It was quite the unusual day in Dublin, Ireland. The weather provided a beautiful summer day in the “Emerald Isle.” Sunny, a gentle breeze, and a nice temperature of 68 degrees. I don’t know about you, but that’s ideal for the end of July!
Around 3:30 in the afternoon, my father and I were making our way down Gardiner Street in central Dublin on our way to Saint Francis Xavier Church, the resting place of Jesuit Blessed Father John Sullivan – a holy priest with whom I share my name. Indeed, I had a bucket list on this trip, and this was the ONLY thing on it.
My father and I arrived at the church only to find it locked up. I’ll be honest, my emotions went haywire. Never did I think the two of us would be sitting on the steps of a Jesuit residence trying to formulate a plan to get into a church. As the saying goes, there is a first time for everything.
“Well, there’s nothing more to do,” I thought “Sitting on steps won’t open a church”… except this time it did. As we started down the steps, a visiting Jesuit priest just turned the corner of the block and walked towards us. Once I asked who he was, I couldn’t have been happier. I said, “Hi Father, my name is John Sullivan. I’m a seminarian, a graduate of a Jesuit university, and I wanted to see the tomb of Blessed John.” Here’s the amazing reply I got: “Well, that sure warrants a special visit!” Guess what? Those doors opened! I should note that my full name is John Russell Sullivan. It has been tradition my entire life to refer to me by my middle name.
This chain of events was no coincidence. My heart was burning, especially when I finally found myself in front of the tomb of Blessed John Sullivan. Yes, there were tears in my eyes! I have a special devotion to Blessed John Sullivan. He was a convert to Catholicism. Being a Jesuit, he was a teacher at an all-male boarding school in Ireland. During his priestly ministry, what stood out the most was the deep love he had for the sick and the dying. When Fr. Sullivan was out and about walking and cycling in County Kildare, you can be assured he was going to visit the sick and the dying!
I ask for his intercession daily. One of the things I ask him to pray for is that God may give me a heart like his for the sick, the suffering, and the dying. Even while he was alive, people recognized the healing power of his prayer to God. There have been miracles of healing attributed to him, hence his cause for canonization!
This special day in July truly showed me the friendship that the saints have with us. They pray for you, and they WANT TO! What do our friends in heaven, being in the presence of God, want to do for us more than pray for us? Nothing!
Blessed John Sullivan and all you holy men and women, pray for us.
Russ is in 2nd Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore. Russ’ home parish is St. John the Evangelist in Severna Park. Please pray for Russ!