Sensing the Spirit

worshipHere is a true sto­ry. It is one of the high­lights and fond­est mem­o­ries of my life.  It was either late  fall 1980 or ear­ly 1981. I was expect­ing my third child , due in late Feb­ru­ary 1981. I had an appoint­ment at my obste­tri­cian for my reg­u­lar check­up. It was cold yet sun­ny out­side, but there was no snow. There had been some mois­ture which turned into small ice patch­es on the side­walks and streets.

At this peri­od of my life, we owned one car which my hus­band need­ed to get to and from his two jobs. It was a rough time, when he had to go imme­di­ate­ly from his full time job to the part-time evening job. He saw the kids only on week­ends. So any­way, I had to use the bus or cab ser­vice for any com­mutes beyond walk­ing dis­tance. On this par­tic­u­lar day, I had enough mon­ey to pay for a one-way cab trip to the doctor’s, but would have to take the bus back home.

I called the local Blue Cab num­ber and soon there was the sound of a horn in front of my house. I head­ed for the door near­est the curb, but the dri­ver told me to “Come around to the street side.” I got in and set­tled direct­ly behind the dri­ver-a young man wear­ing a base­ball cap. A talk radio sta­tion bab­bled as back­ground noise. He looked at  me in his rearview mir­ror and asked “Where are you going?” I gave the address, a dis­tinc­tive build­ing, about four miles away-a fif­teen minute ride .

Gosh, he was a talk­a­tive young man! He quick­ly turned the radio off so he could talk to me! I was always pret­ty qui­et and didn’t usu­al­ly open up to friend­ly cab dri­vers. But this guy was so engaging,so cour­te­ous. He talked and talked. We had an “eye to eye” con­ver­sa­tion, look­ing at each oth­er in the mir­ror. I couldn’t see his face, only his eyes. He asked a lot of ques­tions. One was: why I was head­ing to this par­tic­u­lar build­ing? I said “Well, I’m going to the doc­tor”. He replied with a “Oh no, are you ill?” “No”, I said ‚“just preg­nant! It’s a reg­u­lar check­up”. He con­grat­u­lat­ed me and then start­ed talk­ing about fam­i­lies, fam­i­ly size, school­ing chil­dren, types of preschool edu­ca­tion, Catholic edu­ca­tion. Such an inter­est­ing and informed young man!

He explained to me that he was ‘com­plet­ing stud­ies’ and won­dered if I wouldn’t mind answer­ing some ques­tions as it would help him with his research. Well, he had won me over with his kind and engag­ing per­son­al­i­ty, so I said sure. I real­ly want­ed to help him, he was that charm­ing. I spec­u­lat­ed that he was study­ing social work, psy­chol­o­gy or edu­ca­tion from how the con­ver­sa­tion had gone. I didn’t mind answer­ing his ques­tions. Some of them were sur­pris­ing­ly per­son­al, for exam­ple: “Why is there a five year gap between your last child and this new baby?”  Yes, that was one and the dri­ver  apol­o­gized for their nature , but explained again how they would help in his stud­ies .When I answered the ques­tions he would then pull over and write copi­ous notes on a clip­board.

While he ques­tioned me, he vol­un­teered some infor­ma­tion about him­self. He told me he was Cana­di­an and study­ing here in Chica­go. I told him I’d spent my hon­ey­moon in Québec. He was famil­iar with the Château Mon­te­bel­lo where we’d stayed and remarked that the G7 sum­mit would be held there the next sum­mer. I asked where he had come from in Cana­da. And I don’t remem­ber what he told me. I do remem­ber that as I ‘placed’ him geo­graph­i­cal­ly, I said ” Wow, you are a long way from home! ” He men­tioned his stud­ies here again and I asked if any of his fam­i­ly would vis­it or would be vis­it­ing (again I don’t recall if this was before or after Christ­mas) for the hol­i­days. But he said no, he’d had no vis­i­tors from home.

He began to talk fond­ly about his fam­i­ly in Cana­da. He missed them. It was a large fam­i­ly- again I don’t remem­ber the num­ber. But for me to remem­ber it as large; it would have to be at least sev­en chil­dren. I was sur­prised when he told me the age of his youngest sib­ling. Then he got quite somber and explained that his moth­er had died when he was in his teens . The youngest chil­dren were so very young to deal with the loss. I was so sad, hear­ing this. I asked if his father had had help from extend­ed fam­i­ly. He said “Oh yes, thank God for fam­i­ly and for our neigh­bors”.

So for fif­teen min­utes, maybe a bit more, I had this most engag­ing, inter­est­ing con­ver­sa­tion with a com­plete stranger. We con­tin­ued to chat as we arrived in front of the doctor’s office. I moved to the mid­dle of the back seat and leaned for­ward to final­ly look this guy in the face. He was writ­ing on his clip­board. I said to him “You’ve talked so much about your studies…what exact­ly are you study­ing?” I stared at his pro­file as he smiled and con­tin­ued to write. He said “Aw, you’ll nev­er guess.” So I kind of took this as a chal­lenge and I’m think­ing, ‘this guy is just so nice,seems so good, so kind, so spe­cial’. And it popped into my head, I hes­i­tat­ed, but some­thing insis­tent­ly told me ‘go ahead, say it !!!’  And I blurt­ed out “You’re study­ing in the sem­i­nary and you’re going to be a priest”. Well, he was so stunned, he slow­ly turned to look at me and then he just stared at me, eyes wide open. Didn’t say a word. There was no response. I then felt embar­rassed and start­ed to apol­o­gize, but he stopped me. He became so very seri­ous and qui­et. I paid him then, awk­ward­ly, but he wouldn’t take my tip.

So the dri­ver got out of the car and walked around, fid­dled with my door and even­tu­al­ly got it open. He had tak­en his cap off and was hold­ing it in both hands, stand­ing there wait­ing. I stud­ied him quick­ly and imme­di­ate­ly thought he seemed old­er than the col­lege stu­dent I had assumed he was.As I got out he walked up to me and took my arm. He was a short­er guy, slight­ly built and I said “Oh no, I’m just fine”. But he said “No, it’s icy, you might slip” and gripped more tight­ly. So I walked along with him and I did slip and he braced me, so I didn’t fall. We got to the door and I said “I’ll be fine”. Ever since I’d said those words to this man I had lit­er­al­ly felt this ‘buzz’ for my bold­ness and then, too, for the obvi­ous, seri­ous effect they had had on this kind man. I was mys­ti­fied that I’d spo­ken those words aloud- so unlike me!

I went into the build­ing alone and stood by the ele­va­tors, still feel­ing the adren­a­line or some­thing. I want­ed to jump or yell or run.…some kind of very pleas­ant ener­gy. I wait­ed there a cou­ple min­utes. Sud­den­ly the dri­ver was stand­ing there beside me. He hand­ed me a post-it on which he had writ­ten the cab com­pa­ny num­ber and some weird nick­name ref­er­enc­ing Cana­da (which I can’t remem­ber). It was some­thing sil­ly like ‘Steve the Canuck’, or ‘Win­nipeg Joe”. I looked at him and smiled. He moved to stand in front of me and said “Please call and ask for me any­time you need a ride. I’ll be hap­py to take you any­where, no charge.” He was still very seri­ous in his demeanor, but again with such kind­ness. He then said he want­ed to return to take me home from my appoint­ment and that I should call him.But I felt I had shak­en him up enough for one day. So we said good­bye. A few months lat­er, I asked for him when I ordered a cab.…he ‘no longer worked there’ I was told.

That day, after my appoint­ment, I was still so wired, I walked all the way home!!!  I was so full of joy about what had hap­pened. As I walked all those blocks, I was often com­pelled to extend my arms up into the air for the pure joy of it. I kept think­ing “Praise God”. I just couldn’t con­tain my hap­pi­ness; it was as though I had wit­nessed a great thing.

For years I kept that post-it in my wal­let. I prayed for “Steve the Canuck” every time I saw it. I prayed for him at bed­time for years. I still pray for him and I often won­der what hap­pened to him. I am con­fi­dent that some day , in this life or the next, the Lord will tell me. I’ll bet it’s a great sto­ry.

Here is the Father Michael ‘connection’—from the day I heard Father called a ‘seer’ (see Blessed Seer), I also had the sense that I had met him before. In the vestibule, I saw him in pro­file and instant­ly felt I knew him from some­where. I know for that to be true a lot of dates/facts would have to gibe. From what I have tried to check and match up, I don’t think they do.

Long ago, I sent this sto­ry as an email to Father Michael. He nev­er respond­ed to it, not even with a “Gee, that was a great sto­ry” — which would have been the norm for him. Kind of odd.….so it leaves things open. I often won­der if the rea­son I saw the dri­ver as old­er with his hat off -was that he was los­ing his hair.

Isn’t it won­der­ful to think that this could be about Father Michael ? Some things were so uncan­ny. No mat­ter what though, I’ll always trea­sure my unique expe­ri­ence from long ago .

Father Michael would have turned 62 today.

After All, We Are An Easter People

549443_873708899357112_6993983978990308286_nIt’s just after mid­night on East­er Sun­day. I attend­ed the East­er vig­il at St Vincent’s. It was excit­ing to wel­come the new­ly bap­tized and con­firmed mem­bers of our church. That was a true high­light of the litur­gy. I’m glad I attend­ed for that rea­son.

But gosh, the homi­ly was such a down­er. Just my insignif­i­cant opin­ion.  Our priest chose to empha­size the neg­a­tive (dead- as he put it) atti­tudes in our lives.….on East­er!! No encour­age­ment, no empa­thy, no attempt to understand.….so depress­ing.  It left me feel­ing sad, for I know every one  of the con­gre­ga­tion has expe­ri­enced these feel­ings.

To counter this I’m going to share some won­der­ful words of Father Michael from his emails to me. I need­ed to be lift­ed up after that homi­ly; read­ing them has  helped immense­ly. Hope you all will enjoy the POSITIVE:

After our first ‘in-per­son’ meet­ing-

I was thrilled to see you this morn­ing “in the sac­risty”!!!!! You are so joy­ful and faith­filled and your fam­i­ly is lucky hav­ing you pray­ing for them.Come often just to laugh or say hi !

         If you want to chat about any­thing, call any­time.

         Bless­ings,

Father Michael


Know you are wel­come any­time to share any­thing. You can decide when it is good or the spir­it guides you. I’m thrilled with your sto­ry. God is so pow­er­ful and yet we still need to hear these kinds of sto­ries.

        Hope the rest of the day is great.. Keep COOL as best as you can.

Bless­ings
Fr. Michael op


    I don’t mind at all receiv­ing your emails. I am sor­ry to read your son’s view of faith. Some­times I   won­der how our chil­dren turn so far from faith after being formed in it. But with God all things are pos­si­ble and that anger/hurt may turn to a new zeal. Maybe now that he is look­ing for a job, he will be more open to God’s grace and gifts.

        Bless­ings on all your wor­ries but grate­ful­ness for your faith.

Father Michael


        Thanks for that fun­ny sto­ry about your Aunt. Every­one should have an aunt like that.

       I am so touched by your gen­er­ous offer. Hon­est­ly, that is hard­ly nec­es­sary. I have loved my priest­hood these 25 years although there have been painful times. But God has always stuck with me. Hard­ly a day goes by where I don’t pray in grat­i­tude for his fideli­ty. I am awed by it.

It is true that the most dev­as­tat­ing moment in my aca­d­e­m­ic life led me to the Domini­cans. I have often thought of that. Today, it was com­fort­ing to know some­one of the sta­tus of St. Alphon­sus Liguori had a ter­ri­ble pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence that led to great things.

I’m off to Cana­da on Fri­day. Say a prayer that all will be well with the fam­i­ly. I just want pleas­ant weath­er and to swim.

Bless­ings
Fr. Michael


After an unpleas­ant, touchy ‘dis­cus­sion’ of com­mon stereo­types:

I once did a talk with a Domini­can sis­ter and it was on stereo­types. We would men­tion a cul­ture and the audi­ence had to do a spon­ta­neous response. It was astound­ing. For almost every cul­ture the first response was neg­a­tive. For exam­ple Irish equals drunk, Ger­man equals rigid etc. Tru­ly, I have heard the Pol­ish jokes but I have always been dis­mayed because of the bril­liance of our Pol­ish broth­ers and the faith that saved a nation when so much of East­ern Europe lost it. The human con­di­tion seems to move quick­ly to neg­a­tive respons­es which I see as the result of orig­i­nal sin.

