Reflecting on Former Lives Lived
Hello, friends. As some of you know, I am spending this summer writing a book about my journey of consciousness. I thought for my column this month I would simply share with you a chapter I just finished. Catholics will find the trappings more familiar but there are universal themes here so read on everyone.
For four years of my former Jesuit life, from 1978-82, I was happily on the staff of Loyola Retreat House in southern Maryland. I loved retreat work. I could spend all day doing the things I loved most. How many of us get a chance like that? In the course of this time there were some highly memorable moments. One of these concerned Sister Colette Costello.
Colette Costello walked through the doors of Loyola and into my life one June day around 1980. I do not remember much about her retreat. She was a Medical Mission sister and so had worked overseas much of her life. She had a limp due to one leg being shorter than the other. She also had an entertaining offbeat sense of humor. After her retreat I told her that with a name like Colette Costello I had been expecting a swinging young nun; she told me that, coming to a Jesuit retreat house, she had been expecting a white haired sage. At the time I was still in my thirties and looked even younger.
A while after her retreat she phoned to tell me that she had been diagnosed with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. The Medical Mission Sisters’ mother house is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I drove up there to see her once during her illness. I was expecting to find a woman of strong faith who nonetheless, in the face of death, would be experiencing some sadness and anxiety. Was I wrong! I walked into her infirmary room. She was very glad to see me but I could tell she was already happy before I got there. A peacefulness filled the room. She wore a radiant smile and she was eager to tell me something. She told me that every day for the past I forget how long she had found herself in a corridor … a long corridor. She is at one end of it. At the other end, approaching her a little closer each day, was a beautiful being whom she knew to be Jesus. She was filled with ecstasy and could not wait for Jesus to reach her because she knew that would be the moment of her death and at last she would be united with her beloved Lord whom she had served all her life.
In my homily at her funeral I told them what I had experienced in her room that day. I also mentioned that she had been very devoted to the daily rosary which includes 53 Hail Mary prayers. I said I could see that a frequent prayer of hers had been answered, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”
Bill O’Brien is a Consciousness Coach in Shepherdstown. O’Brien’s writing and coaching can be found at www.billobrienconsciousnesscoaching.com.