Beyond the Gift – Part 2

by Fr. Peter Young-Gyo Kim

Part 2
translated by Emmanuella Kim & Martha Reilander of MH Vancouver

Part 1 of this story can be found in the October Restoration either in hard copy or online at www.madonnahouse.org/restoration/archives .

In part 1, “the teacher,” was searching for a last gift for his dying mother. Though not a Christian, he asked a priest, the author, for inspiring words to whisper to his mother before she died.

The priest gave him his rosary, a word about death being an entry into new life, and a suggestion to ask a priest in his town to baptize his mother.

***

The following Sunday as I was exiting the church after celebrating afternoon Mass, someone approached me. It was the teacher. The white mourning ribbon on his black suit jacket told me that he was coming from his mother’s funeral. I wondered how his face could be so calm and collected.

He said to me, “Father, I am neither sad nor distressed now. It is because I feel that my mother is not dead, but instead is surely living in heaven’s peace.

“Previously, whenever I visited my mother, who knew that she was dying, she would grab my hand, trembling in fear, desperately pleading with me to save her from death at any cost.

“I tried everything I could. There was no hospital, no pharmacy, and no doctor that I did not go to for help. However, my mother did not appreciate my efforts but kept pleading with me to save her.

“I felt angry and resentful. How could I save her? I am not a god. That is why I was so distressed and miserable. And because the pain in my heart was unbearable, I could not force myself to see my mother more frequently.

“However, when I brought your words to my mother, she received everything with great joy. She was so moved that she asked for baptism before she died.

“A few days before she died, my mother clasped my hand and said to me, ‘Are you the son I bore? And now are you the one to bear me into heaven? I cannot thank you enough.’

“She truly thanked me with all her heart. As she took her last breath, she peacefully held her rosary. She was a different person, free from resentment and fear of death.”

What a blessing and a mystery, for it was the mother who gave birth to the son, but it was the son who brought his mother to rebirth in heaven!

When he first shared the “last gift,” he was taken aback by his mother’s immediate change.

He shared with his mother every detail from our meeting, over and over, many times. His mother smiled weakly and said to him, “I am very grateful and I should go to thank the priest directly, but I must go to heaven.

“After my funeral, go home and take care of my hen, carefully gather one dozen eggs and give them to the priest with my thanks.”

After that, she could no longer speak; so this was her last will.

The teacher said that he had prepared the eggs as requested in order to carry out his mother’s wishes. He did not bring them with him that day, but explained.

“Father, I came empty-handed because I must first repay a debt. While I helped my mother on the path to heaven, I had no faith in God or heaven. However, if I do not seek to follow my mother’s path to heaven, although unknown to me, how can I fulfill her will to bring you the dozen eggs?

“From now on, I would like to keep her last will by following her path. Father, do you know the way?”

I answered, “You have made a good choice. You can start by attending RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.”

These words brought the teacher such joy. I could see a brightness shining from him as he turned to walk home.

He was a very diligent student while attending RCIA. He was so full of enthusiasm. He wrote down every word from class because he did not want to miss a single thing.

After a few weeks, however, he came to me and said that it was too difficult for him to attend the classes.

Only after his explanation did I understand and laughed at the foolishness of the situation. I had mistakenly thought that he lived close by and had told him to come to RCIA at my parish.

He had been travelling from a neighboring city to attend the class, but then he would miss the last bus or train home. So he had to beg for rides from cargo trucks, and he never knew when they would leave. Sometimes he didn’t arrive home until 4 a.m. At that time, there were no highways.

I suggested that he find a parish closer to his home where he could attend the classes. However, he said that his school was located far from the nearest city as well, and it would be difficult to travel to that parish in the city. So we arranged for him to take a correspondence course.

Usually the correspondence course takes six months, but after three months, he came to me with his certificate and asked for baptism.

He told me he believed and accepted everything and that he had received a mark of 100% on his exam. He asked to receive baptism as soon as possible. The letter of recommendation accompanying the certificate suggested the same.

In Korea, however, it is not customary to be baptised alone, and so I advised him to delay his baptism until the appropriate time. I was sorry to see his great disappointment, his shoulders slouching as he turned to leave.

I thought seriously about who would make a worthy godfather for the teacher, and so I asked Professor Benedict Kim. Professor Kim was a deeply devout Catholic who never missed daily Mass. The two men were pleased to meet each other, and they began a deep spiritual friendship right away, even before the baptism.

That year, on the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, the teacher was baptized with the name, “Paul.” It was a beautiful baptismal celebration. During the baptism, I could not help but notice Paul’s enthusiasm and excitement.

He was like a little child, full of blissful joy. His wife and children, who did not attend church, came to celebrate his baptism. It was like a spiritual feastday for his family.

A short time after this, I was assigned to a different parish, and so I had to leave the city.

to be continued