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