Today is the second anniversary of Father Michael’s death. And it is Easter Sunday- a great day to reflect on the reality of everlasting life and love.
This past week , I have revisited all the sad and poignant moments of the last few weeks of Father’s life. Funny how those things never get old.…and really never will. For some reason, I’ve recalled how very often in the last few months of his life, Father M would tell me he didn’t take some of his meds. At first, I assumed that he’d just forgotten. (He’d mentioned a few times that he’d wakened at night in terrible pain- and would realize he’d forgotten to apply his pain patch.) So I thought he was absent- minded about it. So dutifully, I’d tell him to go over the pharmacy instructions and that maybe he could make up the doses on some pills.
But later on, I noticed that he’d tell me that he didn’t take the pills and then kind of look at me in a challenging way. I started to respond with “Well, that is your choice Father” or “It’s your life,Father M”.I never asked him for any explanation. I tried to respect his feelings and privacy. I think it was Father’s way of accepting his coming death and also to be truly present to those who loved him.Very often when I visited, he’d drift off to sleep in his chair. I ‘d think “At least he’s relaxed.… he must need the sleep”. But Father M would wake up and be so apologetic; he clearly felt he should be awake and alert. So I could see his reasoning -some of the pills knocked him out.
There was one time, when he’d told me that he hadn’t taken the meds. I responded in the usual way. Surprising me, he got angry and said “But I want to live! I need the pills to live!” I think he wanted a pep talk about complete healing and hope–and I didn’t come through for him. It was hard to know then how to be the best friend that I could.
But Father Michael was sacrificing his comfort and perhaps some of his remaining life-to “be with” me and so many others who came to spend time with him.… to have the pleasure of his company.
I pestered Father Michael for a long while with many questions I had about his life, his vocation, his faith. I received very few answers. Father would say, rather nonchalantly, “It is hard for me to talk about myself because I truly am ‘other-centered’ “. Well, I didn’t completely buy it because I observed many sides to Father Michael; he could be selfish -was not perfect. But this ‘no medication’ thing was again one of the ‘little things’ Father did-a small way which proved that he was more concerned about others than himself.
At one point, again in those last few months of Father Michael’s life, I started to notice a bit of distancing. He started to speak and make observations in a more hardened way. It was kind of chilling to see this behavior in such a kind, sensitive and holy person. I remember writing to him about it. I felt that he was showing the colder influence of his counselors and perhaps other confidants. I told him outright “Father M, whoever you are listening to, they DONOTLOVE the way you do, they are not you. Please be yourself.”
Prior to those last months, though, Father Michael was the very best example of care, concern and love for others.The finest I’ve ever known. The man of the bottomless heart.
“Life’s for the living and death’s for the dead–and the depth of a heart is a fathom unknown”.—————Buffy Sainte-Marie
Yesterday I was looking at a video of a Dominican event that took place in March, 2013. At the end of the video the camera panned the group of people in attendance. Then it focused on some Dominican friars standing in the back of the room. And there he was, Father Michael, holding court just like he used to do at St Vincent, hugging and kissing up a storm. There was audio, too, and I could faintly hear Father’s voice. Gosh, it brought tears to my eyes to see, as real again, a common scene I have remembered and cherished. Sad to say, they were still tears of sadness, not joy. I watched the clip twice and and then decided to just leave it alone. It’s not surprising to me that these ‘little things’ still hold a very deep meaning. Later I remembered that I had actually called Father M that day, wanting to know if he was ready to eat some pies after completing his chemo. Well, he was out of state, he said, but he was anxious for pie upon his return to St Pius. It was exactly a year and a day before he died.
I want to focus on the positive. So I’ve decided that I will share some early memories of Father Michael-before his cancer diagnosis. I know that I have mentioned that I came back to my parish to discuss some spiritual issues with a priest. It was not a matter of confession; there was more to it. After a long delay, I approached Father M and he was very welcoming. First I emailed Father, then I visited him in the sacristy, then set up an appointment. This is about my first appointment.
I made the appointment about a week before and was a little nervous, yet felt I had found the right person. I was so impressed with Father Michael, I thought “I just know he’s going to talk about the grace of Reconciliation”. I was sure he would suggest that to me. I thought if I made my confession to Father Michael, I’d be so emotionally spent that I wouldn’t be able to talk about all the other stuff. So that morning,after Mass at St Vincent, I went to a close-by parish for Confession. I knew the priests were available right after Mass. So funny, because I think I felt like I had to cleanse my soul before I dared face the very holy Father Michael. And yes, he did bring up Reconciliation that day!
