Absence, Remembrance—Another Year

This is the three year anniver­sary of Father Michael’s death. I decid­ed to write a lit­tle today to keep him in mem­o­ry. I’ve been absent from the blog main­ly due to ill­ness. I have had surgery and chemo for can­cer. One of the side effects of the chemo, was sen­si­tiv­i­ty in my fin­gers. Neu­ropa­thy is one thing, but all the plat­inum in my sys­tem would cause elec­tri­cal zaps to my fingers.….not too pleas­ant for exten­sive key­board work. So I shied away from the blog .And, like Father Michael and most can­cer patients, I dealt with the fatigue. Most times I didn’t fight it as Father M did, I just rest­ed! I have a few oth­er med­ical issues going on now that real­ly debil­i­tate me at times. So there’s my excuse for being absent from the blog.

The biggest con­tri­bu­tion to Father Michael’s mem­o­ry will be Kyte Hall at St Vin­cent Fer­rer Church. The parish broke ground for this yes­ter­day. I was sor­ry to miss it, but I was sick. I was half-way dressed and real­ized that I could not attend. I had been look­ing for­ward to it, espe­cial­ly since Father Louie was going to offi­ci­ate. I’m hop­ing there will be a tape of the homi­ly to view, at least. But any­way, this parish build­ing will serve to bring Father Michael to mind, espe­cial­ly when in use. It will be par­tic­u­lar­ly mean­ing­ful to those of us who knew Father M, to those with very fond mem­o­ries. I look for­ward to its com­ple­tion. As the years go by and the mem­o­ries fade, the parish won’t have the same appre­ci­a­tion for this extra­or­di­nary, yet ordi­nary man. But that’s life. I’m glad I knew him.

Over­all, my work on this blog has been a good thing for me. It’s fun­ny because I began it after my writ­ing was edit­ed to the point of dis­tor­tion. So it grew out of some­thing tru­ly humil­i­at­ing. My old­est son, who is a writer by pro­fes­sion, sug­gest­ed that I just blog and “avoid all that”. A wise sug­ges­tion. It’s been per­son­al­ly reward­ing, though lack­ing affir­ma­tion. But I keep the fol­low­ing quote from St Fausti­na in mind :

I know well that the greater and more beau­ti­ful the work is, the more ter­ri­ble will be the storms that rage against it.”

Evergreen

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We took down the Christ­mas tree today. My hus­band said “It’s time.”  And I knew he was right. So down it went, still smelling so fresh, just start­ing to lose its nee­dles. It’s always a bit­ter­sweet time for me. I miss the glow and scent of the tree imme­di­ate­ly, yet I’m hap­py to have the space back. It’s fun­ny because I don’t miss that space at all while the tree is up.

Christ­mas trees have always been a big deal in my fam­i­ly. My dad was the youngest of sev­en chil­dren and while a young man he was entrust­ed with choos­ing my grand­par­ents’ tree. This car­ried over till I, as a preschool­er, went along with him -tree­hunt­ing. I enjoyed stop­ping at all the lots- we’re city peo­ple nev­er went to a tree farm!

 I learned to antic­i­pate the hag­gling, the walk­ing away, and final­ly mak­ing the deal.  And then there was the moment when my dad would bring the cho­sen tree to Grandma’s and she would laugh and call him “you crazy kid”. This was because Dad always chose giant trees -much trim­ming need­ed and prun­ing required.  Dad was always more con­ser­v­a­tive when we went out to get the oth­er tree for our lit­tle apart­ment. But Grand­ma had a big­ger space and the tree need­ed to fill it.

So when I had my own fam­i­ly, I kind of trained my hus­band on how to play the Christ­mas tree game. He learned quick­ly for one who had nev­er had a dad–or a real tree in his life. My sons have got­ten pret­ty good at it too, seem­ing­ly by osmo­sis. And they like them big , too. So fun­ny that the Christ­mas tree “process” has become a tra­di­tion.

I have tons of orna­ments now. My dream is some­day to have (or rent) a place for Christ­mas where I can use all the orna­ments I have on a very, very tall tree. I’d like to have that sat­is­fac­tion just once.

