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!

 

A Simple Song

Feel­ing nos­tal­gic today.  In the ‘70s , I often lis­tened to Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass”. I became very fond of sev­er­al of the songs. “A Sim­ple Song” is so love­ly; it is my favorite. I liked it so much that I chose to have it sung as part of my wed­ding Mass. It’s one of those songs that reg­u­lar­ly goes through my mind every oth­er day or so. It is like an ‘ongo­ing prayer’ for me. The say­ing goes “He who sings, prays twice”. The beau­ty of the song makes that so easy!

When Father Michael was bat­tling his can­cer, he often spoke of his dif­fi­cul­ty in sleep­ing. He’d tell me he’d been up at three or four in the morn­ing, unable to feel any peace or relax. Some­times I’d wake up, usu­al­ly about 3:30 am and just feel that Father M was also awake. I would text him then, most times with some of the love­ly words of this song with its ori­gin in the Psalms. I often wished I could have some­how com­mu­ni­cat­ed the song itself to Father Michael. I know he would have found it sooth­ing to hear. It was so appro­pri­ate for Father Michael.….Blessed is the man who loves the Lord…and walks in His ways.

We are so blessed to have our holy priests.

This ver­sion of the song is from a 1981 revival of “Mass”. Enjoy!