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.

A Priest Forever

This will be an odd post. It’s about my imag­i­na­tion and my dreams. So, no one’s real­i­ty but mine. I will note: I vis­it­ed Father Michael most recent­ly at St Pius. Each time I came by, he was dressed casu­al­ly in jeans and sweater or khakis and flan­nel shirt and on his weak­er days , paja­ma bot­toms  or sweats. Since Father Michael died, I have often recalled sev­er­al of our last con­ver­sa­tions. And I pic­ture the scene, most­ly at the St Pius Pri­o­ry par­lor, just exact­ly as it was. And I recall Father Michael just as he was-sit­ting or stand­ing- as we talked. But I  had the sense that some­thing was dif­fer­ent in the mem­o­ries; I strug­gled to put my fin­ger on it. Final­ly I real­ized what it was. In every mem­o­ry, I see Father Michael dressed in his habit, most times even wear­ing the Domini­can black cap­pa! There is one mem­o­ry where Father is stand­ing in front of me, vehe­ment­ly lec­tur­ing me, and he is garbed in a beau­ti­ful gold cha­suble. It shim­mers and sparkles in spots- stun­ning. In anoth­er, I clear­ly see him sit­ting in the reclin­er with his cap­pa all about him, a la Darth Vad­er, look­ing pleased as punch-and so ele­gant and serene.…and healthy.  And Father is say­ing “1981, Ah, I was just at the begin­ning of my Domini­can life”. It had been my son’s birth­day and Father asked me the year he was born.

When I final­ly real­ized what I was see­ing, I tried to make sense of it. It had nev­er hap­pened pre­vi­ous­ly. I have always thought of Father Michael as first and fore­most a holy priest. His priest­ly char­ac­ter was so vis­i­ble. So I feel like God blessed my mem­o­ries in this way to recall every minute with Father as being in the pres­ence of an extra­or­di­nary priest . It is a lit­tle thing -but so sig­nif­i­cant. I cher­ish this grace of see­ing Father Michael robed as a ‘priest for­ev­er’.

On a lighter note, after I wrote my “Sols­bury Hill” entry, I had a dream. I saw Father Michael in his habit-there he was, a vision in black and white -Irish step-danc­ing to “Sols­bury Hill”. He cut quite a rug.

When Father  Michael was alive, part of my prayer rou­tine was to say a per­son­al­ized ver­sion of the Divine Mer­cy chap­let, nam­ing Father Michael in each prayer. After he died, I went back to the reg­u­lar chap­let. It cer­tain­ly went a lot faster! Then late­ly, I’ve had a few recita­tions where I ‘slipped’ into my old habit, say­ing Father Michael’s name in the prayer.  It amused me because I couldn’t imag­ine Father Michael need­ing my prayers any­more. I was sure he’d gone right to Heav­en.… until I had this dream.……

I saw Father Michael and he gave me a hug. I remem­ber noth­ing at all about the set­ting, just him. I thanked him for help­ing me and oth­ers who had prayed to him for this or that . (I think so many of us feel we now tru­ly know a saint in heav­en who pays atten­tion to us.) Any­way, Father Michael was so hap­py to have helped. He said he was very busy. I said “It sounds like you’re work­ing up there!” And he said “Well, the Lord has gra­cious­ly allowed me to be half­time in Heav­en and half­time in Pur­ga­to­ry”. I said “you’re still in Pur­ga­to­ry????!!!!” Father said “Yes, but there were just so many prayers and requests to me,that they want­ed to let me loose to start tak­ing care of them- so I ‘m doing it half­time”. I said “maybe the Lord will let you do many things at one time”. He laughed and said “Well , just keep pray­ing that Divine Mer­cy chap­let for me, I need it”.  That was it.

Iron­ic about the half­time-at least he doesn’t have to com­mute on the Ike!

Yep, I know,crazy.  I am doing the spe­cial chap­let though, at least for a while.