Yes, this tree tra­di­tion is a con­vert­ed pagan cus­tom. But since I was lit­tle, I have known that the tree was a sym­bol of Christ and ever­last­ing life. I have always held it in rev­er­ence for that rea­son. And the tree is adorned in its nat­ur­al beau­ty and we try our best to enhance it. And we savor its spe­cial, fra­grant pres­ence in our homes  as long as we can. We make space in our homes .…and in our hearts.

The Beauty Continues.….

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It’s the last day of 2015-and I’ve been neglect­ing this blog, most­ly because I’ve been busy and tired- always good excus­es. But I don’t want to skip a post­ing in any month. I feel an oblig­a­tion toward the blog, a true com­mit­ment. I also need to con­tin­ue my  writ­ing about Father Michael.

This blog has giv­en me a sense of pow­er. It has been influ­en­tial on so many peo­ple-some express­ing so much in their silence.….Others are hap­pi­ly sup­port­ive and com­pli­men­ta­ry.  Some open­ly dis­ap­prov­ing. I appre­ci­ate them all. And I look for­ward to anoth­er year of cre­at­ing and shar­ing beau­ty on this blog.  No, it’s not yet time for me to shut up about Father Michael and just act grate­ful.

2016 , here I come, a lit­tle slow­er, a lit­tle weak­er, but ready to car­ry on. I promise.

Here is a link to a great arti­cle about grat­i­tude and grief from Tim Lawrence :

http://www.timjlawrence.com/blog/2014/12/15/gratitude-doesnt-erase-grief

Savoring My Advent …

winter_scene_30-1024x768Novem­ber is almost over. It’s been a very busy month for me-and my fam­i­ly. I’ve had some health issues that caught up with me –and just didn’t feel well for most of the month.

Novem­ber also rep­re­sent­ed a ‘recov­ery’ and adjust­ment peri­od for my fam­i­ly. My youngest son got mar­ried on Octo­ber 31st -and there was a lot of hoopla lead­ing up to that !!  The wed­ding took place in the bride’s Ortho­dox church. My pas­tor assured us that it is com­plete­ly ok for a Roman Catholic to get mar­ried in the Ortho­dox church as all their sacra­ments are valid . Our church respects this. But I have to say it was an adjust­ment to wit­ness it. I am so used to hear­ing vows spo­ken and par­tic­i­pat­ing in Eucharist at our Catholic wed­dings. The Ortho­dox  priest admin­is­ters the sacra­ment and the rite is very long. I did rec­og­nize some ele­ments that remind­ed me of Jew­ish wed­dings. All in all, it was quite beau­ti­ful, but a bit out of my com­fort zone!!

So often in this past month, espe­cial­ly while ill, I thought of Father Michael. Just lit­tle mem­o­ries here and there. I recalled how often Father Michael expressed his fear about his ill­ness. I looked back over his many texts that I have saved and found this:

The only hope is prayer. I have lots of fears as I face each new day of uncer­tain­ty. You are in my thoughts as well.”

I think see­ing Father Michael being that kind of human example-accepting,uncertain, fear­ful, yet still full of faith, still pray­ing- left a last­ing impres­sion on me. It inspired courage in me. While going through my sick­ness, I didn’t have to dig to be very strong. Think­ing of how Father Michael was gave me peace and I felt at one point that he was present,right beside me. God is so good.

I dealt with nurs­es, doc­tors, var­i­ous tech­ni­cians and have noth­ing but admi­ra­tion and grat­i­tude for them. One of the most touch­ing expe­ri­ences was meet­ing an R.N. who’d been in the mil­i­tary for the  four years pri­or to start­ing at his cur­rent hos­pi­tal. “I’ve worked in mil­i­tary hos­pi­tals all over the world”. He was so proud of his work and yet so hum­ble. He was so kind to me and very unas­sum­ing-as opposed to “pro­fes­sion­al”. Before I was to leave the hos­pi­tal, this nurse said good­bye to me and shak­ing my hand, said “It has been an hon­or tak­ing care of you”. I thanked him, but was oth­er­wise pret­ty speechless–and very moved.

Today I saw this quote and real­ized that young man embod­ied it:

Bring them the Gospel not by your words but by your exam­ple, not by pro­claim­ing it but by liv­ing it. Make the sal­va­tion of all peo­ple the one, sin­gle work of your life, until Jesus the Sav­ior, which is a name express­ing per­fect­ly [who Jesus is], like­wise express­es per­fect­ly what you are. But how can this be done? Be all things to all peo­ple with a sin­gle, clear desire in your heart: to give them Jesus.”
Blessed Charles de Fou­cauld (1858–1916)

Well, this is a very self-cen­tered post. I am grate­ful, though, that I had  Father Michael in my life to look back on and ulti­mate­ly help me in my jour­ney .

