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250 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

In his last book,

The Gift of Peace

, he wrote of embracing suffering

and finding new life. In a general way, he constructed the book around

the Stations of the Cross, testifying that our search for peace on our life’s

journey is nothing less than embracing the Christ of Calvary. “In an age

like our own, marked in part by the quest for instant relief from suffering,

it takes special courage to stand on Calvary. Uniting our suffering with

that of Jesus, we receive strength and courage, a new lease on life, and

undaunted hope for the future.”

In his last week on earth, he wrote a letter to the Supreme Court of the

United States. He begged the justices not to approve of physician-assisted

suicide. “As one who is dying, I have come to appreciate in a special way

the gift of life,” he wrote. He added that to approve a new right to assisted

suicide would endanger America and send the false signal that a less

than “perfect” life was not worth living.

A few weeks before he died, eight hundred archdiocesan and reli-

gious priests joined him for a prayer service at Holy Name Cathedral

in Chicago. He concluded his homily with these words, which he had

originally spoken to the priests on the evening before his installation as

Archbishop of Chicago in 1982:

As our lives andministries are mingled together through the break-

ing of the Bread and the blessing of the Cup, I hope that long

before my name falls from the Eucharistic prayer in the silence

of death you will know well who I am. You will know because we

will work and play together, fast and pray together, mourn and

rejoice together, despair and hope together, dispute and be rec-

onciled together. You will know me as a friend, fellow priest and

bishop. You will also know that I love you. For I am Joseph, your

brother! (Cardinal Joseph Bernardin,

Gift of Peace


Loyola Press, 1997], 141-142)

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick brings the compassion-

ate presence of Christ into the midst of the sufferings of those who are ill.

Cardinal Bernardin was both a minister of that Sacrament and a recipient

during his own illness.