Well, I was on time for the appointment, Father Michael was a few minutes late. I knew he had been with a prominent member of our parish who had passed away. The receptionist had been on the phone “getting the word out”. When Father arrived, we went into his office and sat down. Even though I had eaten, my stomach had been rumbling away-probably nerves. I decided to just be open about it and apologize for the noise ahead of time. Well, Father M laughed and said “Oh you don’t know about me and my stomach issues. Girl, you and I will just sit here and gurgle at each other!” So that broke the awkwardness for me! Father Michael then started to give me a history of his stomach issues,the current ones (which many ladies of the parish knew well-and discussed freely) . He then told of the bleeding ulcer he had in Denver. He was Dominican Novice Master at the time. He said the doctors had told him he had “24 hours to live”. He claimed he told them “Good, no drama, don’t worry about notifying my family”. He never said how long it took him to recuperate or if his family were ever notified. I asked what he thought caused the ulcer and he said “I kind of let everything get away from me”. I didn’t feel comfortable asking him to elaborate, though now I wish I had. In later conversations, he did say that whenever his stomach would give him trouble, he’d just stop eating,sometimes for a few days. He talked about possibly having lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome and multiple bowel obstructions. Father M was very frank about this stuff- though he never mentioned a doctor’s diagnosis. And– he also alluded to some regret about not being stricter as a Novice Master-“when I hear how some of them are now.”
So after the stomach discussion Father asked me about myself. He was so careful in how he asked about education. It was clear to me that he was leery of offending someone (especially a woman) by assuming her level of education was lower than she had achieved. I’ll bet he’d made that faux pas a few times! The caution was actually very charming. But I only have a B.A. from Loyola-so he had nothing to fear. That’s pretty average. Then Father asked more questions about possibly stressful situations in my life. I recognized all the queries as being pretty standard about death, divorce, moving, job, abuse, addiction. Father was very gentle and kind and tentative in his questioning. I think he just assumed I was having marital problems. He mentioned annulments and remarriage a few times. Well, my issue was none of these, but it took me three or four appointments before I felt comfortable telling him. I didn’t want to be discourteous and shut down all his kind effort, so I went along with it.
Of course we talked about other things, most notably family, Reconciliation and the Eucharist. But most interestingly, Father Michael gave me a little lecture on the power of the sense of touch. He explained that when he was a freshman at Dalhousie University, he and his older brother had attended a seminar or lecture by a very famous scientist. The lecture was all about the sense of touch and how important and meaningful it was. I found myself thinking “I am a wife and mother of three, why is he telling me this? If nothing else, I am fully aware of how important this is for bonding mother and baby.” Well, Father talked for over ten minutes on this subject. I was fascinated at his great emotion in relaying his thoughts with such conviction. Father ended his talk telling me of the new widow he had just left. He described poignantly how she had stroked her dead husband’s arm over and over. And he showed me just how she did this. He choked up and teared up as he described his awe being in the presence of such a great love.Quite an unexpected turn in our talk, but as I grew to know Father better, I learned that using touch was a hallmark of Father Michael’s being.
Then we spoke of the Eucharist. I’ve written about this awhile back. For some reason Father Michael was impressed by my words that day. I still wish I could remember what I’d said. In any case, Father M started talking about the way people received the Eucharist , people who would just grab IT from him, those who approached disrespectfully, those who would receive and just walk out the door. He lamented that poor catechesis had resulted in people ‘who didn’t have a clue’. He was truly sad about this. Then Father shared the experience of celebrating Mass in Canada with those very close to him. He quickly gave a rundown of those who were no longer practicing Catholics and those extended family who belonged to different denominations. With big tears rolling down his cheeks, he said “I feel so bad about their receiving Communion, but I don’t know what to say.” Wow, was I surprised about that!!!! After all he was a priest-and a good and holy one- who wouldn’t listen to him? I was concerned and empathetic, seeing again this great emotion show so quickly. I said “Father Michael, I can understand that you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings or start a war, but maybe one of your brothers could explain this in a non-hurtful way”. Father just shook his head, he felt truly helpless about the situation. Father was unique in openly showing his vulnerability and I was privileged to see this in significant matters of faith. When he visited Canada, I prayed that he might have peace about this.
In my earliest posts, I’ve written about other aspects of this meeting. I won’t repeat them here.The meeting ended most pleasantly. And I felt that God had given me a great gift in leading me to Father Michael. It is so nice to reminisce. So much was so meaningful.
It’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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!!!!
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.
When 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
St Therese’s quote is pretty straightforward. I think it sums up the best in Father Michael’s life: he was consistently a truly loving person. Not that he never calculated. No, he certainly did -and there were some not-so-fine moments that I witnessed. But they were few and far between — a small reminder to me that all of us, even very holy people like Father Michael, are still sinners.
