This post will go from ridiculous to serious and back. Because that is who I am, dammit!
On Wednesday night, September 18th, my friend Fr John Blewett said a mass for me at Seton. In union with Fr Peter in Spain, who also offered his mass for me on the same day. The mass itself was beautiful, my Jack and my nephews served, and it was like old times at All Saints, serving with Fr Francis.
What I wasn’t really ready for was his homily, which was addressed to me. Directly at me, actually, and I felt as if I were lucky enough to be at my own funeral. Fr John didn’t canonize me, but he explored our joint youth, our joint spirituality, and offered a way to heaven through my own vocation. He said, “we are here to celebrate your death.” He also nailed the parts about how amazing Mel is, and how hard it is for her and the kids. (Thank you, Father, for confirming that, I’ve been telling everyone for years!) Jack was also not ready for it, and he needed to discretely leave because he was a little overcome. Father used my own words to liken my suffering to Jesus, and a road map for using it for good. My chance, like Jesus, to give everything to God, even my very last breath. And I am blessed with a slower progression, so that unlike Jesus, I don’t have to experience it all at once.
The saddest part, not what had me in tears but what was sad is that he got me all wrong! Now I have to live up to all those ideals and that is hard and I am lazy! I mean seriously, I am a grumpy old man!
I got to hang out with Fr John the day before. Yes, there were delays with Tobii, but I thought it went well. I hadn’t seen Fr John for twenty years, or since I got kicked out of seminary! That’s right, I was kicked out and he wasn’t. But although he knows me at my worst, I still call him friend. And Fr Peter? He is literally the priest who kicked me out. And he was my confessor! We caught up on everyone, and I am grateful, because I have said that I owe them so much.
How much? Well, through their education, I was challenged enough to make easy grades when I came back. I learned to think. I gained independence, from having to be accountable for walking around a big city, and having responsibilities of my own that I was accountable for day to day activities. I did them poorly, because I am lazy, or maybe that is retrospective thinking. For instance, I was put in charge of the chapel, getting ready for masses and everything. At sixteen, were you doing that?
More importantly, they gave my Faith a foundation in bedrock. For all my many sins, never once have I ever thought that anything outside the Catholic Church would be a refuge. Not the church of nice, nor an idea that I could do whatever I wanted if I accepted a personal Lord and Savior. Not even the refuge of women, alcohol, and drugs. (No mistake, I find Mel extremely beautiful and I also like alcohol, but I was blessed to not get sucked in a destructive pattern.) I have them to thank, for teaching Truth at all times, and building up character in a secular world to be able to fight it. Never once have I tried to leave the faith, or water it down.
The vernacular and versus populum is not watering it down!
I’ve quoted Quixote enough that you should realize there is something there! And since Fr John read the Impossible Dream during the homily, let me share with you the evolution of Quixote! Oh, we all love the first part with the windmills and general ludicrous actions that were meant to mock the novels of the era. But the second part, that is where understanding creeps in. The understanding that it takes a madman to try for something so great that it’s unreachable. The madman, to recognize that just going along with everyone else means nothing of worth. The madman to point out how things that have become commonplace in our laws and society are vile and contemptible. The madman to realize that it is not he who is mad for having high ideals, but everyone else is for having given them up. No one ever talks about that part.
Well, the Society talked about it, and it stuck with me. And even though they kicked me out and I am forever changed in the eyes of Mr Westoff and the Gomez family, it’s a fair trade. I get to be a madman around Virginia, with dad jokes and sarcasm! It’s brilliant!
I quote here now Saint Cardinal Newman, who said something I echoed when I was kicked out of that school and I didn’t know why.
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next.”
I don’t want to quote all of the homily, but I do want to share some insights I picked up. Right after this is when I got sick. I was riding high, then I was cast down. Fr John said that I share a special way with Jesus His passion. I always thought that it was more like the garden, but I realize that he and Fr Tim are right. As I can’t move my arms, I’m nailed on the cross with Jesus. When I have pain from not changing positions at night, I am immobile like Jesus on the cross. When I can’t breathe, I am hung like Jesus on the cross. It is presumptuous of me to compare my issues with His, but I beg leave because of the similarities, if I may.
It is now my great privilege to try and offer it up. Even when I can’t, or I panic, or I don’t think I can take it and I break down. I have a purpose, and part of that is having this illness. I am not the great ambassador of NurOwn, nor am I a Lourdes miracle. I don’t know why, but I don’t need to. I share that the Society still considers me a brother, and Fr John reminded me that we set out on a great journey, not knowing where the path would take us. But we both keep on going, even if it seems impossible.
So I return to the Carthusians and their motto, The Cross Stands while the world Turns. I have been given that hold, heck I’ve been nailed to it, figuratively.
The worst part is, I’m such a lazy Catholic and I love to virtue signal and get into arguments about stuff that I really shouldn’t. So don’t be deceived by all that holy talk above, Mel still puts my pants on one leg at a time! I need more prayers than all of you, except maybe Mel who has to deal with me!
In honor of this, I’m going to share a youthful picture of myself. I have no idea how old I am, just that it was probably fourteen or so. This was in Spain, and it explains the whole ugly plaid yellow shirt that Mel didn’t like!