Fr. Mike Paraniuk
Fr. Mike Paraniuk
By Fr. Mike Paraniuk
St. Mary Catholic Church
and St. Benignus Catholic Church

I was the Catholic chaplain at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for only several months when I was called to the room of a little boy who was very sad. He barely talked nor ever smiled.

The nurse said, “See if you can cheer him up.”

Before entering his room, I had to dress up in a gown, mask and these thick blue gloves. I asked, “What’s with the gloves?”

The nurse answered, “This little 6-year-old boy has HIV.”

This was 1984. We didn’t yet know what HIV was or how someone got it. At the time, some thought that one could catch it by simply touching the infected person.

I visited the boy many times, but he continued to be sad. But everything changed because of a pair of suspenders I was wearing. I was known as “Father Suspenders.”

I had all types of suspenders with cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Tweedy Bird and many others. One day I walked into his room. He looked at me. He started laughing hard. I wondered what about me was so funny. He pointed to my suspenders and said, “I looove the 'Three Stooges.'”

The laughing continued when I did the Curly “whoo-whoo-whoo.” I performed some of the other "Three Stooges" antics to his delight. The nurse heard his laughter.

She came into the room and asked, “Father, what did you do?”

I replied, “It’s what they did” pointing to my suspenders. I happened to own all 194 "Three Stooges" short movies. I brought them in for him to watch with sheer delight on his face.

As "Three Stooges" fans, we understood each other. I asked him what he liked about the Stooges.

He answered like I would, “They cared for each other.” Here is this little boy who lost his mother and father to HIV/AIDS. He is fighting a terminal illness all alone at age 6. "The Three Stooges" offered him a world where he could belong to someone, a world where nobody gets hurt, a world where there was love underneath the slap stick.

In real life Moe, Larry and Curly were a loving family. When Curly had his stroke and could no longer work, Moe and Larry paid his bills.

This scared lonely little boy shows us what God thinks about being great. Greatness in our world is about winning. Did you ever see a celebration for the loser of the Super Bowl with fans screaming “We’re number two?” In God’s Kingdom, greatness is not about the one who has the most toys but welcoming the one who has no toys and sharing them.

In your judgment before God, He will not care about what you have gained but what you have given.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40.)

Greatness is when you care for someone who can’t repay you.

“If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.” (Luke 6:33.)

This little dying boy was great in God’s eyes because he gave away the most precious of all gifts. He told me, “I pray every night for my mommy and daddy. They gave me something that made me sick. I know they didn’t mean it. I forgive them.”

When the little boy entered the Heavenly Gates, I’m sure Moe, Larry and Curly were there to welcome him – with a pie in his face. And he laughed…