Precious blood – oh precious blood!
Thanksgiving was four days away. But for Amy and me, it started much earlier. Just minutes prior, she received a tearful phone call from her Mom indicating that she and her dad, Deacon Tom Lehman, were in the emergency room. He had just had a heart attack. Despite being cleared and released from the hospital just a day earlier, the intense chest pain had returned on their way from church. Fortunately, they weren’t far from Deaconess Hospital; and Mary insisted that they return. Thankfully, they did. Later, it was discovered that he had a 95-percent blockage in his main artery and six percent in a secondary artery, which led to a stent and an angioplasty to be inserted. Just two days later, he would return home and, on the day after Thanksgiving at the family party, I sat next to my beloved father-in-law as we discussed the week’s challenging events and the blessing of his presence with us. For as long as we could remember, Tom spoke about his father dying of a massive heart attack on the roof of the Hilltop Grove shelter, and he had warned us that he could go anytime. But staring in his eyes upon first seeing him in the ER bed, he looked like a man fighting to stay alive.
Precious blood – oh precious blood!
Almost two weeks later, we found ourselves in Jasper, making our 60th visit of the diocese historical tour – and the final trip of 2016. A day before, we had seen our seventh child through the technological gift of the ultrasound. We saw the blues and reds that illuminated our baby’s arterial and venous blood moving through the chambers of the heart. The due date was determined to be April 3, the day after my 40th birthday. But on this Saturday, we sat as part of the full congregation at Precious Blood Catholic Church. Presiding that day was Father Simon Natha, who had just moved from his assignment at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Evansville, where he was first assigned after arriving from India. For some time after his arrival, Tom, who was the permanent deacon serving at Sacred Heart, would drive him to different places in town – one of the many assignments that went outside the typical job description. Worlds apart, and with language challenges to boot, the unlikely duo, previously separated by thousands of miles, now found themselves working through barriers and challenges in service of the Church.
During his homily at the Saturday Mass, Father Simon focused on the simple-yet-prophetic ministry of St. John the Baptist. In his initial lead-in to the gist of the message, he reminded the congregation that the greatest risk isn’t always about not believing in the spiritual realities but, instead, believing that there was always plenty of time left to prepare our souls for the Lord.
Back in Evansville, Tom and Mary enjoyed a quiet evening at home. Despite Tom’s repeated warnings to us all, he remained with us. Even though miles away, he could have just as easily been reading the Gospel for Faather Simon as he had done so many times before, echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah:
“Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight His paths.” Precious blood – Oh Thank God for that precious blood.
This reflection is from Jim Schroeder’s book “The Evansville Diocese Historical Tour: Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren.” Jim, his wife, Amy, and their kids live in Evansville. They are parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish. Jim is a pediatric psychologist and Vice President of the psychology department at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. “The full story, including illustrations, is available on Amazon or with his other books and articles at www.james-schroeder.com.”