Monday, July 8, 2019
Brother Richard DeMaria
Editor’s note: After leaving the Archdiocese of Miami, Brother Richard De Maria spent six years as a missionary in Africa. In 2016, he was diagnosed with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease. He has chronicled his journey of faith in accepting this disease in a monthly blog, “Journey to Death,” from which this blog is excerpted.
I was in the hospital for a week because of chest congestion that was not clearing up on its own. At the hospital, I had been warned that the lone words I didn't want to hear were "I'll be back in just a minute." During my stay, I learned that this usually meant an hour before someone would return. As with many hospitals that were acquired by a system of hospitals that takes hospitals that are running in the red and puts them in the black by reducing staff, this was the case during my time there.
I’m back at home now and feel very good. I have a new machine that shakes me up twice a day for half an hour, and I have not coughed since. I think that the ALS is plateauing and that I might not get any weaker. With help, I can walk, and I can manage some tasks, like dictating this blog. I celebrated my 77th birthday in June.
We just concluded the season of Pentecost. In the Christian story, Jesus told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for him. He wasn't long in coming: 10 days later, the Holy Spirit came to the disciples and they were filled with confidence, understanding, and bravery. This is considered the birthday of the Church, which is important to me.
To me, the Church is made up of all those people who have embraced a consciousness of openness, acceptance, and concern for the poor. I continue to believe that the Roman Catholic Church, and the pope, play a major role in holding the Church in this broader sense together, and so I pray for the future of the church and of the Roman Catholic Church.
As explained in a previous blog, I see the church – in the broadest sense – in trouble as the world turns more and more to isolationism and exclusion. I hope I'm wrong and that the world will turn back to embracing the stranger and the weak.
That's a big hope and one that requires strength to believe.
Years ago, when the Roman Catholic Church did away with the obligation to fast on Fridays, it suggested – and I followed – that we fast from meat on Fridays as a prayer for peace. I am writing this on a Friday, and I did not eat meat today as a symbol of my prayer for peace and brotherhood and care for the weak.
Editor's note: Three of Brother Richard's blogs, chronicling his “journey to death” after being diagnosed with ALS, won third place for Best Blog by Religious/Clergy in the 2019 competition of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada.