Home for a Year Now….

Fra Angelico Update
Fra Angelico Update

 It’s been a year and yet in some ways, it seems like yesterday. Tonight at St Vincent Ferrer church, we will celebrate a memorial Mass in honor of Father Michael. As happy as I am that Father Michael is in Heaven, it still saddens me that he was lost to us so soon. And personally, I regret that I did not get to know Father Michael earlier. Two years is way too short a time, but I am grateful for what I had.

From its beginning, this blog has been an attempt to honor and remember Father Michael. And I have done my best to share what I know of him with all of you. I have always been truthful, which is why not everything you read here of Father M advertises his perfection. No, Father was not by any means perfect. He had his faults.  But he was most certainly a holy, holy man and a true instrument of Our Lord. I’ve never met anyone like him; I know I’ll never meet his like again, at least in this life.

Over the course of this past year, fellow parishioners have periodically written about their experiences with and thoughts and feelings for Father Michael. I identified with each person’s story, the familiarity and truth of Father Michael came through in each essay. Every story was authentic and celebrated the lovely aspects of the character of Father Michael. How much he was loved! How much he is missed!

On this first anniversary of Father Michael’s death, I want to state  a simple reason why he was so special to me. For me Father Michael just was kindness.He personified that fruit of the Holy Spirit. Sure, I’ve experienced my share of true kindness from many others in my life. It was there in my parents, my family, my friends, coworkers and sometimes strangers. It supported me and lifted me up. Experiencing kindness taught me how to be kind. It heightened my awareness of how little things, simple, kind acts can make a difference in people’s lives.

But the kindness in Father Michael just enveloped his whole personality. Whether talking or silent, laughing or serious, in Father Michael the kindness was always there. Gestures and words really weren’t necessary; somehow the kindness stood on its own with him. I just felt it. I could see it. It seemed to emanate from him. In my whole life I have NEVER felt kindness as sincere, as accepting, as loving, as warm, as dependable-as shown by Father Michael. To me this was the very tangible presence of the grace of God-that just could not be contained-but kindly reached out to all. I know that I will never experience this level of complete kindness from another person. It was another special gift of Father Michael.

We look for the Lord in each other. And usually, with effort, we do find Him. But with Father Michael, He was always right there…..no looking necessary.

                                                  I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me…

The Dark Days

images-3As it gets closer to the first anniversary of Father Michael’s death, I find myself thinking of the events of last year in these last days of March.  I was so in the dark, so worried, so separated. I prayed constantly. I had last received a text from Father Michael on March 19. He talked about being slated for three days of chemo, then wrote “my car is great!”  He’d been watching some tv program on which cars were rated safest. He ended the text with “Just ignore me!” So more confusion was setting in.

Between the 19th and the 22nd, there was no communication. On Sunday the 23rd,in church, they read Father Michael’s name in the intentions for the sick. At Mass on the 24th our pastor said that Father Michael was in the hospital, very confused, with blood irregularities. Then on the 25th, the parish communicated via email that Father M had been discharged and was going back to St Pius for hospice care.

I texted Father Louie at once that I wanted to help in any way I could. No response. In retrospect, I don’t understand why I was not asked to come for a final visit and at least pray at Father’s bedside. According to the obits, Father Michael had family , “a few close friends” and his Dominican brothers present at his death. In my opinion, there were more than a ‘few’ close friends present. Just a feeling.That day, I saw one lady’s post of Father’s status on Facebook; it was recorded at 8:40 am, just minutes before Father Michael’s death. She urged everyone to pray, that Father could still make it, that miracles happen. I don’t doubt the sincerity and love that prompted the post; I understand completely. But I still marvel that someone, privileged to be at Father Michael’s deathbed, would do this. But maybe my mistake was hoping to be invited. I should have just shown up. I will always, always regret that I did not.

I’ve been present at a few deaths-all of them peaceful. Recently, I’ve seen an interview with Beatle George Harrison’s widow where she describes the moment of his death. She wouldn’t be specific but states “Let’s just say you wouldn’t need to light the room”. With Father Michael’s light so bright in life, I can’t help wondering if those present at his death were gifted with seeing a similar phenomenon.But just to be there with Father Michael at the end of such an inspiring, touching, painful journey-had to have been the greatest honor. Father Michael himself was the phenomenon-a life full of service, love and joy!

Men are like stars; some generate their own light while others reflect the brilliance they receive.
                                   José Martí

Blessed Seer

Spring is Here/ DuncansonWhen I returned to church, I came partly to find a priest with whom I could discuss some spiritual matters. I took way too much time to do this.I liked all the priests serving there, but just kept hesitating,(for months!) trying to decide among them.Previously I’d talked to priests only in confession and in meetings to prepare for my marriage. And, I’d  grown up with priests in my family-but those were casual family relationships.In my mature adult life, I was just an ordinary parishioner who attended Mass and said “Good morning, Father” once-in-a-while. That was the extent of my communication with priests. So to desire a real meeting to discuss the spiritual was a big step for me.

