It was Wednesday June 5, 2002, when I received a call on my pager.
- “Father Antonio, there is a woman who is dying here at the hospital in Ann Arbor. Her family is asking for a Catholic priest to come and give her the last sacrament. Can you please come?”
Sure. It would be the first experience to anoint someone after 10 months of priesthood. My ministry as a priest was more focused on giving Jesus Christ to His people through the Eucharist (saying Masses) and the Sacrament of Reconciliation (hearing confessions). I was also offering spiritual direction to a good number of people. I drove 15 minutes from home. I arrived at the hospital and entered the room.
There was a woman lying in her bed, dying. Her eyes were closed. Her family was gathered around her: the husband, the sons & their wives. They were comforting each other. I opened the book of prayers and prepared the oil. We prayed. I anointed the woman. After the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, I asked the family to pray with me the rosary. I believe that the presence of Mary can give great comfort for the woman’s soul.
The husband approached me as if he was embarrassed. He whispered saying:
- “Father, my wife never believed in rosaries. She never prayed the rosary. She never liked it.”
- “She will like it now,” I said it, with my Lebanese accent and a Maronite spirit.
We started praying the rosary. When we reached the 4th sorrowful mystery, the woman opened her eyes. The sons approached their mother to see what was going on. They were crying, amazed.
At the end of the Rosary, I asked the sons:
- “What did you see?”
- “Her eyes were filled with peace,” one of her sons answered.
I knew that Mary was present. I knew that she comforted that woman. It didn’t matter whether that woman prayed the rosary in her life or not, whether she liked it or not. It doesn’t matter for Mary for she is a mother not a judge. Mary, who was present under the cross at the moment of Christ’s death, is also present at the moment of our death. This is why we pray: Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.