Here Comes the Shun

imagesI’ve been think­ing about writ­ing this post since that last time I was ill and had immersed myself in many inter­est­ing blogs. So many things to think about.…

A few days ago, I went to Mass and the Gospel was  about fra­ter­nal cor­rec­tion. Our priest focused on what Jesus said about those who did not accept the correction:“Treat them as you would a Gen­tile or tax col­lec­tor.” The priest stressed that though these peo­ple were pret­ty much shunned in the soci­ety of that time and place, Jesus hung out with them all the time. So the mes­sage of the Lord was real­ly to stay open-mind­ed about these peo­ple, to not close the door on them. Be avail­able, be hope­ful, be kind-con­tin­ue to seek them out.

That brought to my mind an old blog arti­cle I’d read, extolling the “wis­dom” of Catholics reviv­ing the lost prac­tice of shunning.The rea­son­ing was that, in these days of peo­ple open­ly liv­ing lifestyles con­trary to church teach­ing, shun­ning is an obvi­ous way to point out their sin (or as seems to be the pop­u­lar ver­nac­u­lar now-their ‘error in judg­ment’). The post cit­ed this scripture-“shake the dust from your sandals”-as the Bib­li­cal basis for shun­ning.

Well, the blog post was one thing, but the com­ments were quite anoth­er. I was sur­prised at how many peo­ple jumped in the dis­cus­sion with enthu­si­asm for shun­ning. Most word­ed their com­ments care­ful­ly, and avoid­ed sound­ing impos­si­bly self-right­eous. Yet, as I read these words, I felt some dis­ap­point­ment that so many saw a spe­cial authority/wisdom/grace in dis­play­ing dis­ap­proval.

The blog dis­cussed the mer­its of com­plete­ly ignor­ing oth­ers, kind of a cold turkey cut­off of all fel­low­ship, friend­ship, sharing.Whatever evil the sin­ner was prac­tic­ing, that took pri­or­i­ty over any ves­tige of good­ness that they might pos­sess. It seems way too extreme to me. I think, as hard as it may be to do, peo­ple respond bet­ter to direct address. No, not read­ing them the riot act, or lec­tur­ing them, but ask­ing ques­tions tact­ful­ly, express­ing con­cern, being engaged, hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion. I envi­sion it as a very kind con­fronta­tion. Cold turkey cut­offs are a step back­ward, cru­el­ty dis­guised as bad man­ners.

Inter­est­ing­ly, think­ing about shun­ning in the extreme gave me an insight into a prac­tice that is far more com­mon. It’s kind of like a selec­tive shun­ning. Peo­ple choose to selec­tive­ly ignore some­thing, a rela­tion­ship, a per­son, an event, a con­ver­sa­tion, that is an inte­gral part of another’s life. They cut con­ver­sa­tions off, they look the oth­er way, they change the sub­ject. And these folks who do this are not cold-heart­ed or mean. Nor­mal­ly they are kind, open peo­ple; some even claim to be friends. But some­thing has con­vinced them to pass judg­ment on anoth­er . So they delib­er­ate­ly ignore this item of another’s life — some­thing that is mean­ing­ful to that oth­er per­son. Their log­ic and best judg­ment is ‘it’s for his own good. Don’t give it any respect or atten­tion, bet­ter to ignore it’. And they actu­al­ly believe that they are being lov­ing. This is where I real­ly appre­ci­ate the Lord’s advice-to per­son­al­ly con­front the per­son. He doesn’t play any stu­pid games. He’s not into manip­u­la­tion. He does not cal­cu­late. He states that He is always in our midst when “two or more” are gath­ered . Who wouldn’t want Him there? He wants us to talk.

But that takes courage, to be forth­right and hon­est yet gen­tle in your con­fronta­tion. And it involves a real risk as you speak your truth to your friend. You could be wrong. Your view may be skewed. You may receive enlight­en­ment from your friend that embar­rass­es  you. But you also could be right. And you may enlight­en your friend . It is also pos­si­ble that when all is said and done, you may lose that friend.

