God continues to bless me in many surprising ways. At times I find myself so humbled by the fact that He would choose me for something so important. Just when I was in need of some serious spiritual direction in my life, along came Father Duffner. What a special gift he has been to me!
I remember noticing Father when he was on his way to mass in his wheelchair. I always wondered who he was and wanted to one day get to meet him. Then, one day, one of our priests asked me if I would consider helping care for Father Duffner who is 102 years old. I of course right away said yes! Honestly I was honored that they would think of me as an option. At our parish, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary in Portland, our priests are greatly admired. They are wonderful examples for all of us of holiness and faithfulness. When Father asked me if I would help, I felt that it was Jesus asking me. Of course, with a gladdened heart I accepted.
During the time I have known Father Duffner, he has helped me spiritually more than I can put into words. At first, he seemed a little weary of me. Not ever talking to me and keeping himself immersed in his work at the Rosary Center. Our schedule consists of me taking him to co-celebrate mass three days a week and then taking him to the Rosary Center across the street from the Church to work until the afternoon. I am with him 5 days a week and it's something I look forward to every day. He founded the Rosary Center to be a headquarters for spreading devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary throughout the world and in the missions. They sell many different kinds of books in their online book store and send out countless free rosaries to the missions worldwide. Father Duffner, for many years, wrote articles in a newsletter that went out to many people. All his writings were published in two books called "To know Him". The way that he can take very complex theological concepts and explain them in layman's terms is an apparent gift of his. I recommend anyone to read his writings and to let his wisdom guide you.
As some time went on, I noticed Father opening up a little with me and talking to me briefly. I started to ask him questions about his writings as I read his books. Slowly, we developed a friendship. Day after day spent working together and talking about the faith. We especially like to talk about the saints and their relics. I tear up when I think about taking Father Duffner to the Church and getting him ready for mass. I dress him in his vestments and comb his hair. In his quiet, peaceful way, he shows me how to be patient. His biggest lesson to me has been to accept the daily crosses that God sends us without complaining. He calls it, "Anything that goes against the grain." Our little daily crosses that we are asked to carry. He tells me that if I complain I lose the merit! How we could all attain to sanctity quickly if we stopped complaining! I surely need to take in this lesson.
Father Duffner NEVER COMPLAINS. He just doesn't. He is so inspiring to me, he makes me want to be better, more holy and more like Our Lord. I see in Father Duffner what I hope to one day be. A soul who truly says, Lord Your will and not mine be done.
We recently celebrated Father's anniversary of his ordination, on December 21st 1940. He has been a priest for 77 years! What a gift he has been to the Church and to all the faithful that have come to know him.
One afternoon after Father heard my confession, I asked him is he would pray for me when he gets to heaven. He simply looked at me and said, "If I make it there...."
I knew at that moment what a holy priest he was. That is the perfect answer. May we all work out our salvation in fear and trembling.
In the words of Father Duffner, "May God give you the grace you need most and may our Blessed Mother keep you under her protection. This we ask in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." Amen.