Ellen Mongan shares the stories of two people whose witness drew others closer to Christ.
"Preach the Gospel wherever you go and when necessary, use words." Many a time, I questioned St. Francis by saying, "Nowadays, words are necessary!" Maybe in St. Francis' time, silence was the best way to preach the Gospel, but today so many people are going the wrong way. We need to shout from the mountaintops, "Jesus is Lord!" I should have added that is just my opinion. I, a cradle Catholic, am just now beginning to understand why St. Francis coined that phrase. It takes a journey to learn the truth of his words.
"What if you are the only Bible someone ever read?" You see, people are watching us, and we are watching them. Our testimony can be summed up in the way we live our lives for Christ.
This year Deacon Patrick and I lost two people very dear to our hearts, an elderly friend named John Murphy and a sweet, almost 100-year-old, Aunt Dorleen. The witness of their lives drew us closer to Christ. Their lives were a living example of "Christ in us, our hope of glory." Before they died, God impressed on my heart to write each a letter.
Dear Dorleen, God's Darling Delight, your words were eternal and sewn into my soul. They say 'actions speak louder than words.' This is true of those who know the voice of the Shepherd. A person's actions are what draw others to Him. The conversations we had in our times together pointed me to Jesus. You have taught me so much, and I thank you.
I learned lessons from watching Aunt Dorleen interact with her husband and her large family. One day she was sharing with me about her beloved husband, Bob. She said, "You know, Ellen, when Bob got sick, I was afraid and did not know what I would do if he died. Bob knew my heart. One day he took me on his lap, looked me in the eyes, and said, 'Dorleen honey, if I die, just remember all that I taught you.'"
By now, my eyes were teared up, as wise old Dorleen concluded with, "Ellen, that is just what I did. I miss him every day, but his words gave me courage." What Aunt Dorleen did not know was that I was struggling with that same fear. What would I do if my Patrick died? Her words brought me peace, and when I begin to worry, God brings Aunt Dorleen's words to mind.
When Aunt Dorleen came to visit, I asked, "How are you doing, Aunt Dorleen?"
Her apt response was, "Well, I thought I was going to die a few weeks ago."
"What did you do?" I inquired.
"What was I to do? I just said, 'Ready or not, Jesus, here I come.'"
We both laughed. Aunt Dorleen taught me to be not afraid. Jesus will never leave you nor forsake you. Put your trust in God alone. He calls you by name. You are His! Aunt Dorleen was a woman of faith. It was her faith that she passed on to all the lives she encountered. It was her faith that carried her home into the arms of Jesus.
I began my letter to our dear friend John,
Your life has touched ours in ways you will never know. When we met you and Arline, we knew we were on a mission from God. We knew God had a purpose for the encounter, and we willingly accepted the mission. Each time we took the trip to see you and Arline, we looked forward to getting to know you, blessing you with food and gifts, enjoying the conversation, and praying together. God was doing a work hidden from our eyes, a work on the inside. On one of the early visits when the four of us were praying together, God gave me a small insight into what this work was about. We thought that we were bringing Christ to you and Arline, but you and Arline were bringing Christ to us too. The day Arline handed Pat and me the beautiful cross, we understood the message. It was before our eyes in full color; it was about marriage. The beautiful way you lived out your marital covenant as Arline, the suffering servant, and you, John, her beloved caregiver.
You can read a book or listen to a podcast or even watch a movie about marriage, and you may grasp a glimmer. However, to see John carry Arline all the way to the finish line into the arms of Jesus, when she could no longer carry herself, was a true testimony of Christ's love. Their life told the story of a man who loved a woman, and a woman who loved a man with Christ as the center of their love.
I assured John with these words, "Jesus will see you to the finish line just like you saw Arline to the finish line when she could run no more." John died a few days later. I am glad I wrote the letter.
John's and Aunt Dorleen's lives impacted mine with lessons that will reside in my heart forever. In this video, John tells the story of his marriage.
I guess St. Francis was right. Sometimes words are not necessary. A life lived for Christ is the testimony. Who has impacted your life by the witness of their life? Whose life have you impacted?
Let us live the words of this prayer attributed to St. Francis. It will speak volumes in silence:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Copyright 2021 Ellen Mongan
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About the Author
Ellen Mongan is a Catholic writer, speaker, and host of WOW MOM podcasts. Her book, WOW MOM: A Walk with God, is on Amazon. She contributes to Catholic Mom, Women of Grace, and Augusta Chronicle. Her most important roles as wife to Deacon Patrick and mother of eight led her to ministry. Learn more and contact her to speak at EllenMongan.com.