Selec­tive shun­ning is the manip­u­la­tive tool of choice these days,especially by ama­teur psy­chol­o­gists. I can see where it is ide­al because it will wear some vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple out, those unable to assert or explain them­selves . I can also see where those using it delude them­selves that they are being kind and Christ-like. But I can’t imag­ine the Lord ever refus­ing to have the con­ver­sa­tion.…

Oh Happy Day !

 

Leap-for-JoyJuly 6, 2015 is the day I’m cel­e­brat­ing. My niece Emi­ly deliv­ered a healthy baby boy that after­noon. Moth­er, baby and.….. father (!) are doing just fine. New life is always a mir­a­cle and meant to be cel­e­brat­ed, but this one is a very spe­cial gift. My niece has MS and there were many wor­ries pri­or to the preg­nan­cy. MS meds had to be sus­pend­ed; risks abound­ed. And no one knows how the dis­ease may change for Emi­ly post par­tum. But God is good, as Father Michael would remind us! And I am grate­ful and so hope­ful that “all will be well”.

As you may know, Father Michael had a spe­cial place for Emi­ly in his prayer inten­tions. He prayed for her as soon as she was diag­nosed and through­out her treat­ments, even as he suf­fered through his own ‘malady’.Even  after his death I know Father con­tin­ued to watch over Emi­ly from Heav­en. So this was a very calm and peace­ful preg­nan­cy. I know Father M will hap­pi­ly con­tin­ue to keep an eye on this new fam­i­ly.

On a much more earth­bound note, I fin­ished the THIRD afghan for this lit­tle baby on June 25. I washed it on the ‘hand wash’ cycle of my machine. It came out per­fect. I debat­ed about tak­ing a chance on the (demon) dry­er. My brain is sing-song­ing “oh you of lit­tle faith” and remind­ing me of faith mov­ing moun­tains. My com­mon sense is say­ing “nice that you remem­ber the quotes and sto­ries, but the Lord appre­ci­ates it when you’re not stu­pid.”  So I skipped the dry­er and hung the blan­ket draped between two hang­ers. It took two days to dry.

Final­ly, late Sat­ur­day morn­ing I packed up the afghan. My hus­band took it to the post office, sent it Pri­or­i­ty Mail, two day deliv­ery -but not guar­an­teed. $15, but worth it, right? It was insured and due to get to Con­necti­cut on Mon­day. Good deal!  Sun­day I checked the track­ing; the pack­age was still in Illi­nois. I checked on Mon­day, sup­pos­ed­ly the deliv­ery date. “Arrived at Las Vegas, NV @1:18 am”.  Oh no-I was dread­ing that the next update would say ‘out for deliv­ery’. But no, late that evening, the track­ing said “depart­ed Las Vegas NV”. No word then until July 1. The pack­age got to Spring­field MA! I began to be hope­ful that it just might make it to Con­necti­cut- maybe even the fol­low­ing day. Well, it did make it to Con­necti­cut on the 2nd of July. But it went to anoth­er town on the 3rd, then final­ly to the cor­rect town and a front porch deliv­ery!!!!! Took a full sev­en days. I just can’t say enough about Pri­or­i­ty Mail.

So just thought I’d catch you up on the news. But I’ve got some mus­ings and some more Father Michael mem­o­ries com­ing up soon.

Remem­ber Father Rivers’ Mass from the ‘60s?  I do, fond­ly. Seems appro­pri­ate for a hap­py day:

Made To Shine

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More thoughts from my ill­ness hia­tus are com­ing back to me. I did a lot of inter­net read­ing while sick; couldn’t do much else! I have sev­er­al favorite blogs I tapped into reg­u­lar­ly.

One of these blogs is “One Mad Mom”, writ­ten by a Cal­i­for­nia home school­ing mom, who whole­heart­ed­ly sup­ports embat­tled Arch­bish­op Cordileone, of San Fran­cis­co. She’s just excel­lent. I espe­cial­ly enjoyed her posts “Meet the Laity” and “Doing the Pas­toral Thing”.