But the bulk of what I saw and heard of Father Michael was unmistakably loving. He once told me “In the course of my life and my priesthood, I have found that 99.9% of all people are good . And I do believe that all people are good.” I listened to him and didn’t interrupt or comment, but realized how different that was from my belief . I was more into “looking for the good” in folks and not usually expecting to find it. In my heart, I didn’t feel that most people were good. I kind of saw them as flawed but decent, well-meaning for the most part-but not simply as “good”. I was (and still am) wary, reserved and cautious. I considered how different my approach to others would be if I believed with all my heart that they were truly, unquestionably, good. How comfortable I would be ‚assured that others only thought the kindest and best things about me! Knowing that I was dealing with good people guided by the truth would be reassuring and reinforce the positive traits in my personality.Something to think about.
I considered how Father Michael might incorporate this attitude into his personality and life experience. And I remembered an incident in a restaurant where the young lady taking his order assured Father Michael that he’d be able to self-serve cranberry juice. Given the type of fast food place it was, I had my doubts. Sure enough, there was no cranberry juice on tap. Father M chose lemonade instead. But I was a little indignant and said “You asked that girl specifically about the cranberry juice and she answered you specifically!” I was considering whether the place perhaps had bottled juice stored elsewhere-and that we should go back and ask her. But Father Michael just smiled at me and said sweetly “Oh she’s overworked and underpaid, don’t worry about it”. Well, shut my mouth! But I can see here not only Father M’s patience and charity in his empathy for the worker, but also his will and kindness to ignore the bad-the girl’s discourtesy and her lie. A little thing again-with potential.
Not long after, I had lunch again with Father Michael. It was one of the most interesting and informative conversations I’d ever had with him. We talked uninterrupted for over two hours. At the very end Father Michael said “We’ve got to talk again. I want to tell you my idea that will solve all the problems in the Church.” So I was thinking “He waits till now to mention that ? “ I wondered if he was joking. I hadn’t even mentioned any problems in the Church! I thought “Well, he had to have shared that with his brothers already, I’m sure” And I thought, if so, it couldn’t be something very obvious or revolutionary, could it? Dominicans were still being their Dominican selves. Now I’ll never know. But I have wondered if Father Michael’s seeing all people as truly good was somehow part of the problem-solving.
I like the idea that in choosing to always see and expect only the good in people, Father Michael was expressing his longing and love for God.….and preparing the way.
“Behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”
It’s the end of 2014 and I’ve been battling the flu through Christmas and I’m still battling. This is a hard one to kick. And I find myself thinking of Father Michael during the holidays last year. He had held up the idea of a special time coming in December. He would mention it often;he hoped to have an extended time of feeling more like himself . This was post healing service and in many ways, Father M felt that he was doing better after the service. He was so hopeful.
I recently found his text thanking me for my Christmas gift to him. Father M was so delighted he’d be able to buy a work of art. He mentioned the painting he loved of the rowboat ‘that will one day take me to meet God’.
Father Michael never got me any presents, but would share things that were incredibly special with me. During the holidays last year he painstakingly made me tea and called me over to look at his computer monitor. There he had a video clip from youtube all set up to show me. It had been filmed by a neighbor who was hosting the Kyte family for dinner in November 1970, within a few short weeks of the death of their mother. You can access this clip by clicking on the picture of Father Michael at 17 in the side panel on this site. In the clip, Father M is the gorgeous and vivacious redhead on the left. What a young-looking 17! I think he looks more like 14 ! Father Michael told me that his best friend at the time, Bernie, is the young man next to him. Bernie’s mom is the hostess.Father’s dad, Arthur, sits across from him. Father Michael remarked as I watched this “there we are , like a bunch of banshees!” Have no idea what he meant by that-they all seemed so sedate, well-behaved and hungry. And I do sense their cohesiveness and concern for each other. Their mother really must have been the crowning glory of that beautiful family…and she was now gone.
In the same visit, Father brought out a collage of family pictures his brother had composed . He was so happy to point out all the babies in those pictures! I wanted to really look at this collage, kind of study it. But Father had more surprises. He brought out an album, pictures of the art work which he had collected. Long before -I’d actually suggested he do this ; I was so surprised he had taken my advice!! His friend in Colorado had helped him put it together-such a kind gesture. He loved going through the pictures and explaining why each was so special to him.
And then Father brought out a Waterford crystal chalice set that had been given to him by one of his Dominican brothers. What a treat to share and admire!
So here I am, thinking of all these little things, sharing them was such a gift to me. And of course, there was the gift and kindness of Father Michael. God is so good.
“In genuine gratitude toward God man becomes beautiful. He emerges from immanence, from the confines of ego-relatedness and enters into the blissful giving of himself to God, the quintessence of all glory, into the realm of goodness and true kindness. In gratitude, man becomes great and expansive. Blessed and victorious freedom blooms in his soul.”