One bless­ing I have always thanked God for is that I usu­al­ly can see pos­i­tive things even in the ter­ri­ble real­i­ties of life. Some say I have rose col­ored glass­es, oth­ers just say I am naive. But I do believe God wants me to love and to live by pos­i­tive rein­force­ment. There is a school of psy­chol­o­gy that is direct­ed at heal­ing by affir­ma­tions that help the patient.

Any­way, I’m glad you are blessed with find­ing the good in peo­ple.

Also well done at the casi­no. I just know you have good kar­ma!!!!!

Bless­ings
Fr. Michael


It is a won­der­ment to me that even in talk­ing about  neg­a­tive, unpleas­ant things, Father Michael was able to see the good, the hope­ful, the pos­i­tive. It is so good to see his words and remem­ber.

I feel much better—–Happy East­er to all!

 

Longing and Not Letting Go

2009+Ordination+(279)-1It’s April Fool’s Day, a year to the day that we buried our Father Michael. It’s also the good and kind Father Louie’s birth­day. I’ll always remem­ber what a fit­ting homi­ly he gave to hon­or his best friend a year ago.

 The recent memo­r­i­al Mass for Father Michael  seemed in some ways to cel­e­brate a per­son that I had nev­er known. I only got to know Father Michael right before his can­cer diag­no­sis, when he was suf­fer­ing from unknown stom­ach ail­ments. Although I had heard about his priest­ly par­ty­ing, he was tak­ing meds and being cau­tious at this time. At Mass there were point­ed acknowl­edg­ments giv­en to cer­tain peo­ple and of favors help­ful to Father Michael. It was a very, very exclu­sive group. I think the recog­ni­tion could have been ren­dered to those fifteen(or so)people pri­vate­ly. The rest of us thou­sands of friends couldn’t expect to be men­tioned , but it seemed so incred­i­bly nar­row for the full scope of Father’s friend­ships to be delib­er­ate­ly and point­ed­ly ignored.The Father Michael I knew, who ‘talked the talk’ and ‘walked the walk’ about exclu­sion, would sure­ly have been put off by this.

So if you were one of the thou­sands of oth­er friends, like me, there was a feel­ing of empti­ness, of being exclud­ed, of not being appre­ci­at­ed. All those in atten­dance loved Father Michael. Most like­ly all prayed for him devot­ed­ly through­out his ill­ness. We wept at his death. There was no lack of acknowl­edg­ment of his sig­nif­i­cance on our part. Our pas­tor waxed on about our hav­ing grat­i­tude-one of his old themes regard­ing Father M. He was sin­cere and well-mean­ing and right, as usu­al. And the priest preach­ing the homi­ly empha­sized what a good, good priest Father Michael had been. He spec­i­fied how Father Michael had served us so well in the most impor­tant moments of our lives. He talked about Father shar­ing our joy, ill­ness, suf­fer­ing, loss. But both priests lacked the warmth and con­vic­tion that comes with express­ing the whole truth. What they said was all def­i­nite­ly true, I can’t fault them. But I know some­thing was miss­ing. I think the homilist touched upon it slight­ly when he said “We think of Father Michael with long­ing”.

I think they rec­og­nize our need to remem­ber Father Michael. We’re going to build the hall in Father’s name-a good thing. We can con­tin­ue to have memo­r­i­al Mass­es-great. We have a schol­ar­ship fund and a preach­ing fund. But how do we address the long­ing for Father Michael?  How do our priests assist us in this?  They are the Order of Preach­ers; it is their charism to tell and instruct us.

I know the long­ing for Father Michael is the long­ing for God as embod­ied so beau­ti­ful­ly in Father Michael. It is so strong that we can­not let it go-even after a year. I’m anx­ious­ly wait­ing for our good Domini­cans to start talk­ing.