River of Life

Then the angel showed me the river of life giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down middle of the street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.                                                                      Rev.22:1-2   New American Bible St. Joseph Edition

Kneeling in the pew after receiving the Eucharist two Sundays ago, I heard the voices of a small choir singing an old hymn, Shall We Gather at the River. Without warning emotions burst through my composure and tears streamed down my cheeks. I had not heard the hymn in a long time; it was a favorite of my grandmother who sang a number of her favorites during each day as she worked sweeping, baking, weeding, picking raspberries, watering her Gloxinia plants etc. She passed on some years ago.

For the first three years of my life my mom and I lived with my grandparents on a typical family farm in Pennsylvania while my father fought in the second World War. I spent summers there working with Grandma and a bond remained between us even now.

This past Sunday although hymns as I recalled were not repeated the next Sunday, the hymn was sung again at the same place, after Communion. And though with less intensity feelings from deep within me caused the tears to flow once again. Perhaps it was that I left home in my twenties and no longer spent nights at my grandmother’s. I learned some years later she never forgave me as she spent nights alone in the farmhouse.

My tears were not only of sadness but of hope. We would meet again one day on the banks of that river healed and reunited with all those we love. The hymn was also the beginning of piecing a number of connections together and I will attempt to convey what I discovered in my next post.

Tea Time: Conclusion

The woman talked about her daughter who was inclined to pursue some sort of art, exactly what escapes me now. However, she mentioned a book I vaguely remembered hearing about before. It was called The Artist’s Way. She said her daughter read the book and followed some of the suggestions for increasing creativity including writing five pages first thing every morning, just random thoughts that came to mind without thinking, and also taking a day off for doing something alone like visiting an art museum. It was called an artist’s date.

We had been talking for an hour or more. As they gathered up the chairs and tables, etc., I invited them to my home but they were eager to be on their way to another campgrownd in NJ. The husband said he place was known for a number of birds living there. They in turn invited me to come visit them if I ever went to Ireland.

They gave me a card which included their telephone number, address and the website about their experiences forageing. I did look up the website and also found a library copy of The Artists Way. For some weeks I wrote the morning pageswhich I found the other day.

I do believe things happen for a reason. Sometimes it is apparent at the time or a while later; but sometimes we never know the why of it until we meet again in an eternal place beyond time. Although it would be ‘craic’ to join them for baking cakes one day

Tea Time: Continued

If you were a bird flying above the church parking lot that summer morning, you would see the three of us sitting next to the travel van in folding chairs, sipping tea and breaking bread together. The lot was devoid of other vehicles. The couple came from Ireland. This was their last day in the states and somehow they were spending time in this out of the way place on their way to another park where the husband planned to photo graph birds.

My notes taken concerning this chance meeting are missing; these are memories salvaged from the computer of my mind. Though incomplete I feel they are worth noting. The wife was talkative and cheerful and quick to reveal her husband was an atheist though he went to Mass with her that morning. He immediately said, “I am a scientist” as if that explained everything. Without thinking I commented, “That is all the more reason you should believe.”

He remained silent as his wife began talking about her thoughts on the Catholic Church. She took a more liberal stance on the issues surrounding our Church than I held. Still we expressed our own views listening to each other. The two of us also discussed politics as well. but I do not recall exactly what we said. We had violated the rules of casual polite conversing __with no outbursts or arguments.

We talked about our personal lives: our children, travel experiences, hobbies. They were quite involved with scavenging in wild areas of their country including one particular unpopulated island.  Her husband commented on their work in that field. They had been to Medjugorji and the womam spoke about the ‘craic’ they had there. In fact she also used that word referring to the cake baking socials she had with friends at home. It was  Irish slang for fun.

Medjugorji is a place in Bosnia Herzegovina where the Blessed Mother has been appearing since June 24, 1981 to six children, now adults still receiving messages from Her. I happen to belong to a Medjugorji Rosary group and know several people who visited there many times. They used the word joy for their experiences at the site of the apparitions; still not officially approved by the Church but certainly known for the good fruit, including conversions, coming from pilgrimages there.

Although this was (as of now) a one time meeting, somehow I felt connected to these two people from the Emerald Isle.

Please bear with me for one more Tea Time post….

 

Tea time in the Parking Lot

Time is precious and in planning our day, we often weigh our options. For myself and many others choices are difficult at times. This was the case for me one morning a few years ago. Although I was drawn to attend weekday Mass, the list of things on my agenda for that day somewhat overwhelmed me.Yt in the end I went to the 8:30 Mass at my parish. After all it lasted less than forty minutes. There were a scant dozen or so people scattered around the sanctuary most of whom were regular attendees. I noticed one couple I had never seen before seated to the far right of me.

