"My dear friends,
"It is the feast of All Saints and I am home because the Pastoral Center of the Archdiocese is closed. The weather is much colder than it was several days ago, but it is still good for walking. Normally, I would be doing just that.
"But today, I will not do any walking. The reason is that a pervasive fagigue - one that is characteristic of pancreatic cancer - has overtaken me. Besides, I am still experiencing discomfort in my lower back and legs because of the spinal stenosis that was diagnosed about a year ago.
"So, as I sit at my desk, I thought I sould do something else. I have decided to write this very personal letter explaining why I have written this little book, The Gift of Peace.
"It is not an autobiography but simply a reflection on my life and ministry during the past three years, years that have been as joyful as they have been difficult. My reflections begin with the allegation of sexual misconduct brought against me in November 1993 and continue to the present as I prepare for the last stage of my life which began in June 1995 with the diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer.
"To paraphrase Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, 'it has been the best of times, it has been the worst of times.' The worst because of the humiliation, physical pain, anxiety and fear. The best, because of the reconciliation, love, pastoral sensitivity and peace that have resulted from God's grace and the support and prayers of so many people. While not denying the former, this reflection focuses on the latter, showing how, if we let him, God can write straight with crooked lines. To put it another way, this reflection is intended to help others understand how the good and the bad are always present in our human condition and, that if we 'let go', if we place ourselves totally in the hand of the Lord, the good will prevail.
"On a very personal note, I invite those who read this book to walk with me the final miles of my life's journey. When reach the gate, I will gave to go in first - that seems to be the rule: one at a time by designation. But know that I will carry each of you in my heart! Ultimately, we will all be together, intimately united with the Lord Jesus whom we love so much." - The Personal Letter to the Reader, handwritten by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin 13 days before his death.