He Could Only Speak One Word
A blessed happening took place in the month of September, 1934 – seventy nine years ago. On the first day of school at Quigley Prep Seminary on the North Side, a young priest, Father John Hayes, came into our classroom to teach us fifteen year old boys Second Year Latin.
He not only taught us about Caesar’s Gallic War, but also how to live life in a Christ-like way. Father John never raised his voice, berated anyone in a demeaning way and best of all, he treated everyone fairly. In the year before I had noticed this young priest, ordained in 1930, often kneeling in our Seminary Chapel in prayer.
As time went on I found out that he operated a store on his days off to provide clothing for the poor. In my boyish way of thinking, Father Hayes went into a special status in my heart. For the last 79 years, he has never left that place in my life. Boyish intuitions often are right on target.
Some years ago, I heard Father Hayes give a homily at the funeral of his classmate, Father Maurice Foley. Then, at the age of 85, with still a youthful way about himself, he mentioned how he often visited Father Foley in the last months before his death. No conversations took place because of the priest’s paralyzed condition.
On day the nurse spoke to Father Hayes. “Father Foley can speak. He says this one word over and over again, especially at night. He cries out, ‘Amen, Amen, Amen’”. Amen means, “Let it be, let it be.” Father Foley’s prayer to God was an acceptance of his own suffering.
So once again my hero of 79 years had given me an inspiring thought for a Christ-like way of living. If my end brings a long period of pain and suffering, I will surely remember this homily of Father Hayes. It was the only homily I ever heard him give. I will cry out, “Amen, Amen, Amen.” “Let it be, let it be!” All priests agree that Father Hayes was one of the greatest priests in the 20th Century in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Fr. George Mc Kenna