Finding the True Vine

Grapes-colors

This pic­ture of a beau­ti­ful bunch of grapes got me think­ing about the Gar­den­er and the True Vine. I am a gar­den­er myself, one who enjoys prun­ing. I always make those bib­li­cal con­nec­tions when I’m out work­ing on the shrubs and trees. So much thought goes into what needs to be done to this par­tic­u­lar shrub and yet with oth­ers, the work and thought is minor. It is a work of care and want­i­ng beloved flo­ra to grow and thrive. Find a way to make the plant do its best. Cut out those suck­ers! Some day I should plant a grape vine.

Here’s a sto­ry of Father Michael I’ve been remem­ber­ing late­ly. Father M had been hav­ing stom­ach prob­lems as usu­al. But then, he saw his doc­tor and received some new meds and had been delight­ed that they worked so well. I was so relieved ! Father kept telling me how great the pills were and that it had changed his health so much. At the same time, he received the new meds, the doc­tor had advised him to get a colonoscopy ASAP. I had talked to him by phone and urged him to make the appoint­ment as there was a sub­stan­tial wait time.Perhaps a month went by and I assumed all was well.

So one evening, I received an email from Father M. It read “Come see me in the sac­risty tomor­row after Mass. I have some­thing very impor­tant I want to talk about with you.” So nat­u­ral­ly I was intrigued. I had been hop­ing for some spir­i­tu­al direc­tion from Father and I won­dered if maybe this was what was so impor­tant.

The next day after Mass I went to see Father Michael. He was chat­ty and cheery . Many oth­ers, the sac­ristan and the lec­tor and vis­i­tors  were there in the sac­risty-talk­ing in anoth­er area. Father Michael got very qui­et and near­ly whis­pered. He stood there and kind of twirled his fin­ger on his stom­ach and said “I’ve been hav­ing some bleed­ing.”  I was so shocked. Of course, from all his stomach/bowel talk, I knew what kind of bleed­ing he meant. I said “Oh no, Father Michael !!!!  You told me the pills were work­ing, that you felt bet­ter.” He said, “Well at first I did, but then things went back to the usu­al and now I need to ask you to pray very hard for me.I have so much to do and Provin­cial meet­ings are com­ing up and now this is hap­pen­ing.” I said “Father Michael, I always pray for you and I will do more, I promise. But please tell me, what did your colonoscopy show ?”  He looked at me, took a deep breath, and said “You know, I nev­er made the appoint­ment.” I was just dumb­found­ed. I real­ly want­ed to yell at him. I had all these ques­tions I want­ed to ask, but then just thought ‘He must not trust his doc­tor’.  So I said “Father, I know the most won­der­ful doc­tor at Loy­ola. If I call him right now and ask him, he will take you as a patient. He will give you the very best care; I’ve known him since he was an intern.I promise you, you will be treat­ed by the very best, I’ll call him.”  But Father Michael was not buy­ing it. He want­ed things his way and that was to ask for heal­ing prayer.

This was about a month or so before Father Michael went to Albu­querque and col­lapsed. I was on pins and nee­dles wor­ry­ing about his damn bleed­ing that whole time. He didn’t make it any eas­i­er. It was like pulling teeth to try to talk to him or get an email response. But he got the prayers.

Lasting Faithfulness

4th

I think this syn­od is mak­ing me think too much about mar­riage and the fam­i­ly! But I’ve want­ed to write this stuff for a while and the syn­od has giv­en me a  con­text for my ram­bling thoughts about this sub­ject. It’s also been a good kick to get me restart­ed on the blog!

Father Michael once wrote me an email say­ing that he’d love to talk to me about mar­riage some­time. Well, we had talked about it in our appointments…several times. I’d been sur­prised by what he said and even more by what he didn’t say. I think, from his lack of response to many of my state­ments, that I sur­prised him with my being some­what con­ser­v­a­tive. At that point, he def­i­nite­ly want­ed to avoid any dis­agree­ments with me. One thing that stood out for me from those talks was Father M’s stat­ing “Well, you know they’re all liv­ing togeth­er”. Of course that was old news . But Father talked about how some of the engaged were grand­chil­dren of ‘long-time’ parish­ioners, or devout par­ents, and talked about not want­i­ng to their hurt the relative’s feel­ings, etc.In oth­er words Father treat­ed them with care  and cour­tesy, no mat­ter what their liv­ing arrange­ment. I asked “Do you say any­thing about cohab­it­ing to them? I know they are with you to do the ‘right thing’, but do you say any­thing ?”  Father Michael said ” Because they have already ‘shared inti­ma­cy’, I tell them that after they are mar­ried, God will now bless what they have.” I looked at him and said “That’s it?”  And he nod­ded.

I’m not stu­pid. I know that scold­ing is not the way to go and that these engaged peo­ple are aware of their actions. But I have to say, even now, that I was so dis­ap­point­ed in what Father M said.It real­ly kind of shut me up and our appoint­ment end­ed. I was dis­turbed by our talk and after­ward kept think­ing about it. A few days lat­er I sent Father an email. Here’s part of it:

Off and on I have been think­ing about our talk the oth­er day. Remem­ber­ing what you said about engaged cou­ples, almost all liv­ing togeth­er , com­ing to you to pre­pare for mar­riage made me kind of sad.I know no one wants to alien­ate them, since they are at last doing “what they should do”. I’m sure that nei­ther you, nor their par­ents, nor any­one involved with them wants to rock the boat by say­ing some­thing to make them feel uncom­fort­able or chas­tised in any way. But what struck me was how say­ing “God will now bless what you are already doing” or ” already have” (I’m sure I’m mis­quot­ing you crude­ly, sor­ry) though absolute­ly true, seems so want­i­ng.

