A curious thing happened to me yesterday morning here on retreat. The priests’ room is in their shelter for the elderly poor across the street from the convent. I was trying to shave before morning Mass, using a little mirror they had hung at about the level of my bellybutton. I had moved the mirror up to the towel rack, and was hunching over it with razor poised, when I lost my balance. The mirror fell and shattered as I leapt over it, but a shard swiped a little vein on my ankle. Blood began pouring over the bathroom floor. I hobbled over to my room to get a shirt and some footgear. Blood was gushing now and I wondered if I had enough time to get to the convent (I get dizzy when rising quickly even when I’m not bleeding to death). I burst out of my room, dragging my oozing foot through the shelter, with the inmates staring after me.
I found a sister in the chapel. “Quick, sister, I need a bandage!” She ran off. I was back outside on the pavement with my foot propped up on railing when she returned. She applied the necessary pressure to stop the bleeding and applied a bandage as the homeless folks gathered around to give helpful advice. Then she began to clean me up with alcohol and cotton swabs. I’ve cleaned up a few homeless people over the years in MC shelters, and a few times was filled with joy to know that I was touching the Body of Christ. Now it was my turn to lay back and watch sister touch the Body of Christ. There’s something about being healed by a nun. I think they know better than anyone whom they are touching.
I can remember another time, 20 years ago, when I broke my leg skiing. I showed up for Mass the next morning on crutches and hobbled through my usual routine, determined not to lose an hour of work because of an accident. The next day I drove my 5-speed Mazda with one foot (using the emergency hand brake to slow down, as one cannot operate the clutch and brake and accelerator with one foot) to a convent in Modesto for my scheduled day of retreat. When the sisters saw my cast, they rushed to offer genuine sympathy. They scurried about to set up a special chair in the chapel so I could elevate the leg during prayers. And there I sat in the chapel with my beloved sisters, who understand better than most when the Body of Christ is broken, and know just how to fix it.
Back in Santo Domingo yesterday, Sr. Manjulica stopped the bleeding in my foot and cleaned me up with holy dispatch. I was able to begin Mass on time for the crowd of poor and simple folks who come every day to receive the Body of Christ into their own broken bodies.