My colleague and friend, Fr. Ric, died on Palm Sunday. He was 69 and had taken ‘senior status’ just last summer, mostly due to health issues.
Many knew Ric as the ‘blind’ priest. About 16 years ago, Ric nearly died during cancer surgery, was in an extended coma, and awoke unable to see. His family and friends were happy he survived. Besides on-going health issues, Ric also had to learn to live as a sightless person.
Since then I recall being on committees with Ric. His ability to listen and dissect what was being said was beyond most of us. People who celebrated Mass with him said his homilies actually got better after he lost his sight, often with much more insight and emotion. His sense of humor returned. He was good to be around.
Ric also learned that he could walk to the chapel at night and not worry about it being dark. He could ‘read’ emails I sent him on his laptop that spoke to him the printed word. (Speaking of his laptop, he relied on his for much, even though there was no screen or image – why bother?) And Ric would spend hours preparing for Mass, going through every prayer, so that at the altar itself, he could hear the words through his ear-bud and speak them aloud as if he were reading them.
I don’t know if Ric would have seen his blindness as a blessing; I’m not presumptive enough to suggest that. But his lack of sight has inspired me to appreciate my sight all the more.
“Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?”