I guess I think of the sit­u­a­tion as a par­ent would, hop­ing that some­how all I hoped I’d taught my child and all the tra­di­tions and beliefs I’d tried to con­vey in rear­ing them Catholic would still be sup­port­ed by the church. Almost like anoth­er type of seam­less gar­ment? Kind of like the trust you have in your spouse that he/she will project the same val­ues to your child that you your­self do. It just seems to me that there should be reminders of these things even if the par­tic­u­lar cou­ple doesn’t reflect the ide­al. Some­thing should be said. Of course it should nev­er be done in a nasty way and I don’t know how I would even attempt it. Eas­i­er said than done, for sure. But I feel like our tra­di­tion­al beliefs should still be held up as worth­while and as what is real­ly pleas­ing to God. And then, I think it seems in real­i­ty all we are offend­ed about is pre­mar­i­tal sex. But sex can be such a pro­found expe­ri­ence of God; it shouldn’t ever be min­i­mized or over­looked. Glad YOU  are the priest , Father Michael. I’d be freak­ing out.”

Father Michael’s email response was “You wouldn’t believe some of the things the engaged tell me”. I  didn’t answer him, but thought ‘Oh yes I would’. He nev­er elab­o­rat­ed or dis­cussed this fur­ther with me. I have an added under­stand­ing now since Father’s can­cer fight.I learned that he real­ly abhorred and feared crit­i­cism — and I’m sure he saw crit­i­cism in my email. So he ignored it. I do wish he would have been will­ing to dis­cuss it.

  Father Michael often men­tioned how he helped peo­ple with their annul­ments. He always had paper­work to do for them. Lat­er in the two years I knew him, he would men­tion going out to a cel­e­bra­to­ry din­ner with cou­ples who had been wait­ing for an annul­ment to mar­ry. It was very clear that he felt peo­ple should explore the annul­ment process -if they were divorced or sep­a­rat­ed. I think it was a great joy for him to deliv­er the news that the annul­ment had been grant­ed. I remem­ber that in the lat­er months of his ill­ness he always made the time to meet with these peo­ple. He admired their courage and their desire to make things right with the Church-and their love for each oth­er.

Father Michael  had dif­fi­cul­ty in see­ing the com­mit­ment of engaged cou­ples. He also said that many peo­ple real­ly just want­ed the church build­ing for their wed­ding, but not the Church, not the sacra­ment. He had a hard time offi­ci­at­ing at most mar­riages for this rea­son. He often spoke in won­der of the sac­ri­fice and evi­dent love shown by old­er cou­ples, par­tic­u­lar­ly if one part­ner was ill and the oth­er was a care­tak­er. He would always say he was awed by this. Father Michael felt that most of the cou­ples he saw had no clue as to what ‘for bet­ter or worse, in sick­ness or in health’ might mean for them down the line.

On the oth­er hand, I recall Father Michael talk­ing about the sto­ries of how some cou­ples met and how God’s hand was so evi­dent. He was very excit­ed one time about a cou­ple who both had chil­dren from pre­vi­ous mar­riages-and they had found each oth­er. He said they had a won­der­ful story—and Father Michael loved those sto­ries.  He said “so they will be a blend­ed fam­i­ly”. I said ” Oh like that old movie ‘Yours, Mine and Ours’.” Father Michael  laughed and said “No ‘Ours’ yet!”  He paused and thought a sec­ond and then said “well .…MAYBE!”

I did get a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on Father M’s beliefs on mar­riage from oth­er expe­ri­ences and things he’d say. Once we were on Ash­land Avenue by St Pius, wait­ing to cross. Father was well into his can­cer treat­ment and was very weak. I was about to dri­ve him to St Vincent’s. We were talk­ing about Thomas Peters’ recov­ery (see ‘The Won­der­ment of God’).  I men­tioned that there was still so much online vit­ri­ol toward Thomas regard­ing his uphold­ing the church’s teach­ings on mar­riage. Father Michael said “You mean the tra­di­tion­al church teach­ing on mar­riage?” I said “Yes, of course”.  Father Michael got vis­i­bly agi­tat­ed and said “Hey, he has it easy. Any­one who upholds the estab­lished posi­tion has it much eas­i­er than those who ques­tion it.”  The light changed and Father rushed ahead into the street. I caught up with him. I said I dis­agreed– that it real­ly depend­ed on the cir­cum­stances and con­di­tions— that ALL  sides would find it dif­fi­cult in some cir­cum­stances. He didn’t answer me. I decid­ed that I would not pur­sue it as I sel­dom had an unin­ter­rupt­ed time with Father. I didn’t want to waste the nice ride in the car on an argu­ment .

Once, short­ly after Pope Fran­cis was elect­ed, Father Michael called me. Unusu­al for us, we had a real con­ver­sa­tion as opposed to the typ­i­cal talk about chemo, the weath­er and the lot­tery. Father was agog at the “Who am I to judge?” Fran­cis quote.  I remem­ber being com­fort­able enough to dis­agree and expound on dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions where I felt ‘who am I to judge’ was not applic­a­ble. I had no sense that I was both­er­ing Father Michael. I remem­ber talk­ing about some peo­ple expect­ing this would pave the way to same-sex mar­riage. At that point Father inter­rupt­ed me and said force­ful­ly ” I know some­thing has to change.…..I’ve known too many peo­ple who suf­fer”. I start­ed to respond,then he said “Oh, I’m here at the clin­ic, talk to you lat­er”.  That was kind of a pat­tern: Father would say some­thing con­tro­ver­sial, then cut off the conversation.….at least with me.