Here’s a quote from that blog that I real­ly like; it is from Arch­bish­op Cordileone’s speech to sem­i­nar­i­ans:

This is being pas­toral: encoun­ter­ing the oth­er, estab­lish­ing a rela­tion­ship with them, being lov­ing­ly present to them. A priest can­not pos­si­bly hope to help his peo­ple grow in holi­ness if he is not present to them. His lov­ing, pas­toral pres­ence to them at those most crit­i­cal moments of life – the loss of a loved one, the birth of a child, mar­riage, times of cri­sis – all of this pre­pares the ground for him to, when nec­es­sary, chal­lenge them for their own ongo­ing con­ver­sion. So make no mis­take: tru­ly doing the “pas­toral thing” will always be hard­er, it will always place demands on you, some­times incon­ve­nient and uncom­fort­able demands; it will require you to work hard.

The Arch­bish­op then goes on to con­trast ide­o­logue and lazy priests with those being tru­ly pas­toral. Lots of food for thought, espe­cial­ly for Catholics who would nev­er ques­tion the behav­ior or moti­va­tion of their priests. I com­mend ‘One Mad Mom’ for spot­light­ing these things.

Speak­ing of behav­ior of priests: one ‘rock star’ priest is one too many, in my opin­ion. A local com­mu­ni­ty is hav­ing to deal with the after­math of ‘an error in judg­ment’ by their very pop­u­lar priest. I am aware of a sim­i­lar, but as yet unpub­li­cized sit­u­a­tion in anoth­er neigh­bor­ing dio­cese. Law­suits all over the place. These sad sit­u­a­tions brought back to my mind some thoughts of Father Hun­wicke in late 2014. (his blog is Father Hunwicke’s Mutu­al Enrich­ment) Father wrote a post on celiba­cy in Decem­ber. I think he makes some excel­lent points, par­tic­u­lar­ly about extreme extro­verts in the priest­hood:

Since the 1960s, there has been much talk about mer­cy, and for­give­ness, and sim­i­lar very splen­did things. It has been an era in which we have been urged not to be too pre­oc­cu­pied with sin, par­tic­u­lar­ly sex­u­al sin. A Catholic priest with much pro­fes­sion­al com­pe­tence in this area has explained to me that one psy­cho­log­i­cal rea­son for the bit­ter hatred of the Extra­or­di­nary Form among senior cler­gy of a cer­tain age has been that they asso­ciate it with a cru­el, rigid, sin-obsessed sex-proc­cu­pied form of Catholi­cism upon which they look back with fear and detes­ta­tion. So: ‘mer­ci­ful’ bish­ops were dis­in­clined to ‘ruin’ a priest for ‘just one lapse’, or even two or three. Or four. After all, as we have been informed over and over again, sex­u­al sins are not the only sorts of sins; spir­i­tu­al sins such as Pride, and sins against Social Jus­tice, are far more dis­pleas­ing in the sight of God than mere laps­es from Chasti­ty. Our Oz friends could look into the prob­lem of ‘lib­er­al’ bish­ops as well.
My own, again anec­do­tal, expe­ri­ence has inclined me to think that ‘charis­mat­ic’ lead­ers, admired by the media and sur­round­ed by ador­ing groupies, can be pecu­liar­ly vul­ner­a­ble to sex­u­al temp­ta­tion. J F Kennedy, Mar­tin Luther King, and, with­in the Church, bish­op Eamonn Casey … and Fr Macial Maciel … and Fr Lelio Can­ti­ni … spring to mind; and one bish­op of my acquain­tance in the Church of Eng­land was anoth­er. He was held in such tremen­dous­ly high regard, not least in the very high­est reach­es of the British Estab­lish­ment, that after acknowl­edg­ing his guilt, accept­ing a police warn­ing, and resign­ing his dio­cese, he imme­di­ate­ly start­ed spread­ing it around that he was com­plete­ly inno­cent, but had plead­ed guilty to save the Church the embar­rass­ment of a pub­lic tri­al. This claim was accept­ed by peo­ple unwill­ing to face up to the fact that they had been gullible dupes. So plau­si­ble was he that his one-time dioce­san supe­ri­or, when he came lat­er to write his own auto­bi­og­ra­phy, round­ly assert­ed the total inno­cence of his fel­low-bish­op and put the entire episode down to a Wicked Plot. I think psy­cho­me­t­ric experts should exam­ine with even more than their usu­al acu­ity can­di­dates for ordi­na­tion who are at the extreme ‘extro­vert’ end of the spec­trum. Oz could look into this side of things as well.

