In 1982, at Death Row Infirmary, Prisoner 1 asked for a priest. The Indian local superior of the Missionary Sisters of Charity, the religious congregation of St. Mother Teresa of Kolkatta, turned to San Carlos Seminary for the needed emergency priest. I had just been installed rector a few days earlier.
I was rather peeved at the untimely request. I went nevertheless having at heart the serious priestly task to open paradise to the repentant. I will never regret heeding the plea of Mother Theresa’s religious.
Prisoner 1, blinded due to a ruptured liver complication, was near death. He knew a priest had come and he eagerly confessed, and, anointed with the Holy Oil, devoutly received the Viaticum and the final blessing.
In a dark corner of that miserable infirmary, meanwhile, so thin, surely a consumed tuberculose, prisoner 2 gazed at me with piercing eyes. He appeared to be around 65 years old, while I was, at that time, 37. When I was through with Prisoner 1, I hurried to leave fearing that the infernal gaze might give me nightmares. But the hand of the nun touched my shoulder and she told me, “Father, there’s another one,” pointing at Prisoner 2. I went to him who quickly told me why he was looking at me so angrily. “You are here for me!” he said. I asked, “Do you know what I am?” He replied, “No! But like that man, I will go through a very dark tunnel. But at the end, there is light and He is there to meet me. He sent you to prepare me to encounter Him.”
I went through the same process I did with Prisoner 1. Prisoner 2 was abandoned as a child in an orphanage from where he tried to escape again and again. Every person was for him a personal threat. He must harm them before they harm him. That has been his life all the time. He committed his first major crime while at the age of nine, and his criminal career lasted for 14 years. He was only 23 and dying.
After receiving the Church’s sacraments, his face changed from the fierce predator to a meek lamb. He experienced no selfless love until, when he could do no more harm to his fellow prisoners, he did something good. Near his mat stood tiny images of the Crucified Jesus and Mary at the foot of the Cross. He used to clear the dust from that altar. That was when he felt Someone loves him. He kept whispering to me, “He sent you to me, so that I will meet Him at the end of the dark tunnel.”
That was the first and last time I saw Diosdado 40 years ago. That was not his name. I never knew his name. But for me he is “Dado de Dios,” given (sent) by God, telling me why I am a priest.
Time and again, I remember prisoners 1 and 2. I ponder often, if there is but one Diosdado in the whole wide world, he is worth my becoming a priest. God loves what the world considers most unlovable. Somehow God used me to assure Diosdado his place in heaven in spite of himself. He wants Diosdado to be with Him.
In the evening of my life, God makes me aware He had sent many Diosdados to cross my path. They were all “Dados de Dios” to me. When I myself will enter the dark tunnel, God will be there with numberless Diosdados, each of whom will say, “He sent you for (love of) me!”