The Linen Lady

You wouldn’t know her name.  She wouldn’t want you to know her name.  I’m not going to tell you her name, but every couple of days she comes into the sacristy quite as a mouse.  I like to arrive early for Mass, set up and then sit quietly and pray before Mass.  It is not always possible because people inevitably come into the sacristy with a question.  Except for one person:  the Linen Lady.  I usually don’t see or hear her come in.  She comes into the sacristy, takes the old altar linens and places them into her bag.  Then she takes out the freshly laundered, impeccably starched and perfectly ironed altar linens.  They are always immaculate—as they should be for use on the altar.  They have razor-sharp corners.  They are always perfect.  Then she leaves.  Oftentimes she is gone before I realize that she has been there.  And now she herself is leaving!

The Linen lady and her husband and her cat are moving.  She told me last week.  I feel worse than she does.  She said “I lived in my prior parish in Queens for 30 years and I have lived in Saint Martin’s for 20 years.  I love Saint Martin’s the best!”  Where does one find such wonderful people as the Linen Lady?  Someone who does, as Saint Catherine of Sienna said, “what God asks, when God asks, because God asks, for as long as God asks, because God asks.”  But the greatest thing is that she does it quietly and unassumingly.  She doesn’t want anyone to know what she does; that’s why she comes and goes so quietly.  What a lesson for all of us.

She told me she laments more than anything else having to leave “this parish.”  She didn’t say “this town,” but “this parish.”  This is her overriding grief.  Here is someone who loves her parish, and serves her parish; faithfully, quietly, unassumingly, and prayerfully.  I always thank her for what she has done for years, and she always responds sincerely: “I thank you Father for letting me do this.”  She has inspired me—without saying a word.  And now she leaves us.

And I will miss her.

This week I received an anonymous letter.  As a rule, I don’t read anonymous letters; I usually immediately shred them if they are not signed.  However, as I opened this letter a large amount of money fell out of the envelope with a short note: “Please use enclosed money for St. Martin’s only, maybe for beautification.  I love St. Martin’s parish.” 

A cab driver stopped his cab in front of St. Martin’s one Sunday morning and got out of his cab to hand me a fistful of money.  He said: “This is for St. Martin’s”

Whenever Monsignor McDonald visits us, he always exclaims: “This church gleams!”

I agree!  How fortunate we are to have this beautiful parish and those many of you who appreciate and support it.

– Fr. Gerard Gordon