So my gut tells me that, despite Father Michael’s rev­er­ent and awe-filled view of the sacra­ment of Mat­ri­mo­ny, he might have been open to oth­er non-tra­di­tion­al views of it. I have so many mov­ing impres­sions of how a tru­ly holy priest per­ceived and admired the voca­tion of marriage.Yet I have addi­tion­al mem­o­ries of things that he said hint­ing at a very lib­er­al and non-tra­di­tion­al per­spec­tive, at odds with church teach­ing.  What was the truth ?  I’ll always won­der.

All this from that darn syn­od !

Compassionate and Honest

Green Pastures/Megan Duncanson
Green Pastures/Megan Dun­can­son

I’ve remem­bered more from my first appoint­ment with Father Michael. I know some sub­jects car­ried over to the sec­ond and sub­se­quent appoint­ments. I sup­pose it real­ly doesn’t mat­ter- except from my per­spec­tive. That first appoint­ment was an intro­duc­tion to a stranger- a very holy man — who was full of sur­pris­es. One of the amus­ing things that hap­pened was that Father Michael kept try­ing to find out my age.Several times he men­tioned the year he grad­u­at­ed from high school and oth­er sig­nif­i­cant events of the ‘70s and asked me where I was when they occurred .  I final­ly real­ized that he want­ed to know my age, so I just told him. I don’t know why it was so impor­tant to him, but he seemed calmer once he knew.

Anoth­er dis­cus­sion was about my fam­i­ly, my eth­nic­i­ty, my sib­lings, my par­ents. I men­tioned that my dad had died in 1986. Father asked what my dad had died of and his age. I replied “He died of leukemia at six­ty-one”. Well, as soon as I said that Father said loud­ly and incred­u­lous­ly. “Six­ty-one? six­ty-one? Why, I’m fifty-nine myself!!!”  And as he spoke, he react­ed- he put both hands to his face, hold­ing them there for a sec­ond , then ran them up over his head a cou­ple of times. And he paced as he did this. He seemed tru­ly dis­tressed. And I was touched again by his vis­i­ble emo­tion. Then Father asked how long my dad had lived with the dis­ease. “Two months,” I replied, ” he died in remis­sion.” Again Father repeat­ed my words “Two months?????” and again he got very upset .

Now you know Father had mem­o­ry trou­bles; I’ve men­tioned that before. The scene above about my dad’s death was repeat­ed no less than four times in the two years I knew Father Michael. Each time, Father react­ed exact­ly the same way. It was like he took it per­son­al­ly, as though it were a mes­sage for him. It was this expe­ri­ence and sev­er­al oth­ers that bol­stered my belief that Father was intu­itive and ‘knew things’.

Before he was even diag­nosed with can­cer, Father would talk about things hav­ing to do with his death. Once I vis­it­ed him in the sac­risty and the first thing out of his mouth was that he had decid­ed that when he died, he was going to have Instant Lot­tery tick­ets spread all over the inside of his cas­ket. And then he said “but of course, I wouldn’t have them buried with me and waste them. I’d have them dis­trib­uted to all the mourn­ers before they closed the cas­ket”. I was amused, but said , “Father M, why on earth are you even think­ing about stuff like that??!!”  That time he answered that he’d been to quite a few wakes recent­ly where this had been done–and he liked the idea. He brought this up a sec­ond time also, freak­ing me out a lit­tle.

Back to the appointment.….Father talked about his fam­i­ly, his old­er broth­er, in par­tic­u­lar. Father was very proud of all his sib­lings. But there seemed to be a spe­cial bond between him and his old­er broth­er. I believe his old­er broth­er pro­tect­ed Father Michael as a child; he’d often spo­ken of being picked on. Father told of his brother’s edu­ca­tion, accom­plish­ments and wealth (yes, a lit­tle brag­ging). Then said “he is a won­der­ful, devout, pro­gres­sive Catholic”. Then a moment lat­er “and I am a pro­gres­sive priest”.

I kind of expect­ed that as I sur­mised it was part of the rea­son for Father Michael’s pop­u­lar­i­ty. But I am not pro­gres­sive, and I’d rather not label any­body or be labeled. When Father said this, he sound­ed so con­fid­ing and secre­tive, I imme­di­ate­ly want­ed to let him know that I thought dif­fer­ent­ly. So I asked to tell him a story.It was about the parish I’d belonged to before St Vin­cent. It was a pret­ty wild place. My two old­er kids went to CCD there. Two sis­ters and a dea­con pre­pared them for Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and First Com­mu­nion. I attend­ed the par­ent edu­ca­tion meet­ings and in the ones for First Com­mu­nion, I was tak­en aback by the lack of under­stand­ing of the sacra­ment. Peo­ple talked about, bread, wine, sym­bols; no one seemed to have any kind of grasp of the Real Pres­ence. The two sis­ters said noth­ing to enlight­en or cor­rect any­one. Noth­ing. I was shak­en.

The sis­ter in charge of the Com­mu­nion cat­e­ch­esis began to preach at Mass on Sun­day. It was near­ly every Sun­day. She was quite gifted,an excel­lent preach­er, no deny­ing that. The parish was inte­grat­ed with many African-Amer­i­cans com­ing to Mass because their kids attend­ed the school. Sis­ter, also African-Amer­i­can, real­ly spoke to them and their lives. And her per­spec­tive was cer­tain­ly enrich­ing to the rest of us.But I real­ized she should not have been preach­ing and it both­ered me.This con­tin­ued for a year and then the sis­ter began to wear priest­ly vest­ments for Mass. I tried to ratio­nal­ize that one out; I couldn’t. My gut feel­ing was that sis­ter was try­ing to enhance her author­i­ty by wear­ing the vest­ments. And though there were peo­ple like me who would think “who are you kid­ding?”, there were oth­ers who would not be aware of the false­ness. I just thought it was wrong.

I con­tact­ed the Office of Divine Wor­ship to talk to some­one about it. (Father Michael near­ly had a con­nip­tion when I told him this. He sat there lis­ten­ing, but steam­ing.) I had to doc­u­ment my obser­vances by let­ter, so I did. I had to describe the vest­ments she wore. The priest in that office made sure I knew that a pas­tor could give per­mis­sion for some­one else to do the homi­ly. He didn’t know what to say when I said ” But Father, it’s near­ly every week!” Well, noth­ing hap­pened. I left the parish and found St Vincent’s-a calm place. About ten years lat­er, a con­ser­v­a­tive bish­op had the sis­ter reas­signed. She became head of her order-no sur­prise there!

I made the point to Father Michael that the sis­ter who was so dri­ven to preach was the same one who didn’t both­er to edu­cate at all in the First Com­mu­nion class­es. He got that, but was irri­tat­ed with me for my con­tact­ing the Arch­dio­cese. He yelled at me, so angry that I would ques­tion a Dominican’s preach­ing charism. I yelled back “No, she was NOT a Domini­can, Father Michael!”  He was also cha­grinned that I would not auto­mat­i­cal­ly and unques­tion­ing­ly sup­port anoth­er woman. Father M must have been exposed to a lot of real­ly testy fem­i­nists- that’s all I can fig­ure. He act­ed like he was com­plete­ly in their cor­ner, but I feel he was try­ing to show sen­si­tiv­i­ty.

Any­way, Father Michael under­stood me bet­ter after that. Part of me didn’t want to ever hear that he might be at odds with church teach­ing. But now I often won­der what inter­est­ing sce­nar­ios he might have been part of, being pro­gres­sive “and proud of it” and also open to “trump­ing the law”. Our appoint­ment end­ed pleas­ant­ly and we con­tin­ued to meet a few times more, before the can­cer.

Once, on the phone, with Father Louie near­by, Father Michael stat­ed that Louie was one of a select group who’d ever seen him get angry. I refreshed his mem­o­ry about the expe­ri­ence I’ve just relayed. He was sur­prised and then remem­bered.

Simple Gifts and Insights

 

Mexican fresco
Mex­i­can fres­co

I’ve been think­ing some more (in my con­tin­ued insom­ni­ac con­di­tion) of the last month of Father Michael’s life. Because it was this time last year, it is so very easy to feel like it was yes­ter­day!

On Fat Tues­day in 2014, I brought some Pol­ish pacz­ki to treat the broth­ers at St Pius. I was due to meet Father Michael at 3pm.  I parked my usu­al  three blocks away  from St Pius and walked-car­ry­ing the pas­tries-which were quite heavy. As I approached Ash­land, I saw a famil­iar fig­ure come out of the Province office build­ing. It was Father Michael, all bun­dled up, walk­ing slow­ly and lean­ing heav­i­ly on his cane. I was too far away to catch up with him. So I con­tin­ued my care­ful walk on the icy side­walks ‚but also kept an eye on Father M. He moved slow­ly, but deter­mined­ly, got to the light and rest­ed his weight on the cane. I was so touched , watch­ing Father. He was putting all his effort into get­ting him­self to that pri­o­ry. And he was going there in sheer good­ness and self­less­ness, to meet with me-a proven thorn in his side! I was as moved  think­ing this as I had been at hear­ing so many of Father’s hom­i­lies. I was teary- eyed when I final­ly caught up with Father at the pri­o­ry door. He greet­ed me kind­ly and we went into the par­lor to talk.

Father Michael said he’d again been doing the cler­i­cal work- some phone calls for the province. He was hap­py that he could do some­thing.  I also think at that time, that his liv­ing quar­ters were prob­a­bly over­run with ‘orga­niz­ers’. After Father died,  some parish ladies told me they had been recruit­ed to orga­nize, rearrange and dis­card Father’s  papers, cards, let­ters and many pos­ses­sions. I can imag­ine how uncom­fort­able he was with this. Not want­i­ng to hurt anyone’s feel­ings though, I bet he act­ed grate­ful to the ladies. No won­der he stayed down in the par­lor!

But any­way, that day, Father M hap­pi­ly told me he had writ­ten a Lenten reflec­tion for the Domini­can web­site. There is a link to it at the end of the “Hum­ble Preach­er” post on this blog. Father told me “I men­tion you in the reflec­tion”. Well, I knew it real­ly couldn’t be that sim­ple or per­son­al. But he said “Lis­ten” and took a paper from his pock­et and read it to me. Here is the line he was talk­ing about:

What we are expe­ri­enc­ing is the fideli­ty of God. He nev­er aban­dons us. No mat­ter how low life might seem to get there is always abun­dant hope. I am liv­ing my time of hope. Even though things do not always look good I feel so blessed by many peo­ple ask­ing God for ‘ a total cure for Father Michael.’ ”

I thanked Father Michael for remem­ber­ing me (and so many oth­ers!!) in that reflec­tion. We had a love­ly, peace­ful vis­it-for the most part.

In these lat­ter vis­its, many times Father Michael would  get very angry and con­fronta­tion­al. He was quite moody. I remem­ber one con­ver­sa­tion where he got irri­tat­ed that I had used the term ‘water sports’. I had been talk­ing about his young life in Nova Sco­tia, imag­in­ing how kids would grow up sur­round­ed by the ocean and lakes and would take advan­tage of the many recre­ation pos­si­bil­i­ties of the water. Well, Father Michael got so angry with me, say­ing that I was imply­ing all Nova Sco­tia peo­ple  hung out in fan­cy yachts.

Some­times it was very hard for him to calm down. I think many peo­ple would say this was his can­cer talk­ing and act­ing in such a mean way. I cer­tain­ly believe the stress and pain and sad­ness act­ed as cat­a­lysts for this unchar­ac­ter­is­tic behav­ior. But that doesn’t nec­es­sar­i­ly mean that there was no truth in it. On the contrary,in see­ing these moments I feel that I was blessed with a glimpse of the soul and char­ac­ter of Father Michael. It was a glimpse with a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, for sure.It was always so easy to see the good in Father when all was well. Father Michael sim­ply shone with the good. But  these oth­er traits-the dark­ness, the anger, the impa­tience-they were very real. In observ­ing these neg­a­tives, I com­pre­hend­ed  the human and sin­ful things with which Father Michael strug­gled. Along with Father M’s many virtues, these strug­gles, too, con­tributed to the mak­ing of this won­der­ful man . And see­ing this com­plete pic­ture, it made me all the more appre­cia­tive of Father Michael’s true holi­ness.

 

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.

IMG_441595806

 

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

Happy Memories in the Bleak Midwinter

Setting-the-TableSetting-the-TableIt’s the end of 2014 and I’ve been bat­tling the flu through Christ­mas and I’m still bat­tling. This is a hard one to kick. And I find myself think­ing of Father Michael dur­ing the hol­i­days last year. He had held up the idea of a spe­cial time com­ing in Decem­ber. He would men­tion it often;he hoped to have an extend­ed time of feel­ing more like him­self . This was post heal­ing ser­vice and in many ways, Father M felt that he was doing bet­ter after the ser­vice. He was so hope­ful.

I recent­ly found his text thank­ing me for my Christ­mas gift to him. Father M was so delight­ed he’d be able to buy a work of art. He men­tioned the paint­ing he loved of the row­boat ‘that will one day take me to meet God’.

Father Michael nev­er got me any presents, but would share things that were incred­i­bly spe­cial with me. Dur­ing the hol­i­days last year he painstak­ing­ly made me tea and called me over to look at his com­put­er mon­i­tor. There he had a video clip from youtube all set up to show me. It had been filmed by a neigh­bor who was host­ing the Kyte fam­i­ly for din­ner in Novem­ber 1970, with­in a few short weeks of the death of their moth­er. You can access this clip by click­ing on the pic­ture of Father Michael at 17 in the side pan­el on this site. In the clip, Father M is the gor­geous and viva­cious red­head on the left. What a young-look­ing 17! I think he looks more like 14 ! Father Michael told me that his best friend at the time, Bernie, is the young man next to him. Bernie’s mom is the hostess.Father’s dad, Arthur, sits across from him. Father Michael remarked as I watched this “there we are , like a bunch of ban­shees!”  Have no idea what he meant by that-they all seemed so sedate, well-behaved and hun­gry. And I do sense their cohe­sive­ness and con­cern for each oth­er. Their moth­er real­ly must have been the crown­ing glo­ry of that beau­ti­ful family…and she was now gone.

In the same vis­it, Father brought out a col­lage of fam­i­ly pic­tures his broth­er had com­posed . He was so hap­py to point out all the babies in those pic­tures! I want­ed to real­ly look at this col­lage, kind of study it. But Father had more sur­pris­es. He brought out an album, pic­tures of the art work which he had col­lect­ed. Long before -I’d actu­al­ly sug­gest­ed he do this ; I was so sur­prised he had tak­en my advice!! His friend in Col­orado had helped him put it togeth­er-such a kind ges­ture. He loved going through the pic­tures and explain­ing why each was so spe­cial to him.

And then Father brought out a Water­ford crys­tal chal­ice set that had been giv­en to him by one of his Domini­can broth­ers. What a treat to share and admire!

So here I am, think­ing of all these lit­tle things, shar­ing them was such a gift to me. And of course, there was the gift and kind­ness of Father Michael. God is so good.

Hap­py New Year!

 

”The Wonderment of God”

10646633_805091119552224_7151441132180897568_nIn July of 2013, I asked Father Michael if he would pray for the heal­ing of a young man.I only knew of Thomas through his online writ­ings and tweets, but I had always been very impressed by him. This young man, mar­ried just three months , had suf­fered an injury to his spinal ver­te­brae in an acci­dent. When I first asked Father M for prayers, the prog­no­sis for Thomas was not encour­ag­ing. The doc­tors talked of a “per­sis­tent veg­e­ta­tive state” and paral­y­sis. But Thomas improved remark­ably, per­haps mirac­u­lous­ly. He moved , he talked-and got much bet­ter. Thomas was sur­round­ed through it all by lov­ing, faith-filled fam­i­ly, friends, col­leagues — and of course his spouse, Natal­ie.

Well, Father Michael was impressed by the unwa­ver­ing faith of this young cou­ple and con­stant­ly was ask­ing me for updates on them. He would often say things like “can you imag­ine a cou­ple fac­ing this so ear­ly in their mar­riage? How many peo­ple even imag­ine some­thing like this hap­pen­ing when they say their vows?” Father Michael looked at this young cou­ple as an extra­or­di­nary exam­ple of a lov­ing mar­riage. He often spoke of how the love and sac­ri­fices and graces of that sacra­ment awed him, espe­cial­ly when their effects were so evi­dent in peo­ples’ every­day lives.

I was depen­dent on updates from  Thomas’ recov­ery web­site to keep Father M “in the know”. I relayed Thomas’ new­ly recov­ered abil­i­ties and sent Father M some of the pic­tures that were on the Recov­ery page. I sent texts when­ev­er I want­ed to quick­ly inform Father M. Father Michael mar­veled at it all and gave thanks for each improve­ment in Thomas’ con­di­tion. He became more and more fond of this young cou­ple ! He wrote me this email:

Thanks for the pic­ture! What a love­ly cou­ple! I con­tin­ue to be awed by their faith and the mir­a­cle that has hap­pened. God is good and we have to cel­e­brate all the good in life.”

He sent this after see­ing pic­tures of Thomas’ rehab work : ” It is so good to see Tom able to use his body. Isn’t God awe­some? He has done incred­i­ble work since the acci­dent. It could be a whole dif­fer­ent real­i­ty”

And this after receiv­ing anoth­er pic­ture from their site:“What a won­der­ful pho­to. Aren’t we blessed to be con­nect­ed by this sto­ry! Thanks for keep­ing me updat­ed on this mar­velous cou­ple. Bless­ings and hugs, Fr.Michael”

And this-after sev­er­al of my text updates:“Thanks for all the updates on Tom. He will be the Thanks­giv­ing and Christ­mas mir­a­cle! Can you imag­ine their short jour­ney of mar­riage thus far?”

And on Labor Day 2013 Father M left me a voice­mail full of hope for Thomas and him­self. I’ll let him speak for him­self—

Thomas Peters con­tin­ues to recov­er- through much effort and the grace of God. If you would like to know more of his story,here is a link to the recov­ery web site

http://tpetersrecovery.blogspot.com/

So Father Michael saw this all as the “Won­der­ment of God”. I often think of Tom in rehab and his efforts to walk again -and I pray for him and Natal­ie. I also pic­ture Father Michael near­by, sur­vey­ing it all, hop­ing for the mir­a­cles to come. He wouldn’t want to miss them-some­thing to cel­e­brate!

As Gold in the Furnace

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 7.41.10 PMFather Michael had ups and downs through­out his jour­ney with his can­cer. The most obvi­ous of them were phys­i­cal. He’d have some encour­ag­ing days where he’d feel very well and then over­do and stretch him­self. Then there would be those days where he was tired, full of pain, nau­seous or all of the above. He suf­fered ter­ri­bly with neu­ropa­thy both in his hands and his feet.Yet Father Michael was patient, resigned and deter­mined to get bet­ter, to be healed . He sent me this com­ment :

The pain is hard but I want to devel­op a bet­ter attitude.It real­ly is noth­ing com­pared to what He did for us. And I have pills for the pain! I also want to pray for an appetite.The pie was deli­cious. That is about the only thing I ate today.I will go to the kitchen soon and see if there is some­thing that seems good. Thanks again. I will now take some time and scratch my tick­ets!!!”

I can remem­ber when he was prepar­ing to vis­it his fam­i­ly in Cana­da in August, 2013. The week before, he con­fid­ed to me “I have nev­er felt pain like this in my life!” I urged him to talk to Father Louie and his doc­tor and get his pain meds adjusted.I saw him the Sun­day before he was to leave and it was evi­dent that Father M. was still in a lot of pain. Of course, when he returned from the vis­it, he was com­plete­ly wiped out. He loved his fam­i­ly and friends so much.He didn’t want to miss what would be his last vis­it home. But when he came back to Chica­go, he wrote me:

Had a won­der­ful trip home. I do feel tired from all the con­ver­sa­tions and con­stant­ly being with peo­ple. Now I long for a more con­tem­pla­tive time or at least some alone time. I see the grace that our life provides.Shall call you in the next few days after I get all set­tled in with ‘the boys’.”

So there was the phys­i­cal bur­den of Father Michael’s ‘mal­a­dy’. There was also the spir­i­tu­al aspect of deal­ing with the can­cer. I can’t pre­tend that I have any train­ing or tal­ent or insight for this part. I just had decid­ed with­in a week of Father’s diag­no­sis, that I would always pray for his ‘com­plete heal­ing’.  I could not bring myself to ask God just for ‘more time’ or ‘a com­fort­able and hap­py death’ .…not for Father Michael!!! He deserved my hope. How could one not ask for the ‘whole enchi­la­da’? Com­plete heal­ing. Father M. often joked that I meant phys­i­cal, spir­i­tu­al and men­tal. I’d say “Sure, why not? Let’s go for it!”