Father Hun­wicke is so eru­dite and so fun­ny. And his Latin ref­er­ences bowl me over and chal­lenge me, as I have only stud­ied Latin for two years. He nev­er ‘dumbs it down’; he is respect­ful to his read­ers. I appre­ci­ate his wise and frank words.

And then there was a post on the Per­son­al­ist Project’s web­site titled “Over­com­ing Cler­i­cal­ism”. I will only quote a small por­tion address­ing cler­i­cal­ism, which I have edit­ed. Katie van Schai­jik wrote:

Hom­i­lies that seem addressed to a con­gre­ga­tion of fourth graders. The priest is the teacher; we are the chil­dren. He tells a cutesy anec­dote or two, then gives us lit­tle expla­na­tions and instruc­tions designed to make the faith acces­si­ble for begin­ners. Noth­ing in the tone or con­tent express­es a due aware­ness of the fact that the church is like­ly full of mature Catholics, many of whom are high­ly edu­cat­ed in their faith—some more edu­cat­ed than the priests (and dea­cons). They don’t need instruc­tion, but preach­ing of the kind Pope Fran­cis calls for in the Gospel of Joy.

.….….….…. Some lay Catholics need instruc­tion. But nobody needs patron­iz­ing; no adults should be addressed as if they’re chil­dren. And all Catholics, regard­less of our lev­el of matu­ri­ty and knowl­edge need good preach­ing. Good preach­ing, like the Scrip­tures it’s about, should be “shal­low enough for an ant to wade in and deep enough for an ele­phant to swim in.”

One of the prob­lems we’re deal­ing with, though, is that an alarm­ing num­ber of priests come across as seri­ous cas­es of arrest­ed devel­op­ment. They don’t seem to have matured prop­er­ly as human beings. I hope the Arch­bish­op will find a way to address this prob­lem at the sem­i­nary and beyond. Among my sug­ges­tions would be to encour­age much more inter­ac­tion between priests and laity on the lev­el of true friend­ship.

I iden­ti­fied with hear­ing a fourth grade lev­el homi­ly. It’s not always the case in my parish, but it hap­pens enough. And I don’t know about the arrest­ed devel­op­ment being ram­pant. I’m not a psy­chol­o­gist. But I can def­i­nite­ly see the point of inter­ac­tion between priests and laity on a lev­el of true friend­ship. In my expe­ri­ence, this is where many priests will go through the motions, and say all the right things, but nev­er tru­ly let down their guard. They are friend-ly , but not a friend. The priest shares his pres­ence, but not his true self.

For­ma­tors talk about attract­ing well-round­ed, intel­li­gent, high­ly edu­cat­ed men to the priest­hood. Some­how when I read their assess­ments of their newest can­di­dates, they sound more like snob­bish brags anx­ious to cul­ti­vate and adver­tise an ‘intel­lec­tu­al’ machis­mo. I get the feel­ing that that aspect is most impor­tant, rather than nur­tur­ing and inspir­ing virtue in these men.  But what do I know? These days an awful lot of peo­ple abide by the adage “If it works, don’t fix it”. Maybe that’s the case here, but I have to wonder—is it real­ly work­ing?

So thought I’d share the thoughts that have been on my mind this last month. I swear I dreamed of these things over and over when I was sick! They just stayed with me. But I am glad I was com­pelled to do the read­ing. And there is so much more, I’ll save it for anoth­er time.

Devil in the Dryer ?

9-1Gone for over a month-and I come back with such silli­ness. That’s fine, I need a break from the seri­ous stuff !

In a way , this is still a seri­ous mat­ter. My niece, who has MS, is about to become a moth­er. The baby, a lit­tle boy, is due to arrive on July 11. There was a baby show­er in ear­ly April. I had cro­cheted a beau­ti­ful mul­ti­col­ored afghan in fluffy yarn for the baby. The after­noon before the show­er, as is my cus­tom, I decid­ed to wash and dry the afghan. I have a dog and a cat and I just think it is cour­te­ous to wash the gift item, so it will be free of ani­mal hair. Also, fab­ric soft­en­er lends a nice scent.