From the beginning at St Vincent Ferrer, I was enthralled with Father Michael’s preaching. He was not a perfect preacher, as many would claim, but he was surely excellent. I could tell, he always prepared. Sometimes he struggled, sometimes he inspired and sometimes surely was inspired. So naturally, I thought about going to talk to him. I was sure he was a most holy person. Still, I held off, as I was put off by all his noisy socializing in the back of church after Mass. If ever a priest had ‘groupies’, Father Michael did!  I found it difficult to reconcile the holiness and reverence I sensed from the altar and pulpit with the silly, sometimes unseemly person I’d see in the vestibule. I am probably alone in my opinion, but that is how it felt to me.  So I was stuck between positive and negative about Father Michael- and I stayed on the fence for a long time.

One Sunday after Mass, I was literally  “stuck’ in the vestibule. Another priest had said Mass and there were several well-known Dominicans who were visiting. They were all in the vestibule, greeting people, many had small groups around them chatting. It was quite crowded. And outside, it was raining. The people, involved in their visiting, or waiting for the rain to subside, were not moving or even aware that others were trying to get by to the doors. So I was stuck behind several people, aiming to get to one of the side doors. I didn’t feel like pushing, so I just waited and watched for an opening.

As I waited,the side door opened and in came Father Michael. He slid in and got his scapular stuck in the door. He turned and fussed with the scapular a bit, got it free. Father was all by himself for a change. He had a serious, placid expression on his face as he stood there so quietly. I looked on and he never looked my way nor at all the chattering groups. Father Michael stood there looking so serene, then moved toward one of the inner stained-glass doors. He peered through the clear part, viewing inside the church.

The following all happened in just a matter of seconds: I thought “My gosh, how odd to see Father Michael so quiet, so different- and instead all these other Dominicans loudly shooting their mouths off !” And in my head I heard a ‘voice’ that I’ve always attributed to my guardian angel, because it is so distinctive from the musings of my conscience. It said -as clear as a bell- “This is their Seer”. Of course I was surprised and thrilled. But in response, I thought ” Their seer ? That’s all I need, if I meet with this Father Michael-someone who reads my mind!” And as soon as I thought that, I received the immediate understanding that no, Father Michael was not any kind of psychic. He was a Seer….. of peoples’ hearts. And I knew at once that that was one of his most profound gifts.

Months later, when I was finally meeting with Father Michael, we talked about my experience. I expected that Father Michael would be polite, but disbelieving and careful with what he said to me. Instead, he was so happy! He said to me “Some of my brothers will say to me, ‘Michael , how did you know that?’ How could you tell? And I tell them I have no idea”. I was so gratified that he accepted what I had experienced. I told Father Michael that I now understood that he was a Seer of hearts.I stated that I was able to see that clearly in how he lived his life and his great, great tenderness for people. He thanked me sincerely for telling him.

As we came to the final days of Father Michael’s life, we had so many disagreements. I really had to look hard for the person I had come to know. I apologized a lot, not always understanding what I had said that was hurtful. One time, I said “Father Michael, I am so sorry. What I said to you came from my heart –and not from a bad place in my heart.” And he said, looking at me kindly, “There couldn’t be a bad place in your heart”. That was the Seer talking….

But the eyes are blind. One must look with the heart.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

My Apologies

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…to any of my readers on March 18-19. I am changing over my theme design on this blog. The suggestion is to make it more mobile-friendly.  I thought I had chosen a nice, slightly different design, but unfortunately things keep going missing. So I’ll be doing some more searching and then changing.

Thanks for your patience; I appreciate your interest in dear Father Michael Kyte.

~~Seeker~~~

Garment for the Banquet

Soul Skirt?
Soul Skirt?

So today I’m straying from Father Michael stories, but sticking with the overall ‘little things’ theme on this blog. Lent has me thinking about some unique devotions….

The Singing Nun’s Dominique was all the rage in 1963. I was in eighth grade and the Adrian Dominicans who taught at my school would play that song and have us follow along with the English translation. No, no one spoke or understood the French-but hey, it was about St Dominic! Maybe we would miraculously learn French from it, if we listened often enough.

 Those sisters practically wore that record out! I certainly was curious about it. And my dad had bought the album, so I listened to the whole thing at home, following again, the translation.

I grew fond of all the songs, really. But the one that has stuck with me from the first time I heard it(and read it)  is Mets ton Jolie Jupon — in English– Put on Your Pretty Skirt. And it stuck with me very appropriately. At 13, as I readied myself for Mass on Sunday,  there it was, playing in my head in French, but with my full understanding . For me it was a preparation for Eucharist; one that was simple but sincere-and musical. Even all these years later, the words and melody  always come back to me before church- they are ingrained. What a perfect way to think about dressing up our souls for the lenten journey.

Here is the English translation and also an audio of that song:

Put on your pretty skirt my soul
We have a date, we have a date
Put on your pretty skirt my soul
The Lord you love is waiting for you

In the early morning hours
When the dew is on the rose
A small gift of Your love
And I am satisfied!
Chorus

When noon is full of wonder
It’s a joy to be alive
I feel golden in the sun
of a friendship close and warm
Chorus

Among the twilight stars
When You are all around
You make me fall asleep
In the peace of your arms.