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… 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.


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.

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.

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!!!!!

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!