I recently received a speech given by Father Joe Keefe. He was previously the priest at Pax Christi Catholic Church in Rochester. I was so moved by the speech, that I wanted to share it on this blog. Father Keefe is struggling with Lou Gehrig's disease
"One question for people who are not overly distracted is, How do I have eternal life with Jesus and His Body? Or How do I get to heaven. I have discovered something about that question by being sick. And I read over the readings for the coming Sunday about the wedding garment. and the commentary by St. Catherine of Siena says that the wedding garment is poverty, just as I had discovered. So, How did Jesus /Heaven give me that necessary garment and what is poverty?
How did I get poor? My speech got worse in January 2010 and I got some honest feedback that I was not getting better as I thought. I asked the friends on our priest vacation, “How do I know when I should resign?”To sum up their answer, “How about now.” I went to Bishop Quinn “I won't get enough rest if stay pastor of Pax.”
He accepted that and said, “Joe you are still a priest.”
As I went I said to myself “What have you done?” Given up this parish leadership? I had to admit that some of my importance came from being the pastor of Pax. And for sure one source of my importance is knowledge. And the speaking of knowledge. These were going away and I was becoming poor. Next my joy in eating was taken away by weak lips, tongue and swallowing and in September I noticed a a shortness of breath. Another poverty. Now every time I want to contribute I can't. I am a poor child.
Then comes the second Sunday of Lent the Transfiguration. I have never liked to preach on this. But this I time I saw something different because Christ is making me poor. I was attracted to words from heaven,” This is my beloved Son.” not, this is my miracle worker. Not, this my teacher. This is my Son. So am I the beloved son because I am baptized into Him. You and I are beloved sons. For persons that have wedding garments, that is the only source of their importance. I do not give it to myself either. I am poor.
Poverty is not limited to the financial, although I'm getting poorer that way, too, because Medicare is my primary provider now.
It is like Jesus told the Rich young man who went away sad, “get rid of all your sources of importance, be poor, and follow me. Jesus does not play games Either He is the source of your importance or you are on your own and on the road to purifying fire.
Opportunities for being poor:
Last Tuesday morning there were 3 blood draws that didn't work with all the painful poking into my tired veins. Then a call that they couldn't download the talk I wrote that was to be read for me at 90 priests' gathering for my 40th and I said, “no problem, I print another. But all of sudden my printer did not work and my laptop froze. That's an opportunity to be poor, to have the wedding garment.
So having the wedding garment is not protection against mornings like that because He wants to know if I consider Him the only source of my importance, still more, that I am the beloved son in the midst of everything going wrong.
You will be given that garment each day. How do you keep it on each day?
Offering is: I am poor and you God are rich in Love beyond measure so I offer this to you so that I can walk with You.
When I had the Tuesday morning of poverty, I offered continuously. How? I wasn't born yesterday, just seven months ago. So I know Him and and His faithfulness and I offered my anger, sadness, my being overwhelmed. What does He do? He shows possibilities. I had given the talk to a friend and I called that friend who brought the copy to me. The rest of the day of full of grace. The talk was met with a standing ovation by three bishops and all the priests. How lavishly He treats this poor child.
When we went to a lake home near Hayward in late August we forgot my week's supply of daily doses of medicine. I was angry and wanted to throw something. But then the Lord woke me up and said “I am here! Are you?” I said “Yes and I offer this to you.” The first thing I did was to turn to the person that forgot it and say, I forgive you.” He always opens possibilities when you offer. That was just the beginning. Our cell phone would not get a signal. So two trooped out into the twilight and found, on a lonely driveway, two young boys, who let them call on their phones. They called Maureen on her cell phone Sunday night as she and Dave came in the door from the Cities. She called Msgr Don Schmitz, she knew his cell # because he's a friend. Don was coming to Hayward later and waiting for Fr. Fr. Tom Jennings from Luverne who was delayed. Next, Maureen called the Apartments where I live and on this Sunday night got someone, who let her come, they questioned her, and then let her into my apartment to get the medicine. She called Fr. Schmitz back and Maureen and Dave drove to Cannon Falls to hand off the goods to Fr. Schmitz. Fathers Schmitz and Jennings bought the medicine with them. He put every person in place and He gave me Peace, when I would have given myself anxiety.
Do not censor your opportunities for wearing the wedding garment.
Being sad, angry, jealous, lustful, prideful, overwhelmed, not knowing, getting what you wanted and still being restless etc. These are opportunities to realize poverty, how poor I am. Last Tuedsy was St. Francis Day. St Francis was called Il Poverello, The Little Poor One. The church is as certain about his wedding garment as she is about Mary's garment; For she said, “You have looked with favor upon your lowly servant.” Jesus let himself die as only a poor man dies. You can live this way every day, with assurance that you are being saved now, and eternally. Then, and only then, can all the way to heaven be heaven as St. Catherine said.
Thank you all for helping me with your prayers and other ways of caring so I could receive this gift of Lady poverty."
Fr. Joe Keefe
October 8-10, 2011