Posted December 22, 2010:
A Dream in Catherine’s Cabin

by Fr. Ron Cafeo.

It was a Sunday night in the summer of 1984. Catherine had been bed-ridden for a couple of years, and we had set up a system to take care of her.

A priest was always there at night, a nurse, and Mary Davis as care giver who slept there every night, on the floor with the upper part of her body in the clothes closet!

On this particular night the nurse on duty was Deirdre Burch and the priest was the newly ordained Fr. Ron. Yours truly.

When it was my turn for the night in Catherine’s cabin, I usually took a nap in the afternoon so I could be awake. But this had been a busy Sunday, and a nap was not possible.

So I told Deirdre that I would just rest on the floor in the corner, and if I fell asleep she should wake me for the mid-night turning.

With my head on a small herb pillow that had a saying embroidered in Russian letters, I immediately fell into a deep sleep.

I dreamt that I was behind a long hedgerow and standing before me was a little blond girl, perhaps age five. She was peeking around the side of the hedgerow, laughing, and then she ran down to the other end of the hedges to peek around that end.

When she got to the far end, I was with her, and we were both the same size and age! We took a quick look at each other and ran down to the other end, peeked around, and ran back again, laughing with the abandoned laughter of small children.

I heard the footsteps of Deirdre coming to wake me. How long had I been asleep? How long was the dream?

When people are in bed for long illnesses, they have to be turned every few hours or they develop bed sores. It took three people to turn Catherine.

That night she was on her left side facing the corner where I had been sleeping. We turned her on the call of Deirdre: "One, two, and three." Onto her back. "One, two, and three." Onto her right side.

On the first count, she opened her eyes, looked at me, and said, "They didn’t catch us, did they?"

On the second turn, she turned her head all the way back, looked at me again, and said, "Wasn’t it fun!"

I felt like I was going to faint. Who was in whose dream?!"

About a year after that dream, I was assigned to our house in Robin Hood’s Bay, England. It was a rough year in my priesthood, and quite a few times, I was tempted to flee. Whenever that happened, I would suddenly remember "the dream" and the fact that Catherine had as a little girl, given her life for priests. Then the doubts or darkness would leave me.

One day in 1987, when I was on home leave from England, a retired couple from there was visiting Madonna House Combermere. The husband had been baptized and confirmed in our little chapel in MH England.

During a tour of MH that I gave them, we were sitting in Catherine’s cabin, and I told them the story of my dream. I mentioned the herb pillow that was still in its same place and said the words on it were, "I sleep but my heart watches."

The husband, who knew Russian, said politely, "Oh no, it says ‘I sleep and my heart sees.’" That changed the meaning of the dream for me and brought it to a much deeper level.

The story is not over yet. It continues to have a deep significance for my vocation as a priest of Madonna House. Catherine had given her life for priests, and I was the last priest to be ordained for the community in her lifetime.

There is something very personal and intimate in the way God moves in our lives.


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