What Can I Say To Them?

by Fr. Bob Pelton

Question:* Various people, all kinds of people, elderly, middle-aged, in fact, all ages, have a great fear of death.

I try to talk to them, try to tell them about the great love of God and how heaven is perfect happiness, but I have a hard time getting this across to them. I know that only God can give the gift of faith, but can you give me some suggestions as to what I can say to them?

Answer: There’s probably no formula, ever, for anything Christian. Whenever somebody is in trouble, there’s nothing that you can memorize, and there’s no answer that will infallibly get across the beauty of the Gospel to them. The only thing that gets across is your open, believing, loving heart, taking that person inside.

I know the Holy Spirit will give you the words if you trust him and hang in there with whomever you visit. That’s what I really know.

If the Resurrection is like a flame in you, and if the love of God is like a flame in you (even if it’s only a small flame) and if your concern for this person is like a flame in you, then those two flames will meet, and there will be new peace and new light.

Of course, there are things to meditate on concerning death—such as how real the Resurrection is. Jesus really wants us to know that. And he wants us to know the Spirit who enables us to know that. And he wants us to know his Father, who is the One toward whom we’re going all the time.

But the way we get that knowledge, and the way we convey that knowledge, is through an open heart.

So you are visiting someone, maybe someone in a hospital bed, and that person says, “I don’t believe,” or “I don’t have any answers,” or “I don’t believe anything,” or “I want to believe it, but God never showed it to me,” or “I don’t know. It’s not for me.” You know, that sort of thing.

If your presence is the presence of somebody who is unshaken by inner pain and doubt, the Lord will show his face to that person.

*Excerpted from a Saturday evening session during which visitors to Madonna House were given the opportunity to ask questions of Catherine Doherty and Fr. Bob Pelton, July 4, 1977