Father Michael loved lottery tickets, raffles and slot machines. I told him once about how my husband had ‘won big’ at a penny slot machine at the casino. I felt a little embarrassed admitting we liked casinos and the lottery. I explained to Father M that it kind of ‘runs’ in my family. Well, Father Michael was just entranced; I needn’t have worried. He was a ‘gambler’ from way back. I had told him the big win story on the phone and a few days later he was still thinking about it and sent me this email:
I am blown away by the casino story. I have dreamed of a big win but it has never happened. When my dear mother was alive I would go with her and we’d have a ball. She would say ‘Fr Michael let’s go to mass and then to the casino and we will come home and have a drink’. It was just perfect. And I always laughed. She was much more of a winner than I was.
One day we should sneak away and win a bundle!!!!
Well, I was floored. Later I found out that Father Michael also loved Instant Lottery tickets . He advised me too, that if he ever got a chance to buy any kind of raffle tickets, he always did. So that became a way that I gave small gifts to Father Michael-I’d buy him instant tickets! When there was a raffle ticket available, I got him one of those too. He was always so grateful -and sooooo excited.
After Father’s cancer diagnosis, I bought him some tickets every week. He would hold onto them for a few days before scratching, savoring the possibilities as long as he could. At one point, Father M confided to me that he really wanted to win a million dollars for Aquinas Institute of Theology in St Louis. Father Michael had so enjoyed serving on the AI Board of Trustees for several years. Gosh, I prayed that he’d win that million. He did win small amounts regularly. A few times, he actually won $100! He enjoyed treating his brothers to pizza with those wins. But the ‘big win’ was not to be. I can recall some very funny ‘ravings’ of Father Michael about the ’ low return’ rate of these tickets. Father M kept saying he was going to call up the governor( a man with Dominican ties) and take him to task about it. Father Michael was so funny; he could get so perturbed by losing. Once I had bought him several extra tickets and later asked how he’d done. “They were ALL DUDS!!!” he exclaimed, looking just like a dejected little boy.
Oh, yes we did go to a casino once. That was a trip. We had a snack early and then quickly got into the slots. I had brought a nice bankroll to share. I really wanted Father Michael to win something substantial. He was always so hopeful. Well, we lost and lost! At one point I grabbed what I thought was $20 from my purse to give to Father Michael. It turned out to be two holy cards ! I laughed and started to put them back , but Father M said “no, let me have them”. He read the prayers on the back first and then proceeded to tuck each holy card into the sides of his machine’s screen. Then he started to rub the screen up and down as he remarked “I see all the old ladies do this”. The person sitting on the other side of Father was watching him, getting quite a kick out of all the ritual. THEN Father Michael raises his right hand and BLESSES the machine!!! I really lost it then; I almost fell off the chair , I was laughing so much. But Father Michael, as serious as could be, was the picture of devotion and determination—and HOPE ! We still lost. Never got through my bankroll; Father Michael was anxious to get back to St Pius for prayer.
Father Michael loved to hear about my casino visits, especially as he became more homebound. He’d often tell me ” You have good Karma, I knew you’d do well”. I’d say ” we’re Catholics- should we even be using the word Karma?” Father M would just smile. I’d often take a picture of good hits at the casino and send them to Father Michael. He would always respond immediately with a “Well done!”, “How much were you betting?” or my personal favorite, “YEAH!!!!”
Again these are some of the little things-certainly worldly-but I know all of them helped Father Michael in his cancer battle. Perhaps they were just distractions from the pain and the difficulties on the journey. But Father Michael reveled in their simple delights. On my last visit to Father Michael, he told me “I sure would like to go to the casino with you again”.
FYI-if anyone would like to donate to Aquinas Institute, here is a link to their online giving page:
Also there is a new special fund dedicated to preparing our future preachers studying at AI: The Father Michael G. Kyte, O.P. Excellence in Preaching Fund, 1910 S Ashland Av, Chicago IL 60608