The Return of the Tabernacle

The Tabernacle at Sacred Heart Church in Pinehurst, NC, has been returned to the Altar from the Adoration Chapel. You can barely see it, I’m afraid, under the Crucifix. I’ll try to go again soon and get a better photo — I’m playing with a new digital camera and unfamiliar software. Please bear with me! and thanks in advance!
And here is the beautiful Adoration Chapel.

Taking Turns Leading the Way

I was talking with a young friend a little while ago, when I happened to remember a selection my 7-8 graders read this spring, an excerpt from the autobiography of Sir Edmond Hillary, the first man to scale Mt. Everest.

M’s having a rough time right now. She was Confirmed in April, a wonderful, even euphoric time for her after a not-easy entry into the Church. Now she feels so far removed from her joy of that Vigil Mass when she was brought into full communion with Christ’s Church. Something happened, she missed Mass one week-end… then another… and now she feels she’s just losing ground faster than she can recover it.

It’s a feeling I think all of us know well. And complicating matters is that M loves a man who was raised Catholic but due to a series of sad events now considers himself atheist.

“Would your friend be helped more by your return to the Church, or by your continuing delay?” I asked. Of course, she is a gentle soul and is very uncomfortable with the idea of leading or directing anyone in any way. She’s particularly uncomfortable with the thought that, as conscious of her faults as she is right now, someone might follow her anywhere.

And that’s when I remembered Sir Edmond Hillary.

During his long and arduous trek to the summit of Mt. Everest, nearly all the members of his original climbing party deserted him. Only his native mountain-climbing guide stuck with him. During the final assent, Hillary details how he would lead the way forward for a number of yards, then his guide would take the lead. In this way, each pushed forward in bitter, almost insurmountable conditions, while the other took a more passive role, resting from the earlier exertion and summoning energy for the next. Their progress was deadly, as they took turns testing the durability of ice packs suspended over thin air and braving other hazards in the final yards before reaching that place where no mortals had stood before.

So, as I see it, right now M is taking the lead. She sees where she needs to go in order to reach the summit of Christ’s service. She must forge ahead and prepare a clear path for whoever happens to be in her company at this time. Later, when she is weary and discouraged, some other member of her family or her circle of friends — very likely her now-“atheist” friend — will pass her on the path, climb ahead, break a new route through deep snow and ice, and help her up onto the next plateau.

If she refuses to take the lead, then those with her are left to flounder at a lower level, their journey to the summit delayed and perhaps even jeopardized by lack of a clear-sighted leader.

And so on we go, each taking his or her turn at finding himself stronger, clearer-minded, leading and helping those who are for the moment spent and in need of aid. It is a startling revelation when we who have always seen ourselves as the pupils and proteges of stronger teachers find ourselves sent forward to find the best route to the next camping space. But we have been taught well, and it is only right we should go as we are sent, for the sake of helping our masters who need us for the moment, and for the sake of those younger than ourselves, who will one day take their places at our sides.

Blog on!

I’m just amazed at the number of friends who’ve started blogging since Randy got me started on this venture: Check out Mary-Love, Ed, Linda H, and Shirley. My friend Catalinni says she’s about to join the blogosphere, with her story “Macaroni and Jesus” and with some of her wicked sharp anti-cancer humor. I’ll let you know as soon as she’s online.

Meantime, pray for these dear folks, okay?

A Very Happy (Priestly) Anniversary

Today folks around here are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ordination of Father Kenneth Parker. Father Parker is something of a chaplain for the charismatic Catholic renewal around here, regularly celebrates healing masses around central North Carolina — and he’s the dear, kind priest who heard my first Confession, nearly three years ago.

God bless you, Father Parker!

It’s been a quiet week in…

…the backwoods of North Carolina. The quiet seems to be settling into my bones, finally. I haven’t turned the radio on all day, am instead enjoying listening, with nearly every window in the house open, to the mocking bird singing from the top of the wild cherry tree I park the car beside. Every now and then I hear a quail calling from the woods behind the tobacco barn, and a dove closer to the house. There are dozens of bird calls I don’t recognize, all around me. Amazing to hear them so clearly, and only occasionally a car approaching on the highway. After being in a city, I think of the farm as “quiet,” although in reality it is a very noisy place.

