A woman had asked the local priest to come and pray with her father. When the priest arrived, he found the man lying in bed with his head propped up on two pillows and an empty chair beside his bed. The priest assumed that the old fellow had been informed of his visit. I guess you were expecting me, he said. No, who are you? Im the new associate at your parish, the priest replied. When I saw the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up. Oh yeah, the chair, said the bedridden man. Would you mind closing the door? Puzzled, the priest shut the door, Ive never told anyone this, not even my daughter, said the man. But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the pastor talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, the old man continued, until one day about four years ago my best friend said to me, Joe, prayer is just a simple matter of having a conversation with Jesus. Heres what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. Try not to be self-conscious because Jesus promised, Ill be with you always. Then just speak to Him and listen in the same way youre doing with me right now.
So, Father, I tried it and Ive liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. Im careful, though, because if my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, shed either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm. The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the man to continue on this unusual journey of prayer. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and returned to the rectory.
Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her father had died that afternoon. Did he seem to die in peace? asked the priest. Yes, when I left the house around two oclock, he called me over to his bedside, told me one of his corny jokes, and kissed me on the cheek. When I got back from the store an hour later, I found him dead.
But there was something strange, Father. In fact, beyond strange - kinda weird. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on the arm of a chair beside the bed.
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