Our priest was fairly new to our small country parish. He used an i-pad for notes on his homilies which were always inspiring. He was rather aloof and holy, I thought, and young. After Mass I left hurridly to begin the tasks neatly itemized on the paper pad in my pocket. As I walked toward my car, the strangers were just ahead of me strolling toward a medium size travel van. Being a curious soul, I said hello to them and they turned around returning my greeting with a smile.

My list evaporated as I asked, “Are you on vacation?”

The woman who seemed about in her forties said, “We’re staying at the state park down the road. First we’ll have our tea. Please join us.”

I detected an accent undeniably Irish. The couple intriuged me and I rationalized a few minutes for tea would be a welcome respite. Also, they were alone in the USA, the land of friendliness and good will.

They were taking folding chairs out of the van’s side door. “Thank you, that is nice of you. I’d love to join you.” Being a would-be reporter, a myriad of questions filled my head as I sat down and the husband produced a thermos and small table from the vehicle. His wife set out cups and paper plates and began slicing a delicious looking bread as the man handed her a hand labled jar of jam.

At the other end of the parking lot, I saw the tall, slim figure of our priest in his traditional black cassock look in our direction before entering the back door of the rectory. I wondered what he was thinking of the tea time in the parking lot.

More to come…

Genevieve

As I walked into the room a stench of an indescribable odor struck me. Yet the horrid smell did not prepare me for the first sight of Genevieve. She was sitting up in bed with her short black curly hair neatly combed. Her olive complexion and features made me think she was of Italian or perhaps Greek nationality. The floral print coverlet was drawn up to her waist.

I had come bringing the Eucharist and realizing my purpose in being there,  her face lit up. She immediately held out her hands making a throne on which to receive Jesus an acceptable alternative to receiving on the tongue. Perhaps she chose this option because on her left cheek there was a black growth composed of grapelike lumps about the size of a tangerine__ the source of the smell that overwhelmed me.

In the quiet moment while she consumed the Body Of Christ I saw several prayer cards strewn next to her on the coverlet. She remained quiet and I respected her silence. Leaving the room I noticed a framed photo of three teenagers on her dresser and  thought she was praying for them.

I visited Genevieve several times after that and each time she held out her hands to receive the ultimate food for her soul. On my last, visit lingering for a time, I said, “You are beautiful.” And indeed she was. She said flatly, “I am not beautiful.” We looked each other in the eye and I somehow knew she realized I meant what I said.

My short time substituting for the regular Eucharistic Minister at the nursing home ended. I never saw Genevieve again. Months later I visited a Catholic church in a nearby town and saw in the bulletin a Mass was being offered in her memory.  I still wonder about her story, her faith and the young people in the photo. I believe I had met a Saint.

Empty Nest: Full Heart

       Inspired writing is a gift that comes freely, one thought springing from another prose becoming poetry pouring out love and truth from the heart. In the summer of 1998 when our daughter was nearly ten years old, the following piece slipped easily onto the page.

On Little Birds and Children

The news at seven am is hard to take. Drugs, abortion, wars, and some woman in politcs saying,”I can’t tell someone what to do with her own body.”

Air, sun, help! I open the door leading to our deck and glance into a hanging basket of New Guinea Impatience. There is a small nest in there. On tip-toe I see two white eggs. I smile, almost chuckle to myself. They would be my peace for the next two weeks of DC-10 crashes and more politicians saying, “I’m pro-choice,” staying safely in the middle.

They finally hatch, two rather bare grey babies. With Mom and Dad coming back and forth never abandoning the twins. Feeding, the two sound like a dozen. Soon they grow and gain their feathers as we all watch hoping to see them fly.

One morning I open the door to find an empty nest. My own child looks up at me and says,”Mommy, birds grow up sooner than children.”

She is ten and grew five inches in a week I think. When she flies off will some politician say,”Your mommy had the right to choose. She chose to let you be and one day fly as little birdies do.”

The Storm

Sometimes when a poem or scripture is referred to very often, we are numb to its meaning and truth. For me Psalm 23 was like that; so often read at funerals, I failed to reverence and reflect upon the words. Recently in times of loss and illness I revisited Psalm 23 with an open heart and realized the profound truth in this poem of David.

There is another familiar poem and painting, Footprints, that in the past I have passed by as commonplace. Yet, again one day I looked and saw how it reflects our journey here in this precious life we live and the Presence of the One whose children we are, in times of joy but also adversity. This poem is a reflection of the latter.

The Storm

The storm rages about us, around us
Sometimes we succumb to its terror
Shrinking, turning away from the light
Yet in the midst of its fury
We cry out to Him the author of life
And question: Why is it so?
In the misery of sickness, of sorrow
Of abandonment: He speaks
My child do you not have faith?
Have you forgotten the times
I saved you from ruin
When you cried out to Me:
Where are you as the waves engulf me?
He answers: Be still, my child!
And the seas calm as the storm ceases.