Just some short thoughts today.…the quote above is from the book, The Art of Living by Dietrich von Hildebrand-his essay on gratitude. I’ve had this book since the early ‘90s. I keep it bedside and continue to find new meanings and nuances in all its essays.
This quote has always been one of my favorites, but in re-reading it today, I am struck by how it captures Father Michael and his ever-present gratitude. Who can ever forget all the times Father Michael said “God is so good”? He was constantly expressing his gratitude and calling our attention to do the same.
Good and kind, great and expansive.…. beautiful. I am grateful to have seen the truth of this in Father Michael. Blooms of his soul!!!
And that brings this Shakespeare quote to mind:
“What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel! in apprehension how like a god! The beauty of the world! The paragon of animals!”
Today is the Feast of St Dominic, so the Order of Preachers is praying, preaching and.…partying. They have much to celebrate in the gift of St Dominic and his vision of a unique way for a life to serve the Lord. There is quite a legacy of Dominican saints- St Thomas Aquinas, St Albert the Great, St Catherine of Siena, St Martin de Porres, St Rose of Lima ‚to name just a few.
And of course we fortunate ones have experienced the real, grace-filled influences of many Dominican sisters and priests in our own lives.That brings me, of course,to Father Michael Kyte.….what a wonderful Dominican he was. So often he spoke with great tenderness of his Dominican brothers, the community. Father Michael told me often things like “Father Louie is so kind and always good to me”. Or “Oh Father Rick is so holy and so learned, a scholar; he reminds me of St Dominic”. Or (talking to me on the phone) “I ‘m here in the laundry room,watching one of the senior Fathers ironing his habit. I am humbled watching him as I realize he has been ironing his habit with such care and love every day for over sixty years.” Father Michael saw all the goodness and blessings in his Dominican community life.…and truly loved his brothers.
Preaching and praying were a given for Father Michael. He always claimed he was ‘no academic’ yet I know he studied and read all the time. And all of us benefited from how he shared his learning-“the fruits of contemplation”, if you will. Father Michael was a true son of St Dominic.
I read Alden Solovy’s newest poem on http://tobendlight.com this morning. It’s beautiful-about miracles- all kinds, large and small. We’ve all experienced them-gifts from our Heavenly Father. Sometimes the miracles are the special people in our lives. On this St. Dominic’s Day, I’m sharing this simple, yet exquisite poem:
Source of awe and wonder,
When did You decide
To make daily miracles so simple,
So gentle, so quiet and so small?
Did our fear of Your Voice
Echoing from the mountain top
Push You away?
Or was this Your plan all along?
To show us Your Glory
In fire and smoke,
In the parted sea,
In the darkness and in the light,
And then to draw away
So that we would
Yearn for You to be near,
So that we would yearn
For your power and might,
For Your holiness
And for Your salvation?
Or are You waiting, patiently,
To return, again, with signs
And with wonders?
Father Michael was so keenly aware of the Gift of the Holy Eucharist. We spoke of this in one our first conversations. I was talking about how much my view of the Eucharist had changed in my life. I spoke of how as a First Communicant, I was focused on meeting Jesus and having Him become part of me, a personal visit and union. Then I told of how, post Vatican II, the focus was so much on the People of God, Church as Christ’s Body and we its members, our neighbors, that union- I remember very little remaining of my childhood viewpoint. But I told Father Michael I felt that as an older person I had come back to my childhood view, but now keeping the community in the picture.
Father Michael just beamed as I spoke. I did some additional explaining of how I was thinking and Father became most serious as I talked. I wish I could remember what I’d said. Father M then stated “Well that is a beautiful explanation of amazingly sound Theology!!” with some surprise in his demeanor. I said “I know”, but wondered why he was so surprised. Father said “But you don’t realize how many people don’t have a clue!” I replied “But Father Michael, I have sixteen years of Catholic education, I should know this stuff.” He would often mention to me later, as he fought his cancer, that I was truly blessed with understanding of the Eucharist.
I was aiming to have Father Michael become my spiritual director at that point. He suggested some reading about St Charbel and to study some books on the Eucharist. We never got around to the direction because Father Michael’s cancer showed up. Father was too sick to have the meetings. For quite awhile I didn’t see Father Michael at all. What a disappointment!
But I remember Father M’s pure delight in distributing Holy Eucharist to all of us. He always smiled as we approached him, eyes gleaming. He radiated such warmth and reflected a quiet delight in giving this greatest of Gifts to us, his parish family. Today is Corpus Christi and I think of Father Michael’s love for the Eucharist. Father’s beautiful being and presence, his gentleness and holiness- all bore witness to the exquisite nourishment provided by Our Lord.
And through the same Gift, we are all still together:
‘Now with glad thanksgiving, praise Christ glorified;
He in us is present; we in him abide.
Members of his body, we in him are one;
Hail this sacred union, heav’n on earth begun!’
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.