Recently ordained, Fr. Larry arrived at his first pastoral assignment. The howling wind knifed through the cracks and crevices of the old rectory. The blizzard of 1890. Fr. Larry would never forget that first night. There was no central heating, so he went to bed wearing socks, slippers, a pair of baggy pants and a heavy wool sweater; and then he snuggled under five blankets. He was just dozing off when he heard a voice. "Get up, Father. Someone at 55 Water Street is in desperate need of you." There was nothing mysterious about the voice. He knew that. In those days, long before electronics, there was a speaking tube that ran from the front door up to the bedroom. There was a megaphone at both ends. If there was an emergency during the night, the caller would speak into the megaphone. His or her voice would be heard upstairs. It was so bitterly cold! He ran down the stairs, pulling his bathrobe around him. The frigid wind had drifted the snow waist-high against the door and the side of the building where the outdoor end of the tube and megaphone hung. There was no one there. Not even footsteps in the snow. He was amazed. He couldn't understand what was happening. He knew that voice was real. It had thundered at him. He dressed as fast as he could, took his little black bag and plunged into the midnight blizzard. Fr. Larry remembered walking down the middle of the street. There was not a soul stirring. Water Street, he knew, was on the far side of town, the "wrong side of the tracks", what we'd call the "inner city." It seemed like hours before he found the house. It was dilapidated and obviously deserted. Boards were nailed across the front door and the windows. Still, driven by the urgency of the message he had heard, he knocked and then pounded on the door. There was no answer. A couple of windows were shattered. He looked into the darkness and called. Nothing. He began to think that maybe he had been dreaming, that he dreamed he heard a voice ordering him to this broken-down building. Still, he thought, I'd better try the back. The rear door was ajar, but stuck. He pushed it open finally and stepped inside. In the white glare of moonlight seeping through the dirty windows, he could see a man's body huddled on what had been the kitchen floor. Fr. Larry knelt beside him. The man was dressed in rags. He was a bum, a derelict. The smell of stale beer was almost nauseating. The old man was conscious. He was trembling in the cold. Father wrapped him in his overcoat. He was able to hear his confession. He gave him Holy Communion and anointed him. Afterwards, he told the dying man how he happened to be there, how he was directed to this ruined house by a voice he heard in the middle of the night. Then he asked the man, "You must have done something special in your life to gain this kind of extraordinary intervention. What was it?" "No. Nothing," the man mumbled. "I've never done anything. I've wasted away my whole life -- never did anything for anybody..." "But you must have done something," Fr. Larry persisted. The old man just shook his head. "Nothing." "I'll get help." Father started toward the door. As he reached it, he heard the man say, "Well, there might have been one thing..., 'cept I don't like to talk about it, 'cause, I didn't do it well or nothing." "What was it?" Fr. Larry whispered. "Aw Father, I don't like to mention it, `cause I did it when I was drunk, sometimes in bars, making fun of it. I'd do it when I'd go to sleep in boxcars with other hobos...but I did it all these years....badly though...." "What? What did you do?" "When I was a little kid, my mom told me that if I'd say the 'Mary Prayer' every day as often as I would think of it, I wouldn't die alone...that I wouldn't die without having a priest to confess to and to give me the Last...Oh Father, I'm dying, ain't I? And what my mom said was true." He smiled. Then he sighed, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for me, please, now and at the hour of my death." Then he went home to his Mother, both of them. That happened a long time ago. It was told to me by one of our priests who is now in Alaska. It was told to him by Fr. Larry when he was a very old man. His visit to the dying derelict on that frigid winter night so long ago - what a precious "spiritual work of Mercy"! And "The Mary Prayer." What a simple, hope-filled petition of love! For all of us. Everyday. As often as we think of it.