A powerful story from The Boston Globe today:
Tucked into the benches at the Parish of the Incarnation of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on the last Sunday in June was a letter written by the Rev. James A. Field. Diagnosed two years earlier with pancreatic cancer, he had news to share in Melrose that day. “Under my promise to always tell you the truth, I have discontinued chemo and other treatments,’’ he wrote, adding, “I’m beyond the place where chemo can help me. I have come home to die. I am near the end of my journey.’’
Father Field, who had stood in the pulpit month after month, performing pastoral duties through intense pain, sat in a wheelchair on June 27. Speaking into a microphone, he asked if anyone had questions. There were none. Instead, the parishioners took their turn to stand. They began to clap, their applause echoing through the church for minute after minute, as if to prolong his time with them.
A masterful teacher who deftly discovered new insights in familiar Gospel passages, Father Field spent the past two years using his own life as a lesson in how to let life shine in the shadow of death. “I am in a place of great peace and gratitude,’’ he wrote. Father Field, who lived in the church rectory, died Monday. He was 59 and had celebrated his 20th anniversary as an ordained priest last month.
“He taught us all how a Christian should face death: with hope and trust in the mercy and love of God,’’ Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley said in a statement yesterday. “Today we join his parishioners in mourning his passing and we give thanks to God for his life. We pray for the repose of his soul and we celebrate the enormous and positive impact he had on our Church and our faith.’’
For the past eight years, Father Field was pastor of Incarnation Church, where he last attended Mass on July 4. Concerned about how his death would affect the youngest parishioners, some of whom never had a pastor other than him, he consulted with parents and called the children forward that Sunday for a final lesson.