The Prodigal Son and the Curate
A priest once had a parishioner who turned away from the faith. He was described as “one who became so impious and lawless that he scandalized even those who led bad lives.” This man developed an affliction in his lungs and was going to die. The priest visited him and sought to elicit some turning back toward God before he departed this earth. All the entreaties of the priest were met, however, with insults and blasphemies.
The priest was a good shepherd. He would not let go of his wayward son. So, he turned to a curate and told him to go to Paray-le-Monial and have prayers said for the dying man. Paray-le-Monial is a small village in the Burgundy region of eastern France. It is also the place where, from 1673-1675, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque received the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The revelations were received while she was in adoration before Him in the Blessed Sacrament, where she spent hours on end, like a marble statue, with the revelations being unknown to those around her. It was here that the priest was sending the curate, to the Chapel of the Visitation, where the revelations occurred. There was a silver heart located there, next to the altar, where prayer petitions could be placed.
The curate left at once. He arrived the following day, along with other pilgrims to the holy place. Prayers were said and communions were offered for man dying many miles away.
The curate then returned to the dying man. He had brought with him a medal of the Sacred Heart. In a surprising turn, the dying man took the medal, attached it to a ribbon and placed it around his neck. He then asked to have his confession heard and insisted that it must be that very day. He confessed his sins, received the sacrament of Extreme Unction and went to the next life thanking the Lord for waiting for him and pardoning him after so much time spent in rejecting His ways.
Is this significant? It is nothing less than the saving of a soul. Is it surprising that the man changed so in his attitude? Other men never make such a change. Is it due in any way to the prayers said at the Chapel of the Visitation, where He was there to hear them in the tabernacle? The priest who related this story certainly thought so.
This Lent, let us try to imagine the infinite Love that resides in the Sacred Heart, such a love that it could forgive, in an instant, a life spent in rejecting it. Next time, you are in a church and see a tabernacle with the red candle burning near it, consider the Love that resides inside, the Love that grants eternal life, the Love that is present in each Eucharist.
(Adapted from an account in in Moments Divine Before the Blessed Sacrament by Rev. Frederick A. Reuter.)