The Franciscan Friars are a Catholic mendicant religious order of men tracing their origin to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).
Mendicant orders are religious orders that have taken a vow of poverty and depend directly on charity (not government welfare!) for their livelihood. In principle, they do not own property, either individually or collectively, in order that all their time and energy could be expended on religious work.
On June 27, 2011, two Franciscan friars of St. Joseph Friary, Harlem, New York — Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher and Fr. Jude Thaddeus — just happened to be at the scene of a traffic accident and so, gave the last rites to the severely injured bicyclist who died a few days later.
Was it mere happenstance that the two friars were there — in a part of the city they had never visited and normally would not visit, on their way to a chapel and an event that turned out to be fictitious? Or was this “happenstance” by design?
Here’s the account by one of the friars.
FranciscanFriars.com – July 8, 2011-
Did you ever have an experience in which you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is real?
Monday June 27, 2011, was a day that I will never forget. Br. Jude Thaddeus and I were the only friars home at our friary in Harlem. We decided that we wanted to do something special, something out of the ordinary, go on an adventure. We started to brainstorm with various ideas. Mysteriously every idea ended up not being available. We laughed at the ridiculousness of the situation, “Finally a free day and we can’t find something to do!”
My eye caught sight of a postcard which had been on our office corkboard for months. It was advertising a new Eucharistic Adoration Chapel in New York City. We decided to go to this chapel for our evening prayers – some adventure! Mysteriously the phone number was disconnected. I called my sister to check out the listed website which – mysteriously – did not exist. We were very close to canceling our plans. As we climbed into the car I told Br. Jude that we might be going on a wild goose chase.
With map in hand I tried to locate the address of the alleged chapel. Being unfamiliar with the particular neighborhood, I suggested that we take the West Side Highway south then east on Canal Street. As we approached the intersection of West Broadway we accidentally got stuck in the left lane behind some cars which were waiting to turn left.
I told Br. Jude that we needed to get over a lane so that we could continue going straight. Br. Jude waited as a car going straight was about to pass us. As soon as it passed we moved over and started to enter the intersection. At that moment a middle-aged man on his bike ran the red light and was hit by the car right in front of us.
It all happened so fast. It seemed that neither person saw each other. Within seconds I was present to the bicyclist who was lying unconscious face down in the street. In a most mysterious moment of mercy I was able to pray the words of absolution and apostolic pardon over my brother who was in his hour of need. Br. Jude was at my side praying “Jesus, mercy, Jesus, mercy.”
We are never out and about at that time of day. We are seldom in that neighborhood. I feel like we witnessed a miracle of mercy. Jesus the Good Shepherd placed us at the exact time and place needed to bring His presence to a tragic situation.
Our prayers that morning had included the following passage from St. Augustine, “Even in the midst of this life of tears and tribulations, what happiness, what great joy it is to realize that we are God’s flock! He keeps watch over us when we are awake; He keeps watch over us when we sleep. A flock belonging to a man feels secure in the care of its human shepherd; how much safer should we feel when our shepherd is God? Not only does He lead us to pasture, but He even created us.”
Psalm 103 was prayed at Mass that morning, “The Lord is kind and merciful…He pardons all your iniquities, he heals all your ills. Not according to our sins does he deal with us, nor does he requite us according to our crimes.”
Ray Deter died less than a week after the accident. I do not know about his relationship with God, although he did grow up in a Catholic family. Since the accident there has been a colossal outpouring of sympathy. This bears witness that he was a great guy. He was a bar owner and beer connoisseur. I would have loved to talk over a pint, now maybe on the other side.
After the accident we found out that the adoration chapel does not exist, so we offered our evening prayers for Ray that day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Eternal rest, grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.
God bless you,
Fr. Luke Mary Fletcher, CFR
St. Joseph Friary, Harlem, New York
New York Daily News article on the accident
H/t Spirit Daily.