Now I’ve done many, many baby blan­kets with this fluffy yarn, washed them with no prob­lem. The yarn label states “machine wash­able and dryable”. But that evening in April, I removed the afghan from the dry­er and was stunned. First, it had stretched to about one and a half times its cor­rect size. As a result of this, all the stitch­es were loose and stringy-look­ing. Then the beau­ti­ful col­ors had lost their inten­si­ty because they were so spread apart. It looked dingy. The yarn, which nor­mal­ly is nub­by and irreg­u­lar in a cozy way, turned wispy and ragged. I was so upset!

Luck­i­ly, I had stopped at a local shop and picked up a few lit­tle extras for the baby ear­li­er that day. Those became my main gift at the show­er. I wrote a note to my niece explain­ing what had hap­pened. And I said anoth­er afghan would be forth­com­ing.

I real­ly want­ed to do the same pat­tern, but decid­ed I should choose a dif­fer­ent one- but using the same nor­mal­ly love­ly yarn. I had to order some more yarn. A week lat­er it arrived and I was anx­ious to get start­ed.  But then I became very ill and my arms ached so much, I was not able to do a darn thing! After three weeks, I felt bet­ter  and I final­ly was able to start the blan­ket. I com­plet­ed it in three days; I was very pleased with how it turned out.

So again, I decid­ed to wash the blan­ket. I actu­al­ly prayed as I placed it in my wash­er on the “del­i­cate” cycle with luke­warm water. I left out the fab­ric soft­en­er. Lat­er I held my breath as I removed the blan­ket from the wash­er. It looked just fine! I was so hap­py. I put it in the dry­er with a big fluffy tow­el to help pre­vent any pilling. And I added a fab­ric soft­en­er sheet.…..and I think that was my mis­take.

Twen­ty min­utes lat­er, I pulled out anoth­er rag­gy, beat-up afghan. My heart sank. I was beside myself. I could have cried, but I also was angry. It had to have been either the fab­ric soft­en­er sheet or the dry­er itself. As I said ear­li­er, I’ve washed this yarn before — with­out a prob­lem. I’ve used fab­ric soft­en­er every time. So, maybe it was just the dryer.….I am tempt­ed to call it the demon­ic dry­er. Found the per­fect pic­ture to illus­trate this-haha. I’d show you pic­tures of the two hideous afghans, but I think most peo­ple would have a hard time believ­ing they were ever pret­ty.

So now I have start­ed again. Same yarn,different pat­tern. I’ve actu­al­ly chuck­led see­ing reviews of the yarn stat­ing “wash­es and dries like a dream”. More like a night­mare!!! I find the pos­si­bil­i­ty of fac­ing the same dry­er expe­ri­ence scary. But maybe the third time will be the charm. And hey, it’s a Mys­ti­cal num­ber!   My niece is wait­ing, prob­a­bly think­ing she will get noth­ing from me. I am so irked that my lack of a gift comes across as dis­cour­tesy, when real­ly it has been com­plete­ly demor­al­iz­ing for me. Plus there is the fact of all the work involved, going down the drain. Yes, it is work I love to do , but work nonethe­less!

Say a prayer for me!

Patience gains all things”- Tere­sa de Ávi­la

The Words That Guide Us

Emulating Julian of Norwich?
Emu­lat­ing Julian of Nor­wich?

Words can inspire and move. Words can teach and relay wis­dom. Words can also sow con­fu­sion and dis­cord. In par­tic­u­lar, the words of a preach­er in a homi­ly are sup­posed to be cho­sen with care -and be helped along, God will­ing — by the Spir­it. But, I’ve got to won­der at times. I’ve heard many, many won­der­ful things from the pul­pit. I’ve also heard some ridicu­lous pro­nounce­ments, spo­ken as near-dog­ma, some unthink­ing, hurt­ful gen­er­al­iza­tions, and some rep­e­ti­tious per­son­al themes, pre­sent­ed as the truth. Because I want to vent a bit, this post will be about the neg­a­tive stuff.

We, the faith­ful, are right­ly chas­tised for say­ing things that are insen­si­tive and hurt­ful to oth­ers . Yet our priests may do the same thing, espe­cial­ly from the pul­pit. Many times, though, the priests pos­sess that ele­ment of author­i­ty and holi­ness that may make us feel reluc­tant to reject, ques­tion or crit­i­cize their words.

