When I worked for the Veterans’ Hospital in SF in 1999 at Fort Miley it was a remarkable experience. The hospital was built to house 150 patients, but was down to about 50 as the veterans had slowly dwindled down. However, they did build a facility for old, retired veterans – a kind of retirement home which housed about 100 veterans. The head nurse was a Jewish woman by the name of Miss Guggenheim, a wonderful girl.
Amazing to me was how much I enjoyed working in that particular facility. Usually places like that are pretty grim, filled with people just waiting to die or have somebody come visit them. But in this particular case it was a very cheerful place. There were, of course, sad people, but generally speaking the men were pretty kind to each other. They’d gather to play cards, to smoke, the nurses would tease them, they’d tease them back. It was generally a happy place.
I usually said Mass on Saturday at 4:00 in the dining room. The Missionaries of Charity came to help out; so did the Legion of Mary from Holy Name parish. The head of that group was Mr. Dave Marten.
There were certain people in the house who were very recalcitrant. Most of the veterans were Catholic. Most of the people in battles in this century were Catholic, although only 12 percent of the people were Catholic in the beginning of that century. Some were very good Catholics, some not, but I gave them Scapulars and heard their confessions. But there were always a few who didn’t want to have anything to do with the Catholic Church anymore.
One I remember was a veteran of the Second World War who had been trained to be a professional killer. He said he had killed so many people that he wasn’t worthy of being forgiven. He eventually reconciled himself with God. Then there were some who were completely paralyzed or completely unconscious most of the time. Then there were two or three who were very angry with God and the Church. For example, there was a man who was a major during the War and now he was upset because he felt cast off. He wanted nothing to do with the Church. When I went into the room to give Communion to his roommate I would talk to him, but he wanted nothing to do with it. There was another man who had also been an officer who was very bitter.
One day I was walking down the hall going to give Communion and I met this man – a male nurse – preparing some medicine for a lady laying there, completely paralyzed. She could only move her lips and her eyes. She was Dorothy Beasley.
We got to talking about trying to get people to go to confession. He asked if I knew Mrs. Beasley. I assumed she was a Baptist so I hadn’t really gotten to know her. Her roommate was a victim of a prefrontal lobotomy and was very crazy, and she was Baptist, so I presumed she was the same way. She had Lou Gherig disease.
The male nurse asked me if I knew if she was Catholic. I was surprised because it looked like you couldn’t communicate with her. But he said the nurses had a code – if you ask a question, if she blinks her eyes once it means yes, twice it means no. I asked her if she was Catholic. She blinked once. I apologized to her for not meeting with her before, and asked if she wanted the Sacraments – she blinked once. So I gave her a Scapular, gave her all the Sacraments, the Missionaries of Charity would come and say the Rosary with her, etc.
One Saturday some time later I was wondering: what made this place so pleasant? I knew that what makes the Little Sisters of the Poor’s place so pleasant is that they prayed for the people. I realized this place was pleasant because somebody must be praying for them. I was saying mass that day and wondering who could it be that was praying for them – somebody who was suffering very much. Then when I went into the hall after Mass I saw Dorothy sitting there. On an impulse I went up to talk to her. I asked her if she’d do me a favor – she blinked once. I explained there were two people there who had rejected the Church and I asked her if she’d pray for them, that they would reconcile with the Church before they died and before I left there. She blinked once. I gave her their names, both of these ex-officers who were so negative.
To my amazement, the following Saturday BOTH of them went to confession!
I couldn’t believe it but this woman was a great powerhouse of prayer. Just her prayer affected the whole place. She was a living saint. Usually women who reach her state of paralysis last only a year. She lasted 5 more years. I think she asked the Lord to leave her stay there to suffer for souls.
So I give her to you. Dorothy Beasley is someone to pray to and ask for help. She will pray for you.