Once we came into a men’s ward and saw an old man sitting there. He was from some remote village with no church. It turned out that he had never confessed, received Communion or visited a church service in his life. After his confession, I gave him Holy Communion. A week later the nurses from the Sisterhood come to this ward and say:
– Who’s here for confession and Communion?
A whole choir of voices goes:
– No way!
– Last time you came, the old man agreed to take Communion and died two days later.
What seemed horrible to them was a real miracle to me. The old man was 96 years old and still in good shape, as if he was preparing for that encounter. I think the Lord assigned him to this institution for it. The sisters talked to him during their round, and then called me.
Such cases are not rare. Sometimes every minute counts when it comes to giving Communion to some patients. Once there was a terminal stage patient in our department who was on painkillers. Suddenly she asked me to come, hear her confession and give her the Holy Communion. I was accompanied by a nurse. While I was getting everything ready for communion, the nurse gave the patient an injection and said, “You have five, maybe six minutes. Then she will fall asleep and may not wake up.”
To give communion to a sick person, one must read the beginning prayers, the Creed and three prayers for Communion. I read the usual beginning, skipped the Creed and managed to read the first Communion prayer when I noticed that her eyes were starting to droop. I understood that we needed to act urgently and gave her Communion. She fell asleep almost immediately after kissing the cross. The sister and I were both overwhelmed with a state of unspeakable joy from managing to do it. That patient never woke up. And this also is a miracle to me.
An Incident in Intensive Care
The urology building has two wards with seriously ill patients. The sisters come there and offer two women to be baptized. One woman is really enthusiastic; the other one isn’t but they both agree. So, I come there and begin the Sacrament, and suddenly one of them gets sick. They call a doctor and put her on a drip, while I am asking myself what should I do in such circumstances. I have to finish what I started, so we begin to act simultaneously. While the doctor is giving her treatment on one side of the bed, I am performing the sacrament of Baptism on the other.
I baptized them and said that I would return with communion tomorrow. When I came, both of them got up from their beds, smiling, although their condition was quite serious on the previous day. Later, the woman who did not want to be baptized radically changed her attitude towards the church and became a regular church-goer. Situations often occur when I have to work in parallel with a doctor. He is reviving the body while I am working on the soul.
Baptism and Tumor
A 19 year old man once came to our church and asked to be baptized. He said that the doctors found a tumor in his head. It was just before the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. I said:
– Let’s do this: I will baptize you today, and there will be a service on Epiphany, and then you will receive communion.
– Don’t you understand? I have an operation!
– Listen to me: I baptize you today, and on Wednesday you come to the service to receive communion.
The next day, on the eve of Epiphany, he comes running into the church and says: “Miracle!” After baptism, he underwent a control brain tomography before the operation, and everything was clean there! No tumor. He came to the service and received Holy Communion. We have many such cases – all the years of serving in the hospital, I clearly feel that God’s help is always with me.
A church was opened in the Vitebsk city hospital 14 years ago. Every week, on Saturdays and holidays, a liturgy and a prayer service are served there before the icon of the Mother of God “the Most-Holy Queen of All”, where the hospital patients pray for healing. Father Alexander’s parishioners have formed a sisterhood actively helping the sick. They bring food, clothes, answer the patients’ questions about faith and help many people in need of baptism, confession or Communion. If there is a need for a priest, they immediately contact Fr Alexander. Every week father Alexander and the sisters visit each ward of the oncology clinic and try to alleviate the grave condition of its patients as much as they can.
Priest Alexander Goncharov, rector of the church in honor of the icon of the Mother of God “the Healer” and the hospital church of the icon of the Mother of God “the Most-Holy Queen of All” in the city of Vitebsk, Belarus
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds