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.

These Holy Men of Mystery

fm-sr vowsI couldn’t let September get away without a post-so here it is at last. I know you all have been waiting with bated breath. (HaHa) It’s been a busy month for me and I think they will be that way for a while -from now on.

Pope Francis has just left the United States. I think I am fed up with priests, bishops and cardinals -and their cell phones. For me it was just so bizarre to see participating priests, even concelebrants, in Papal Masses, just shooting away. Other observers seem to feel it was charming sight – imperfect, but understandably human . I disagree, but I’ll leave it at that.

As usual, I don’t know what to say about Pope Francis. To me, he is a palpably good man and straightforward in many, many ways. I liked him so much at first- and still do. I even remember writing to Father Michael after Francis had been pope a few weeks. I ended my short note with “Father Michael, Pope Francis is like YOU !!! ”  Certainly the open, loving, visible attitude toward all people was something they both shared. I know they both had that gift of being able to express and show delight in each person. You know they see the Image of God in all.

I wish I knew what else they might have had in common. Each one, in his own way, is still a mystery to me. It is amazing how one can feel the presence of God and His love in a person like Pope Francis or a Father Michael.  There’s no denying something special is there-but you just know there is a ‘rest of the story’. I think for most people, none of that matters. For them it is  more than enough that these gifts of God exist. But to others, like me, the ‘rest of the story’ is what truly matters: the whole truth.  I want to understand how these special people became that way. It is not enough for me to just accept “through God’s grace, a mystery”. I want to have the privilege of understanding as much as I can of that mystery.

I suspect that we will see more and more details as to what makes up Pope Francis. He is certainly real  right now . But  upcoming church events will surely reveal more of him as time goes by.

Father Michael is a different story. I can’t ask him questions any more- or better said- I can’t expect any answers if I choose to bother him in his heavenly home.  But he had so many loving friends with whom he shared his rich fulfilling life. More of Father Michael’s story is certainly out there.

I’ll end this with a ‘vignette’ from a short dream I happened to remember. I usually don’t remember dreams at all.Even with this one-I don’t know if there was anything more to it. This is what I recall:

I was in a large room, with many people around me. Across the room I saw another group of people , milling about lengths of tables. Nothing was distinctive; everything and everyone everywhere was BEIGE. I wondered where I was and it came to me that it was like U.S. customs at the airport. Now, I’ve only been through a few times;and I’m not well-traveled at all. And it’s been 40 years since I’ve traveled out of the country. I’m sure that customs is not like this now. So in my dream I gazed away at the other group. Suddenly a colorful figure caught my attention, moving through the crowd,right up to the table. He was smiling right at me and looked so happy.  Yes, it was Father Michael . But he was different, very different-not dressed in his habit. He was wearing a black and jewel-colored getup. I could only see to his hip level-the table obstructed full view. The weirdest thing was that he was wearing a black beret. At least that’s what I thought at first, but then it seemed like the kind of hat that St Thomas More wore. I concluded that it was actually like academic attire worn for formal meetings at universities. I also saw that the flash of color, a bright burgundy, was like a triangular lapel or sash across his chest. Father Michael just continued to beam at me. I asked him “Why are you so far away?” No answer, just the continued smile and a little wave. That was it.

Adventures in Paradise?  Paying a visit to his alma mater?  My brain working overtime?  Gotta say, whatever it was, it was nice to see Father Michael.

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.

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…

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

images

…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~~~

Sublime in the Ordinary

Aurora Borealis/ NASA photo

Around this time last year, I saw Father Michael at St Pius, and he told me a story which had given him so much hope. One of Father’s younger sisters had visited him recently and told him something which had happened a few months back-on one of her earlier visits.

Father Michael’s blood was deficient in magnesium; yep, it was pretty much nil. As he was receiving one of his many magnesium infusions, his sister,(whom Father called ‘my sensitive sister’) decided to talk privately to Father’s oncologist. She relayed to Father Michael how upset she had been, crying and crying and crying. Things were looking so discouraging- the magnesium problem was just the most recent of many setbacks that had occurred. It was overwhelming to her- and she had to go back to Canada that evening.  As she cried, she explained to the doctor “You have no idea how my brother Michael is just so special to our family- we can’t lose him.” The good doctor responded  with ” I think with Father Michael we just might get a miracle.”

