Speaking Up

Yesterday hundreds of thousands walked from the Mall to the Supreme Court in Washington DC as I watched on EWTN streaming while comfortably sitting at my computer screen. For many years, not nearly all forty-seven, I was among the marchers. The past several years I could not make the trip which began at five am and ended somewhere around eleven pm, an exhausting yet exhilarating day.

Searching my cluttered memory vivid scenes of the various January marches whooshed through my mind and flooded over the banks of blogging, far too many words. Where to begin?

My convictions began before Roe V Wade, just when or why, I cannot say. My earliest memory that the issue of abortion was on my mind and planted in my heart was before 1973 in the late 1960’s. I worked in a hospital hematology lab and two fellow workers were discussing abortion. In hindsight I realize they had an idea of the possibility it would be legalized. These two women were strongly opposed; both were married and one could not have children.

(In my twenties at the time, my focus was work and social life, quite self centered. I had two brothers in Vietnam, the war they insisted was only a conflict. Still aside from that reality, my world was mostly ‘me’.)

Anyhow, back to the point. I joined in to their conversation and plainly and succinctly agreed with them that abortion killed a child and it was totally wrong and gravely offensive. The thing that surprised me was how surprised they were that I, ‘a fluff head’ young woman interested in ‘me’ most of the time could have such a strong conviction. In fact one of them said, “Wow, I never thought you would even know or care about this! You should really Speak Up more.” (Not her exact words but close.)

And some years later when I was married and had my first child, I did speak up, as well as, March for Life. I will continue to sort out memories in the following posts. My how I can go on…

Christmas Mystery

A few weeks ago while sitting in the doctors’s office I noticed a father walking around jiggling a tightly wrapped baby. He kept up the constant motion as the infant slept soundly. I asked how old the baby boy was; the father said two weeks. The only visible part of the child was his tiny face and black hair covering a doll like head. Actually he looked exactly like my son as a newborn. I couldn’t take my eyes away from the little guy. He seemed to be the main attraction for all of the people awaiting their turn to see the GP.

That brings us to Christmas and the mystery of the holy holiday celebrated for the past 2000 years plus. What is this fascination with a baby boy wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a feeding trough? The first visitors came from a local hillside near Bethlehem where eons ago a shepherd boy tended sheep before he became the king of Israel. They were told by angels appearing in all their heavenly glory that the Son of God was born and slept in a stable nearby.

The next visitors who came sometime later were intellectual scholars and astrologers. They studied prophesies of a star that would appear and lead them to a new King of Israel. This main attraction was revealed to the lowly shepherds in the hills of Bethlehem and the wealthy educated men from the far east; in other words to everyone.

As I looked at the baby cuddled in his father’s arms, I thought, God knew His own Son must come into the world just as every child to reveal Himself in flesh and blood, the embodiment of love.

The River Flows On: Connections

After hearing the hymn Shall We Gather at the River on Sunday I decided to google it on Monday. In reading about the hymn one article mentioned a part of it was used in a movie called Trip to Bountiful. Being an avid film buff I found the movie on my Amazon Prime and paid to watch it. Although I did not find that hymn (perhaps I just missed it somehow), another one Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling was sung repeatedly.

This led me to a daily meditation book by Sarah Young titled  Jesus Calling. The format of the book includes a short meditation and three scripture verses, one of which I will quote: I pray also that your eyes may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you…His incomparably great power for us who believe… Ephesians 1:18-20

In other words, what greater power is there than to be assured of gathering at the River of Life after death with those we love.

Note: I recommend watching the movie, Trip to Bountiful, with Geraldine Page. (also available on you-tube) and the book, Jesus Calling.

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. 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 more. 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…