Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Empty Chair

On Sunday night I told a story that I had read the night before in Abba's Child, by Brennan Manning. Here is the story:

Brennan Manning tells the following story of an old man who was dying of cancer. The man's daughter 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.

Priest- "I guess you were expecting me, " I see the empty chair, I figured you knew I was going to show up."
Man- "Oh yeah, the chair ... Would you mind closing the door?"

Puzzled, the priest shut the door.

Man - "I've never told anyone this, not even my daughter .... But all of my life I have never known how to pray. At the Sunday Mass I used to hear the priest talk about prayer, but it always went right over my head.. I abandoned any attempt at prayer, 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. Here's what I suggest. Sit down on a chair, place an empty chair in front of you, and in faith see Jesus on the chair. It's not spooky because he promised, 'I'll be with you always.' Then just speak to him and listen in the same way you're doing with me right now." "So, Father, I tried it and I've liked it so much that I do it a couple of hours every day. I'm careful, though. If my daughter saw me talking to an empty chair, she'd either have a nervous breakdown or send me off to the funny farm.

The priest was deeply moved by the story and encouraged the old guy to continue on the journey. Then he prayed with him, anointed him with oil, and left him in God's care. Two nights later the daughter called to tell the priest that her daddy had died that afternoon.

Priest - "Did he seem to die in peace?"

Daughter- "Yes, when I left the house around two o'clock, he called me over to his bedside, told me he loved me, 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. Apparently, just before Daddy died, he leaned over and rested his head on a chair beside the bed. What do you make of that?"

The priest wiped a tear from his eye and said, "I wish we could all go like that"

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