Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Happy Birthday; Happy Thanksgiving

Many thanks to everyone who wished me a happy birthday yesterday. I had a terrific day made better by so many wishes of good health, happiness, and new life.

My email exploded with messages in the morning when I woke up. I had to force myself to write my Sunday blog entry before I did anything else. Tuesday morning's are always homily preparation time. I finished right at 11:30 a.m., just in time to head out to Chestnut Hill for lunch with Fr. Bill, a dear Jesuit friend.

When I returned, I finished my homework and then visited some teachers in the school to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. Block parties were going on as the holiday season was beginning. Then I returned phone calls (so I would not be tempted to do it while driving.) Then a friend from Amman came over for a visit as her husband is in town dealing with an illness. After a nice visit, I dropped her back at her hotel to get to class.

What joy when I stepped foot into the class and everyone started singing, "Happy Birthday." We had a neat class. At one point, we had to start a drawing and after five minutes move to the next student's easel and assist in their drawing. The results were amazing. We each contributed something but each drawing was amazingly distinct.

As class ended, the streets were eerily quiet. I knew it was not the pre-holiday lull. The Grand Jury indictment was released for Ferguson, Missouri and many Bostonians were civilly protesting in solidarity with the African-American community. At some point, our nation has to address race issues because they are very real. We are simply afraid. Anyways, state police cruisers, one after another, kept coming down Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue. Passage back home for me was very easy, but so many drivers were erratic. I thought it might be a full moon because of some of their antics. We need at address driving violations in our Commonwealth.

Once I arrived home, I set out to reply to the over 250 Facebook well-wishes I received during the day. At one point, Facebook responded to me and told me to slow down in my typing. I am a fast typist. I chuckled. I'm probably one of the few people of Facebook to answer each one individually. This was a monumental effort, but well worth it. I was touched by so many good words and such kindnesses. Some people shared with me stories of their heartaches, deaths, and memorials. This is all part of the sanctity of life that we hold so dear.

I love that my birthday is in the Thanksgiving season because it heightens the celebration and I always have plenty of reasons to be thankful. It also overshadows my birthday and I'm pleased the attention is place on the goodwill day that is Thanksgiving. All I know is that I have a lot of love in my life and I'm grateful.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I think I will draw more Thanksgiving images and just enjoy the slow day. I've tidied my room, reorganized my painting space, enjoyed a healthy lunch, and chatted with a few friends.

I even went grocery shopping. It was very festive. People were in a good mood, free food was offered, everyone was pleasant and cheerful, and the cashier looked at me straight in the eyes and said, "Thank you, dear, and have a happy Thanksgiving."

The wind is howling, the rain is steady, few cars on on the road and people are settling in for one of the most pleasant holidays of the year. Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feeling Good

It is a great time of year. November is always warmer in New England than people think. Though it is cold these past few days, the temperatures are often invigorating. The cool nights prepares the trees and bushes for winter. The child in me comes out because I love crunching the unraked leaves that fall to the ground. The sounds of the crackling has the effect upon me as bubble wrap has upon others. I can't resist.

The only difficulty with this time of year is the lessened sunlight. Darkness comes too soon. We do not notice it so much because of events around the holiday, but it encroaches upon our day. I cannot imagine life a century ago when electric lights were becoming widely available.

However, the darkening days helps us to be reflective about the direction of our lives and the last things. We begin the month with All Soul's and All Saints Days and it is a fitting time to remember the dead during this last month of the church year. The whole month is dedicated to memorializing our dead who are still alive to God. As we consider our own mortality, we reshape our actions and make adjustments to those things we most value. We cannot help but see ourselves in closer relationship to God, and fortunately we end the month with Thanksgiving, which helps us to be grateful for the ways we are blessed.

In light of the way we focus upon our relationship with God, I feel truly grateful for the ministry of reconciliation - confessions. Last week, I heard the confessions of high school students on a KAIROS retreat. My absolute best prayer is in the first moments when a penitent leaves the confessional. God's presence seems magnified in that period. Above all, I want the person to know of God's far-reaching love for the person before me. Once the person leaves the room, I pray silently for that person to receive God's love, and I know God is also communicating abundant love for me. It is one of the best experiences of priesthood. It is often the feeling one has when leaving an 8- or 30-day retreat.

Speaking of the end of the year, the feast of Christ the King is powerful to me, and I fear that many people do not quite understand the rhythm of the liturgical year because the feast is superseded by Thanksgiving and the beginning of the Advent season. Our entire year is collected by Christ and presented to the Ancient One for blessing and final (positive) judgment. All our struggles and joys from our lifetime are blessed by God and given new meaning. Christ is given by God power over all living things and he has defeated our great enemies - sin and death.

To celebrate this reality, I had a crown put on a molar this week.

Something that I have missed the past week and a half is yoga. I had meetings scheduled during times that yoga classes were offered and my body had been missing the stretching. However, when I arrived for class this morning, I recognized that I missed the guys a great deal too. They have been a bit of a community for me this semester. One guy, as soon as I arrived, invited me for Thanksgiving dinner. That was so kind of him.

During class, I kept thinking that I ought to cook a meal for some of the old-timers because they live alone. One guy will have Chinese food on Thursday. I tried to ask them if they wanted a meal on Wednesday night, but with their lack of hearing and their propensity to talk over one another, I never received a satisfactory answer. I'll try to figure out something to make sure that they have a special day. It is nice to have a holiday home cooked meal.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Fine Start to the Day

Since this November morning is absolutely brilliant, I decided to go for a walk fairly early in the day to get my exercise. As I stepped outside, a man in his late 30's approached me with beads of sweat pouring down from his neatly trimmed head. He had a pleading look of desperation and he seemed to be beating himself up.

He asked me for directions to a place on Morrissey Boulevard, but the numbers did not correspond to anything logical. He took the train from Quincy so that he would exit the JFK/UMass subway stop by 8:30 giving him a full half hour before the start of work at 9:00 a.m. He walked up and down the street in quite a quick pace just looking for his destination. In exasperation, he found me.

I started to give him directions and then said, "Jump in my car." He did not say a word. He just sat down. I drove him to the place called the EMK Institute as he stared at his work permit. I asked, "Would you like me to vouch for you?" He said, "Please. I tried my best to get here early, but this is so confusing. I walked onto the University campus, but I wanted to respect their grounds. I did not want to meet Campus Security" I realized what a different experience I have as a Caucasian male. He felt fear he would have been questioned as an African-American, but I assured him that he would be very welcome on Campus. I learned that his name was Cedric.

I said, "I see you are going to the Ted Kennedy building." He said, "Actually, I'm going to the EMK Institute." I replied, "The Edward M. Kennedy Institute is a fine building and it is due to open very soon. Most of the exterior work is complete and it looks stunning sitting next to the JFK Library and Museum." He said, "Oh, EMK, the Ted Kennedy building."

We found our way to a door where he was to arrive and I vouched for him. He sighed a deep breath and explained his situation. The work supervisor was very understanding and said to the man, "Come on in." Then he turned to me and said, "I did not catch your name." I replied, "Fr. John," and Cedric seemed to lose his breath again.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Early November Foliage

To see photos of an early November Day in Massachusetts, click on the link below: