Memory of a Prayer Despite Dementia.

Fr. Peter Daly

Parish Diary

September 28, 2009

 

In this year for priests, Fr. Peter Daly, talks about a letter he received from a lady suffering from progressing dementia.

 

            Growing old is hard.

            Gradually we surrender our abilities. We make fewer plans and we look more to the past. Eventually we have only our memories to comfort us.

            But, growing old is especially hard when we are aware that we are losing even our memories. There is a sense of urgency. We want to pass our memories along to others so they will live on for a while after our own minds have gone dark.

            Recently I received a letter from a lady in my parish who has progressing dementia. Let’s call her Mary.

            Every day Mary feels some bit of her mind slipping away. Even though she is still relatively young, she knows that she is losing her memory and it won’t be long until she cannot recall even simple things.

            Mary’s anguish is compounded by the fact that she watched her husband die from Alzheimer’s only a few years ago.

            Over the years I have received thousands of letters from parishioners and readers.

            But few letters have touched and encouraged me like the one I received from Mary on the feast of St. John Vianney, the patron saint of our parish. I thought I should share it.

            “Dear Father Daly,

            “It is the feast of Saint John Vianney (our parish patron) and I believe it’s more than appropriate to tell you how much I appreciate all that you bring to the parish. At the same time, I want to share with you a prayer/poem that I wrote in my early teens and have used over the years as a Communion offering to our Savior. I do this because many times I have heard you describe your love for the Eucharist with words that articulate my own feelings and belief. Your homily a week or so ago exemplifies this.

 

Communion Prayer

“I have prepared my heart as a palace

For you, my King to stay.

And when I receive You, sweet Jesus,

Reign in my heart through the day.

 

“I have prepared you a throne of repentance.

With love I shall make You a crown.

With a heart full of prayer I shall praise You.

Love greater than Yours can’t be found.

 

            “I pass this on with the hope that you might wish to keep my prayer alive after dementia precludes my ability to remember it.

            “With heartfelt prayers for your intentions,

            Mary.”

 

            Mary’s does not have to worry. Her prayer will live on with me.

            Maybe others will pick it up too, so that it will become part of the collective memory of the Church and be prayed by many minds.

            Prayer is powerful.  It is also persistent.

            I have been with many dying people over the years.       Even when they can no longer remember the faces of their children or their own name, they can remember the words of prayers they have used since their childhood to call upon the Lord.

            If any memory will live on with Mary’s mind, it will be the memory of the words of this prayer she composed. She has recited it with fervor thousands of times as she joined herself to the presence of God in the Eucharist.

            Don’t worry Mary. The memory of your prayer is safe.

            It will live on with me. But even more significant, it lives on already in the mind one who cannot forget. It lives on already in the mind of God, the eternal Word.