Well, Father Michael was so in awe of the doctor’s hopeful words and so pleased that his sister had shared them. It was as though he had received a treasure in those words. So I remember today the solemnity with which Father Michael told me this story,the reverence, the gratitude.  And there was such honesty and simplicity with which he told it to me. He was transparent and so very humble.

I loved that, in telling the story, Father Michael had to refer to himself as ‘special’. And he had no qualms or hesitation about saying it! He knew it was the truth. He knew very well that he had quite an impact on people.

So often, since Father’s death, I have heard others say  “Father Michael had NO idea of how influential he was”. Or I have read “Father Michael just never realized how special he was”. Just not true. Father Michael knew ; he was totally aware of his God-given gifts and their effects.  He just didn’t need to talk about them or draw overt attention to them. Certainly, as a human being , he was pleased when he was recognized or praised. But Father Michael’s  true focus was on ‘being the vehicle’, a tool in the hand of God. He valued this above any praise for himself. I once wrote him an email praising him for a lovely homily. He responded  with this :

“Forgive my tardiness in acknowledging your kind words. It meant a lot. Often times we wonder if our words are fine. Really, we are simply vehicles of the Word. We pray and study and hope that God gives us something that will help fellow ‘pilgrims’. So your kind words are a blessing to God.”

Leave it to Father M to see my would-be compliment to him as a blessing to God!  I miss him–and his perceptive observations–so very much.

Once I asked Father M if he was going to concelebrate a farewell Mass with a priest who had just been reassigned from our parish. He said “No, I hadn’t planned on it.” Surprised by this, I said “Oh, I thought you would be there just to be nice and to say goodbye”. Father Michael said nothing in response. But that Sunday, there he was, up in the sanctuary . He had arrived too late to walk in the procession, but his presence more than made up for his late arrival. And after Mass was over, Father Michael just beamed as he accompanied the other priest back down the aisle. Yes, Father Michael was blessed with an honest understanding of his influence.

And we were privileged to know and love a man of true humility…..the sublime in the ordinary.

 

At Home with the Lord

Flowers at my mother's grave My mother died last Wednesday, the 19th; we buried her ashes on Saturday. So I’m digressing from Father Michael for today. This is a picture of my mother’s grave topped by the flower arrangement from her funeral Mass. I had thought the arrangement would stay in the church to be enjoyed there, but there it was when we visited the grave later in the day. Such beautiful flowers!

So my mother’s earthly journey ended -two days short of her eighty-seventh birthday . She’d spent each day since July 23 in the hospital or in a rehab facility. She never got the chance to come home, even temporarily. Her condition seemed to improve at first,and I thought she just might have turned things around in her first visit to rehab. But then complications arose- she had breathing trouble, with severe coughing and needed oxygen all the time.Then there was anemia and a trip back to the hospital for transfusions. My mother could barely swallow,would start choking, so she then had a feeding tube inserted. She didn’t want to leave this life and refused until last week to even consider a ‘do not resuscitate’ directive .It took a while for her to comprehend that she was going downhill. She too, stayed hopeful about returning to health, but then eventually saw the reality. My mother remained alert and ‘with it’ till the end. A week ago Monday, I relayed the excitement of shopping for a wedding dress with my future daughter-in-law. My mother was happily looking forward to the wedding.

The hospital records show my mother’s vital signs were normal at 6am Wednesday. But by 7am, nursing staff saw my mother wasn’t breathing. She had died peacefully in her sleep.

We had the Mass at a parish that was close to the cemetery and near the northwest Chicago homes of most family. The priest gave a nice, personalized homily. What was especially meaningful to hear about and imagine was the reunion of my mother and the rest of her family. She’d be with my dad, her parents,all her siblings. But the priest focused on my mother seeing, meeting again, my sister, Karen, who died after living only six days. I was about four when Karen died and remember seeing my parents’ grief at the loss of their newborn. All the more joyous-that family reunion in heaven! God is so good.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

2 Corinthians 5 :6-8