The summer is speeding right along. As I sort through the shed, which is where I’m writing these days (a picnic table is a perfect size for a desk!), and the trailer, pulling odd bits of accumulated clutter from the past fifteen years, I feel as if I am also performing a spiritual exercise of discarding hurts, disappointments, resentments, old outgrown dreams, and bad habits that have cluttered my mind for too long. Saturday I picked up a jar of odd metal bits that Rusty had left behind – unidentifiable to me and evidently unimportant to him since he’d neglected to include them in the “important” things he’d cleared from the house, three years ago… I’ve been hanging on to that jar, thinking I might discover what these odd pieces of metal are and that they might come in handy for something some day… as I dropped the jar into the trash bag, I felt a little lighter in heart for disposing of one more item with surprisingly toxic associations.

I cling to the most absurd things in the expectation that they could be useful some day, or that if I discard them I’ll be amputating some important part of myself in the process. On the other hand, I once took boxes of books to a used bookstore because Rusty insisted I “never” looked at them, and at the time I couldn’t imagine using them again; I’ve spent an obscene amount of money this past year trying to replace many of those books, which I have needed in my work.

Hmmm… mediations on the spiritual exercises of housecleaning?

Tribute to another hero — a cancer fighter

I first “met” Catalinni (all names herein are changed to protect the innocent… and the guilty) back in 2001. I was a new participant in the Catholic Online discussion forum, and this woman posted a prayer request for her son, who was going through a divorce, and for his children. I think I may have sent her an email; anyway, we began corresponding.

I learned she had recently undergone a complete hysterectomy for uterine cancer — endometrial adenocarcinoma. In the fall of 2002, eighteen months after her hysterectomy, her cancer returned. This time she underwent chemotheraphy, followed by radiation therapy.

While she was undergoing her radiation, she began to branch out into a new life. She wrote of her cancer support group and what a fun group of women they were. She wrote of the funny hats she was wearing to counteract the “Sinead O’Connor Look” of chemo-related hair loss. She even wrote of going to the gym, where she did some MAJOR WORKOUTS — Body Pumping, bellydancing, Pilates, and 1/2 hour on the treadmill!

Catalinni was 66 when she started taking those classes.

Then all hell broke loose. A phone call from her ex-daughter-in-law, Gina, put her already fragile world into a tailspin. “I think you need to know,” said , “and I know they won’t tell you. Gramps was questioned by the police today, and he’s confessed to molesting Caty.” Caty was Catalinni’s son’s 8-year-old daughter. The nightmare unfolded during the succeeding weeks as Catalinni learned the details of her husband’s betrayal and her granddaughter’s suffering. “Gramps,” who had not been incarcerated pending trial, never spoke of it to her; so far as he was concerned she knew nothing, all the information came through her son and his ex-wife.

Catalinni herself had been molested as a child by more than one close family member. Her memories resurfaced. Her rage at her husband’s betrayal and abandonment — there had been no intimacy between them for years — knew no bounds. She poured herself into her gym classes and her cancer support group. She began seeing a therapist. She renewed her old love of writing.

She slipped off to visit her beloved granddaughters away from their home, and she looked for every way she knew how to help her granddaughter recover from her trauma.

“Gramps” underwent sentencing for molesting his granddaughter a little more than a year ago. He’s due to be released again in less than two weeks. Catalinni doesn’t know where he’s going to be taking up residence, but she’s adamant about one thing: he ain’t comin’ back home.

While he’s been incarcerated, she has remodeled the apartment and her life. She continues with the cancer support group — a major “remodeling job” this past October due to vaginal cancer has been followed by still more cancer this spring (she’s undergoing chemo now). The doctor said at one point that he would chase it around as long as she wanted him to. She’s had to give up the Pilates for the time being, maybe permanently — even with the present round of chemo, doctors suspect her cancer is spreading. The culture on her bladder comes back next week. She’s pretty much decided she’s tired of being cut on, and the doctor agrees.

In the meantime, the raucous emails keep on pouring in. If laughter is a weapon in the fight against cancer, then Catalinni is a Ranger or a Green Beret. She’s collecting and forwarding all sorts of humorous emails to those of us rooting for her from the grandstands — and the puns we had to bear when she had her vaginal cancer surgery last fall (she also lost much of her colon and her rectum as well as her vagina — that’s why I called it a “remodeling job”) were wilder than I ever could have imagined. This is one gutsy, feisty dame!

And Caty, her sister, and their cousins are once again frequent visitors at Catalinni’s home. They watch movies, pop corn, and party all night long. Catalinni says the only thing she really wants is to be able to see those kids grown to adulthood. With the ongoing tests and suspicion of spreading cancer, however, she may not get to do it quite the way she wants.

So say a prayer for my friend Catalinni, and for her family. And remind me, next time I whine about some minor adversity, or want to crawl under the bed from low spirits — how immensely blessed I really am.