When I was working as assistant pastor in Guadalupe parish in Brasilia, there was a little old woman named Therezinha who I grew very fond of. And she was fond of me. She was short and white haired, walked with a waddle and complained about how her feet hurt. But she would walk to church every morning for Mass, and at a pretty good clip at that.
She was the matriarch of the parish and made sure that everything was just so. So when she would remind me of an upcoming feast day that was important to the parishioners, I appreciated that, especially since LC formation gives no preparation for parish life whatsoever.
Therezinha would take care of me. At the slightest hint that I might be getting sick, she would show up later in the day with vitamin C or a soup she had made for me. It was strange to me, because I hadn’t experience that kind of caring from anyone while I was in the Legion.
I suffered from migraines in the Legion. They used to be fairly frequent, so much so that I would carry medicine around with me all the time to ward off the effects at the onslaught, if of course the superior let me keep medicine.
I started getting migraines these during novitiate in Cheshire. At that time I didn’t know they were migraines. There was a time when, after asking for some aspirin from my superior and being refused, my only resort was to look for somewhere dark and quiet to hide. I went to the gym and sat on the stairs behind the stage. I pressed my head against the cold iron railing hoping to get some relief. But since I was outside God’s will, I was nervous and tense, and that only increased my suffering. Before long I was nauseous, and soon needed to vomit.
Once, in Rome, one came on suddenly in the late afternoon. I went to the superior’s door to ask for some aspirin. He was talking to someone else when I got there and the five or ten minutes that I waited were hell. Finally I gave up and went to my room, closed the blind and went to bed. I guess it was sometime after night prayers when I heard the door to my room open. There was a pause, and then the door closed again. Nothing was said, no “Do you need anything? Are you OK?” The next morning I got chewed out for being outside God’s will.
So when Therezinha would care for me, I felt something I hadn’t felt in years. Someone really loved me.
Therezinha passed away a year ago, and I miss her. Her son came to my parish a couple of weeks after she died. He brought me a very old painting of the Sacred Heart that I had noticed in her house and liked. He said, “I’m sure Mom would have wanted you to have it.” It’s proudly hanging on the wall in my house as a reminder of how much I loved Therezinha.