His name was Father Alan. I had known him since 1998 and traveled with him on several occasions. He was a former U.S. Air Force chaplain..he had to take a medical discharge due to an illness and had been denied the compensation he deserved. He led pilgrimage groups to such diverse places as Mexico, Ireland, Spain and Medjugorje. He had Parkinsons Disease, but it had not progressed so far that he was not able to perform his Priestly duties and lead pilgrimage groups.
A few pilgrims complained…he was unable to take showers easily and so his body odor became a distraction. Of course, they probably did not realize the cause. It was a sacrifice for him to lead pilgrimage groups, but he never refused if asked. And many of us benefited greatly from his spiritual advice.
As time went on, he could no longer keep up his daily routine, as the disease had taken its’ toll. I believe he spent his last few months in a nursing home….I am ashamed to say, I did not bother to find out.
I lost track of Father, as can easily happen in this busy world of ours. I wish I had not, but nothing I can do about that now. Finally, after the fact, I found out that he had died in 2016. Then….something odd I suppose…I was happy for him. As Christians we know that we are pilgrims on a journey….yet how few people in this world feel that way. Even those who profess to be Christians can sometimes have this inordinate fear of death.
And yet, I could not bring myself to feel sorry for Father Alan. He would probably spend some time in purgatory, as we all do (I wish more priests would point this out at funerals….(most of them use the “he/she is in a better place line), but he was going to take his last pilgrimage and was definitely headed for heaven……where his sufferings would be over.
So, it was almost with a sense of gladness that I learned of his death. Hard to explain…especially non-believers, but there it is.
I guess what brought it to mind was All Souls Day…and the references to praying for the dead. Father Alan is in my prayer intentions….but I also ask for his intercession when I pray the rosary, because something tells me he has cleared the hurdle called purgatory and is now in heaven with the saints.
You will find his obituary here…along with a few tributes from the many people whose lives he touched and enriched.