I prayed often for Father Michael’s spir­i­tu­al sta­mi­na, especially,when lat­er on in the ill­ness, he faced some big set­backs . He always tried to inter­pret these as  just a twist  in the road, some­thing that would have to be over­come in a dif­fer­ent way. But there were times when he’d speak with  such dread about his upcom­ing chemo, antic­i­pat­ing the mis­ery of its side-effects.He’d get very down. On oth­er occa­sions, Father M. was enthu­si­as­tic and want­i­ng to ‘get on with it’! So many times, he’d email or text me, “I think the worst is now over” or ” I need to rest so I will be fit for the onslaught !” Such hope­ful words. Yes, he cer­tain­ly lived with hope.

But I began to notice a change, begin­ning with Father Michael’s speech at his heal­ing ser­vice last Novem­ber. This was where he had said “no mat­ter what hap­pens, there will be a heal­ing”. I felt there was a bit of glib­ness in that state­ment. Personally,I found it dis­turb­ing. I thought about the atmos­phere of the pri­o­ry, the con­stant influ­ence and pres­ence of many lov­ing broth­ers. So many intel­lec­tu­al broth­ers, Dominicans,…men of faith and wis­dom, but also of sci­ence and log­ic. So many had known Father Michael from the begin­ning of his reli­gious life.This was the fam­i­ly that had sur­round­ed him for most of his adult life. They loved him. I found myself won­der­ing if some­times the broth­ers’ intel­li­gence and their liv­ing with the real­i­ty of his can­cer might unin­ten­tion­al­ly over­shad­ow their faith in a cure for Father Michael. So in one of my notes, I brought this up to Father Michael.

At our next vis­it , this was all that Father M. want­ed to talk about. He was very emo­tion­al about it, often on the brink of tears. He told me he knew that no one meant to be dis­cour­ag­ing or unhope­ful, but many things had been said. Father also spoke sad­ly of sev­er­al friends who would talk to him about his ‘enter­ing the pearly gates’ . And he men­tioned too, those who had lost some­one they loved, who asked him to relay mes­sages when he ‘got up there’. I know he took it all in good humor and was kind, but he real­ized that many peo­ple real­ly did not have hope or faith that he could ever be cured. We spoke of this every time we met after that, four or five times, in the weeks before Father Michael died. He found it so very dif­fi­cult to accept peo­ples’ res­ig­na­tion to his death and real­ly need­ed to express his sad­ness. I found it hard to accept,too. Yet in my con­ver­sa­tions with oth­er parish­ioners, I’d picked up on the neg­a­tiv­i­ty more and more .

Once, after a vis­it, I had the impres­sion that Father Michael had giv­en up.His mood had been so resigned. I texted him when I got home and flat-out asked him. He sent this back:“That is the far­thest thing from the truth !!! unless I am in ‘la-la’ land!! I live with hope !!!!”

Father Michael once took a break from St Pius and flew to vis­it his broth­er in Den­ver. I had no idea he’d gone there, but hadn’t heard from him via phone or text for a while. I was con­cerned. He had been kind of down at my most recent vis­it. I real­ly want­ed to call, but often felt intru­sive doing that, so I resist­ed. But some­thing kept urg­ing me to use my phone. Look­ing at it, I saw there was an option to record a mes­sage and just have the mes­sage go into the person’s voice­mail. Per­fect ! That way, Father M. doesn’t have to talk or even acknowl­edge me if he’s not up to it, I thought. So I record­ed a one minute mes­sage. I tried to say the most encour­ag­ing, hope­ful things I could think of. I just felt he real­ly need­ed it. I sent the mes­sage and then in the late evening, Father Michael called back. He was so grate­ful! He said “You know it was God who made you send that mes­sage to me. I need­ed it so bad­ly today. I have been so down here at my brother’s. Thank you!” Father Michael wept as he spoke to me and yet he was so hap­py, full of joy. I told him how I’d been want­i­ng to con­tact him, but had hes­i­tat­ed. He said “It was the Spir­it telling you to do this. Thank you so much for lis­ten­ing to Him and doing it.” I’ll nev­er for­get his joy …and his grate­ful tears.

I remem­ber one of my last vis­its where Father Michael talked of hav­ing read through all his cor­re­spon­dence. He pulled a let­ter from his desk and read me some of its con­tents. I don’t know his name, but the writer had been Father Michael’s novice mas­ter. Father Michael was so delight­ed, loud­ly read­ing the words “I am one who will pray for your com­plete heal­ing”. And this priest expressed his faith that mir­a­cles do hap­pen. Father Michael seemed so con­tent and at peace, read­ing those words aloud.

Suf­fer­ing and hope, dis­ap­point­ment and joy, hurt and faith- above all great love -all were part of Father Michael’s jour­ney. Some­day I will under­stand how it was a heal­ing. For now, I eas­i­ly see how the journey,with all its ups and downs, read­ied Father Michael to meet his God.

