A little background on the new prayer that is in the missals for the New Liturgical Year.
November 17, 2015 at 4:20 P.M., Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia introduced the question of the Cause of Bill Atkinson to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and encouraged the approval of the Cause by the bishops. He spoke of the timeliness of Fr. Bill’s witness especially as a quadriplegic, offering encouragement to others in similar situations, and to the religious community and family of Fr. Bill for their care of him: “William Atkinson’s cause will be a beautiful one, because it would be a source of encouragement for people with this kind of accident in their life, this kind of disability, but also reminds us of the great generosity of his family and his [Augustinian] religious community; they were all called to holiness by their special care for this man. I think he will fit very beautifully into the niche of the communion of saints as a very special patron.” Assent of the assembly was requested by the president of the USCCB and it was unanimous.
Father Atkinson was stationed many years at Bonner High School in Drexel Hill, PA. Left a quadriplegic for 41 Years after a tragic toboggan accident, Father Bill depended on others for morning and evening care and for his meals. But once he was in his electric wheelchair his energy and personality were unstoppable and his spiritual life was extraordinary. His ordination to the priesthood was truly a shared victory, a triumph of cross suffered and carried by father Bill, his family, the Augustinian community and so many friends, to see him ordained that day and become a priest for eternity. And now perhaps, a Saint.
He was a beloved priest, teacher, coach, chaplain, friend and brother to so many. How did he do it? In his own words: “Day after day, help of others along the way, valued friends, sisters, brothers, I simply borrowed – the strength of others.”
(Read his poem Strength of Others here.)
Another Poem by Fr. Bill Atkinson:
At death’s door, I stood one day
Just a visit, I did not stay.
Crisis over, I gave a sigh—
I think I was afraid to die.
In a moment, life was altered
Glanced at the future, almost faltered.
I could not do things I did—
I think I was afraid to live.
Through these encounters, answers I sought
about life and death, I gave some thought.
Faced the unknown, faith faded out
Fear stepped forward, so did my doubt.
Why did I doubt? Why did I fear?
Was I naive? Or lacking in years?
Death’s door again, question I ask—
Would I be weak? As in the past.
Reflect I did, some thoughts anew
About my life, a broader view.
These thoughts hidden? Were they obscure?
An answered prayer and nothing more.
My life as is; is not my own
It belongs to Him, it’s just a loan.
Over the year, what did I learn?
Life is a gift, I did discern.
Another thing learned, I’m not alone
And some day now, He’ll call me home.
In life and death His presence near
No room for doubt and less for fear.
And when He calls, with hope I pray
He’s been with me along the way,
Beyond death’s door, for me He waits
With a smile and a long embrace.
—Fr. William J. Atkinson, O.S.A