Prosper the Work of Our Hands

downsized_0119151140aI just finished the afghan at right, a gift to my son’s future in-laws. It was supposed to be a Christmas present. But I was so waylaid by the flu, so achy, I could hardly work on it. I started it the week before Christmas and finally hobbled to the finish line with it on January 19th. Well, it’s finally done, done well and it’s pretty, I think….but late.

The afghan has a Father Michael connection- that’s why it’s on this blog! Last year I made the same pattern for Father M in an ombre mix of autumn colors-though it was mainly green. It took me three days tops to complete the blanket then.

I was in the habit of getting Father Michael small gifts and even nonsense things to cheer him up as he battled his malady. One day he was going on and on about something really appealing to his ‘feminine side’, saying he needed to pay more attention to ‘her’. I know very little about the anima/animus psychology business. But to hear Father Michael elaborate on it was hysterical….and inspiring! I decided to put together a ‘care package’ for his neglected anima , whom I called ‘Michelle’ (real original, I know). Well Father Michael absolutely loved it. It was mainly grooming items,unisex, but there were a few things like the mini sewing kit, the facial, the mirror and the lace doilies that screamed “I am woman”. I did wonder what Father did with that stuff. Later he told me that the brothers kept a collection of things that they gave as presents to St Pius staff;perhaps that’s where it went. Buuuut,sometime afterward Father Michael did mention the lovely scented candles I’d included and declared “You know I wouldn’t mind some more of those cute little candles, I like to light them for when I have my bath”. Hard to keep a straight face with that holy man sometimes!

Anyway,one day I visited Father Michael at St Pius and saw that he had two or three woven throws in his living area. But there was nothing homemade that I could see. I decided that I wanted to make him a blanket. It was gratifying to buy him the instant tickets, the food and the flowers, but it wasn’t personal. Yet, I knew that Father M just had tons of things in that place-perhaps he had many afghans, but all put away .  I went ahead and crocheted the afghan and enclosed a note with it.  I told Father Michael I wanted to give him something I’d made myself, celebrating our friendship. But I explained he was free to give it away if he wanted. When he responded, Father M said the “blanket is lovely” and that he would treasure it. He told me that he kept it on his bed. So it was a worthwhile effort and I’ll always know Father made use of my gift.

Interestingly, the blue blanket has another connection. I’d used the same beautiful blue yarn to make another small gift. Father had been complaining about how his hands would get cold when he was in bed,  using his ipad. I decided to make him fingerless gloves, hoping they would help. Went to the store, checked out the black and the white yarns and some grey tweed ,too. I thought ‘they must get tired of black and white’. I almost chose red,but settled on the blue. Took me an hour to knit the things, very simple. I brought them to Father that afternoon. He wasn’t exactly thrilled, but insisted on trying them on. Still wasn’t too thrilled. So I said ” Well, I can tell they’re not your cup of tea, but maybe one of ‘the boys’ could use them?  I ‘m sure some of them get cold hands.” Father Michael took off the gloves , folded them and then said vehemently “Nope- they get NOTHING!”  I figured ‘the boys’ must have been misbehaving to elicit that reaction out of Father M. I wonder if he ever used those things??? Such poignant memories.Glad for them.



On another note, here is a picture of my beautiful Christmas tree. I am embarrassed to say it is still up on January 21. It still smells wonderful; it is a Fraser fir. It’s a bit droopy now, but still holding  most of its needles. I guess one could say we celebrate the 12 PLUS Days of Christmas! I think my flu delayed everything, so I am having the Christmas season now.

It’s always hard to take the Christmas stuff down,but the tree will go out in the yard , where I will still enjoy it and the birds will use it for shelter. And in the spring , my husband will chop it up for mulch for the garden. It will smell good even then. Just couldn’t resist sharing the picture.


Seeking and Seeing the Good

St Therese’s quote is pretty straightforward. I think it sums up the best in Father Michael’s life: he was consistently a truly loving person. Not that he never calculated. No, he certainly did -and there were some not-so-fine moments that I witnessed. But they were few and far between – a small reminder to me that all of us, even very holy people like Father Michael, are still sinners.

But the bulk of what I saw and heard of Father Michael was unmistakably loving. He once told me “In the course of my life and my priesthood, I have found that 99.9% of all people are good . And I do believe that all people are good.” I listened to him and didn’t interrupt or  comment,  but realized how different that was from my belief . I was more into “looking for the good” in folks and not usually expecting to find it. In my heart, I didn’t feel that most people were good. I kind of saw them as flawed but decent, well-meaning for the most part-but not simply as “good”. I was (and still am) wary, reserved and cautious. I considered how different my approach to others would be if I believed with all my heart that they were truly, unquestionably, good. How comfortable I would be ,assured that others only thought the kindest and best things about me! Knowing that I was dealing with good people guided by the truth would be reassuring and reinforce the positive traits in my personality.Something to think about.

I considered how Father Michael might incorporate this attitude into his personality and life experience. And I remembered an incident in a restaurant where the young lady taking his order assured Father Michael that he’d be able to self-serve cranberry juice. Given the type of fast food place it was, I had my doubts. Sure enough, there was no cranberry juice on tap. Father M chose lemonade instead. But I was a little indignant and said “You asked that girl specifically about the cranberry juice and she answered you specifically!” I was considering whether the place perhaps had bottled juice stored elsewhere-and that we should go back and ask her. But Father Michael just smiled at me and said sweetly “Oh she’s overworked and underpaid, don’t worry about it”. Well, shut my mouth! But I can see here not only Father M’s patience and charity in his empathy for the worker, but also his will and kindness to ignore the bad-the girl’s discourtesy and her lie. A little thing again-with potential.

Not long after, I had lunch again with Father Michael. It was one of the most interesting and informative conversations I’d ever had with him. We talked uninterrupted for over two hours. At the very end Father Michael said “We’ve got to talk again. I want to tell you my idea that will solve all the problems in the Church.” So I was thinking “He waits till now to mention that ? “ I wondered if he was joking. I hadn’t even mentioned any problems in the Church! I thought “Well, he had to have shared that with his brothers already, I’m sure” And I thought, if so, it couldn’t be something very obvious or revolutionary, could it? Dominicans were still being their Dominican selves. Now I’ll never know. But I have wondered if Father Michael’s seeing all people as truly good was somehow part of the problem-solving.

I like the idea that in choosing to always see and expect only the good in people, Father Michael was expressing his longing and love for God…..and preparing the way.

“Behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”
Luke 17:21