Even some­one like Father Michael had his “bad days”. Yes, Father M was most­ly excel­lent as a preach­er, but some­times he just blew it. When this hap­pened, it was just a turn of phrase here and there-but to me, a few real­ly stood out: One time he began his homi­ly describ­ing the return of some­one who’d been away from the faith for a while. He talked about the man’s pro­fes­sion­al back­ground and then declared “Oh, he was mar­ried, but the mar­riage was over. It had been over for a long time.” I was sur­prised by the flip­pan­cy of a Catholic priest using the words “the mar­riage was over” . I know that this is how our soci­ety would describe it, but I felt sad­dened and dis­ap­point­ed that a priest would refer to a mar­riage with prob­lems this way. I instinc­tive­ly felt empa­thy for the many, many couples(some sure­ly there in church) who strug­gle through the bad times, to keep their mar­riages togeth­er. I thought these words were so thought­less; they dis­tract­ed me from hear­ing the rest of the homi­ly.

Anoth­er time Father Michael was speak­ing about how he per­son­al­ly had the most trou­ble keep­ing his vow of obe­di­ence. In the course of explain­ing this he said “Sure, we all strug­gle with celiba­cy.”  Ok — we know celiba­cy is choos­ing to be unmar­ried and chaste. I think Father meant chasti­ty, but what­ev­er, once again he was flip about this-which set the crude tone for many loud and inap­pro­pri­ate con­ver­sa­tions he con­duct­ed in the vestibule after Mass that day.

Then there was the time in the gospel where Jesus told of  get­ting the ox or don­key out of the pit on the Sab­bath. Father Michael gave a few more exam­ples show­ing com­mon sense or kind­ness in con­flict with ‘the rules’. He con­clud­ed his homi­ly with a big grin say­ing “And so you see, my dear broth­ers and sis­ters, love ALWAYS trumps the law.” I looked up at him grin­ning there and just shook my head. We lat­er had a dis­cus­sion about this in our meet­ing. I told him I felt his gen­er­al­iza­tion sound­ed nice, but was very mis­lead­ing.  I gave him my own exam­ples of how peo­ple, espe­cial­ly young peo­ple, could be influ­enced by a state­ment like that. Father M went on and and on about how  ‘we know Jesus was a man of the law’. And I said “Yes, of course , but you nev­er said that !!!”  He was very upset, but he final­ly got the mes­sage. But those hear­ing the homi­ly?  We’ll nev­er know.

Anoth­er priest in our parish seems to have a pen­chant for using the words “anger, bit­ter­ness and resent­ment” in hom­i­lies. He often talks in his hom­i­lies about our hearts being full of those three emo­tions. It is a recur­ring theme that gets tired. Of course he always encour­ages us to rid our­selves of these atti­tudes. As a per­son who some­times feels all three, I’d wel­come a lit­tle instruc­tion on com­bat­ing them and a lit­tle com­pas­sion for what caused them in the first place.Scolding doesn’t do it for me. It’s just not that sim­ple to say “Be gone !”  I think I am ripe for inspired instruc­tion.

The same priest seems to equate an out­go­ing, chat­ty, ‘peo­ple per­son’  with the ide­al Chris­t­ian. He talks in hom­i­lies about how we should all be of ser­vice, and seems to feel that social­iz­ing in any way pos­si­ble is the only sure way to the King­dom. He doesn’t seem to under­stand that there are oth­er, less ‘in your face’ ways to prac­tice one’s faith.You know-like prayer-which he hard­ly ever men­tions! If I had been alive in Christ’s time on earth and per­ceived Him as an over-the-top extro­vert, I would NOT have fol­lowed Him.  Not everyone’s a par­ty ani­mal. That sure­ly can’t be ‘the Way’.

And anoth­er priest tends to re-use the same hom­i­lies for some of the big­ger feasts and solem­ni­ties. You would think he’d at least change the jokes. Those make the repeat hom­i­lies more rec­og­niz­able! I remem­ber the jokes. He also has a ten­den­cy to refer to the Prodi­gal Son sto­ry a lot. He talks about the old­er son ‘cre­at­ing his own hell’ by delib­er­ate­ly sep­a­rat­ing him­self from his father and brother.Good one to fall back on, I guess.

Well, that’s enough com­plain­ing, though I may do it again some­time as the Spir­it moves me! FYI- the pos­i­tives in preach­ing real­ly do out­weigh the neg­a­tives-most of the time.

 

Sensing the Spirit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Father Michael would have turned 62 today.