasn't only toward me that he acted in this way; all the staff noticed this about him.
With the older folks, his eyes would light up and he would be glued to every word they said. This made me realize that an older person could be fascinating. They are people just like me, except they had experienced more and were full of stories and wisdom.
If they had their unpleasant moments, it was just like the rest of us - it was usually due to suffering or feeling insignificant or unloved. This changed my attitude and helped me to enjoy my job and look forward to every morning.
JOY AND PEACE
However, it didn't take me long to realize that there was something not quite right about this priest. How could he always appear so joyful and at peace? Didn't he have problems like the rest of us?
Curiosity got the best of me. I asked the other employees about him and was told that cancer was spreading through his body. Yet he continued to visit the sick, always trying to cheer them up.
When I asked how he did this, he replied, "God gives me one more day and one more breath. That means he has a purpose he wants me to fulfill."
A nun who happened to be near questioned, "How can you be so cheerful when you're in pain?" He smiled and replied, "Jesus suffered for us. I just offer my suffering to God, and it doesn't seem quite as bad."
I knew there was more to learn from him. One day I asked, "Sometimes it's a challenge for me to be good and follow God's commandments."
He had that radiant smile again and replied, "I know the trick. Picture this hideous looking man with horns on the top of his head telling you what to do. Would you want to listen to him? Wouldn't you rather beat him?"
I laughed at this. Then he added, "This life is only temporary. Then next one is eternal. When temptation comes your way, and it will, just remember the happy time in your life and know that heaven will be more than this. I see a lot of strength in you."
Father Godbeau died a few years later. I'm sure he was loved and missed by anyone who had any contact with him. I am now 77 years old. He continues to inspire me and help me keep my faith and lead a life to the best of my ability because he led by word and example.
I think about his lessons often. If I read about the world considering legalizing euthanasia, I remember his words: God give us one more day, one more breath and a purpose.
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