Chas­tised a little,they shall be great­ly blessed,because God tried them and found them wor­thy of him­self. As gold in the fur­nace, he proved them…”

The Prior and ‘The Boys’

Father MichaeSome of 'the boys' at AI, a few years ago with their nurse, Fr Wisdom & Fr Michaell became Pri­or at St Pius V Pri­o­ry in 2011. Since St Pius is a res­i­dence for many of the Domini­can senior fathers and brothers,it was a new expe­ri­ence for Father Michael . He had been a pri­or pre­vi­ous­ly , but the St Pius assign­ment offered him many chal­lenges. Father M stayed ‘half­time’ as parochial vic­ar of St Vin­cent Fer­rer , con­tin­u­ing with Mass­es, wed­dings  and funer­als there,commuting back and forth. But he was now  also in charge of the old­er priests, includ­ing some liv­ing in nurs­ing facil­i­ties. He vis­it­ed all his charges often. He was very ded­i­cat­ed to the seniors, though he heard a lot of com­plaints and demands from them. He tried to keep it all in per­spec­tive  and in good humor. In May 2012 Father Michael wrote me this email:“Thanks for the prayers. I find this peri­od of my life dif­fi­cult as I have to trav­el so much and look­ing after old­er Fathers has many chal­lenges.” An under­state­ment!

Some­times sto­ries of “the boys” would creep into the Sun­day hom­i­lies. I remem­ber once when Father Michael told us of the bro­ken St Pius ele­va­tor and the great project it was to get every­one up and down the stairs safe­ly. It sound­ed like such a cat­a­stro­phe ! I think Father Michael was most upset with the com­plaints about some­thing that obvi­ous­ly could not be imme­di­ate­ly fixed. So he vent­ed to us and we all kind of chuck­led. But I remem­ber Father M end­ing the homi­ly with a descrip­tion of his ‘boys’, rapt in evening prayer,their col­lec­tive lives and pres­ence a gift of grace. He said “And when they are pray­ing all togeth­er, what pow­er for the Lord they show!” He loved them and held them in rev­er­ence. Father Michael wrote me an email the next day :

Even when I am close to the ‘edge’, I still keep laugh­ing with ‘the boys’. Praise God the ele­va­tor is fixed and we are back to our routine.Funny how lit­tle things real­ly upset the applecart.But it all keeps me quite hum­ble and thank God I have humor.”

Father Michael had humor, yes, but he also was very human. He had his moments of pure irri­ta­tion with the boys. Once he called me to vent about some inci­dent, ask­ing me if he should start writ­ing a blog about all the stuff that hap­pened at St Pius. I said I thought it could be inter­est­ing and enter­tain­ing, if  he kept his humor fore­front. I don’t think he ever wrote it.….too bad. There was anoth­er time when Father Michael was so exas­per­at­ed by some of the boys, he told me that he and Father Louie were mak­ing a list of all the indi­vid­ual broth­ers’ most admirable traits and accom­plish­ments. Father Michael said he felt he need­ed to remind him­self to look beyond the sur­face.

Here are some typ­i­cal quotes from Father Michael’s emails about his pri­or duties:

I’m off to see my broth­ers in the nurs­ing home. Today at mass I real­ized how many of them had ill­ness­es that are tru­ly slow­ing them down. But they are troupers.”

Now I will go to the emer­gency room to bring one of the broth­ers who fell and cracked his head. He doesn’t want to go , but we have to have him checked. I hope it is not a 7 hour stay!!!!!”

I am off to see one of the broth­ers in rehab. Anoth­er has to go in the nurs­ing home and there are no beds at the moment.A third will soon be told he has to stay here per­ma­nent­ly. I am run­ning for shel­ter!!!!!”

Writ­ten when he was in can­cer treatment:“I’m just back from more blood work and off to the hos­pi­tal with one of the Fathers.”

When Father Michael returned to St Pius from Albu­querque, diag­nosed with can­cer, he broke down when he entered the build­ing . The com­mu­ni­ty had gath­ered to wel­come him.He described his reac­tion as pro­found and told me how incred­i­bly moved he was when one of the senior Fathers asked him sweet­ly and ten­ta­tive­ly “Will you still be our Pri­or?” Father Michael con­tin­ued as pri­or as long as he could, quite far into his ill­ness. Then Father M resigned, but remained deeply involved with” the boys”.

In the fall of 2013, I began to vis­it a very weak Father Michael at St Pius. Father Michael loved pie, so I’d bring him a pie. And then I added cof­fee cake for shar­ing and lat­er a loaf of Czech hous­ka bread–and then an extra one for the boys. I felt so good because it was so sim­ple to do and pleased Father Michael. Here is a typ­i­cal response from Father M:

The food was deli­cious. I even put my favorite bread in the bread box think­ing there would be some for the morn­ing. Was I wrong! They got a taste of that and they were off to the races! It is a joy to see that small things make them so joy­ful. Thanks for bring­ing that joy to our house.”

In that amus­ing vein, I recall Father Michael warn­ing me not to just drop off the cakes and bread with the recep­tion­ist. He said “No,no,no — give me a call to meet you there.….otherwise ” the boys” are like vul­tures “. So fun­ny.

Around the same time last year, I start­ed to send Father Michael beau­ti­ful lilies every month. He enjoyed them so much, but was more excit­ed that “the boys are delight­ed”. Lat­er he told me that the scent was over­pow­er­ing at times for some of the fathers, includ­ing him! I  made a men­tal note about that.

I have no one to vis­it at St Pius any­more, so no more bak­ery deliv­er­ies from me! But I still send the broth­ers lilies on spe­cial days– Asi­at­ic lilies with no annoy­ing scent. I know it must please “the boys” to receive love­ly flowers…a lit­tle joy. I hope it reminds them of their days with Father Michael. I know they are grate­ful.