The Cough Drop

Finding this new blog rhythm has been difficult. It wasn’t always so. Months to years I wrote most days, often trivial, sometimes touching a heart. Early morning hours prior to this “After Bob” passage were good for finding voice. Much of the voice died with him.

Don’t.
Don’t was a scribbled list started as I walked to the car for an early appointment. Don’t Cry Today. Don’t Think Sad Thoughts. Don’t BE Sad. Don’t Remember. Don’t Make Any Mistakes. Don’t Notice The Empty Spot At Your Side.
Don’t. I can be so impossibly annoying….so add that to the Don’t List. Don’t Be Annoying. A blog was forming.

A blog was forming, a blog destined to be felled by a cough drop, an exquisite cough drop shared by a friend via email.

Don is a talented friend, a man who trusts his emotions and cherishes his family both in the present and in collected memory.

Some years ago, Don visited his Aunt Ljubica . A survivor of a Fascist Concentration Camp, Ljubica was living in France. Don remembers her as a gentle soul with the soft edges honed in a life of kindness despite hardship.

As was the custom, the Ljubica’s family lined up to present gifts, shared an embrace and experience leave-taking. Ljubica, slowed by age and the injuries of the camp, had no gift. Her face, beautiful in its capture of time and experience suddenly remembered that she did have a gift. Painfully, slowly she struggled up the stairs, hobbled into her room and descended with the precious gift clutched in her hand.

With joy, with a flourish, Aunt Ljubica handed her love to Don, a box of her favorite cough drops. The power and the simplicity of love is astounding.

Advertisements

Moving On, Leaving Behind

A Ramble–nothing more than a ramble to no where…

The self gets blurred, like that image in a store front window, recognizable but rubbery. Our edges are not defined any more, distorted by circumstance. We concentrate. We force our eyes to see, but only the beveled edge of the mirror reflects.

Life mapped, goals decided, timetables set. Head down, emotion on hold, we plow through holding to clear and defined self-promises. Something happens; medical diagnosis, financial hardship, a deeply altered relationship, a forced change, a death. So we wonder at the reflection of this gritty thing we see, this new person invading uninvited.

The worst part is that decisions have to be made, not by who we once thought we were, but by this acquaintance we have become. Nothing unique about this–millions of daily multiples, probably the truest normal. Still, it feels like an unattainable balance, this moving on, leaving behind.

This house has to be part of moving on, a change that refuses to be gentle but one that I know, sooner rather than later, must happen. I will replace can’t with must and find an easier place to live. Then, again, if I drag my feet long enough, dig in deep enough, concentrate on finding what isn’t in this current state of now, I just might find some chrysalis-butterfly-thing waiting. Maybe.

Deliver Us From (CCR)

We humans are a very mixed bag. Two of my sons have expressed a belief that, over-all, the human race is more disposed to ugliness than to civil discourse, compassion, and a genuine search for truth.

Pockets, they say. Pockets. Good people are simply pockets tucked in amidst the preponderance of ignorance and the disregard for justice.

The Kansas City Star has printed many letters regarding the Ratigan/Finn/Murphy situation in the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City/St. Joseph. Most of my recent blogs have focused of the physical and sexual abuse of children by ordained men of the Catholic Church and the overwhelming evidence of an institutional cover-up.

I have tried to read with an open mind, an understanding of the perspective of every letter writer. For many years I shared the concept that the Church knew best, could do no wrong and had the Jesus Philosophy dialed.

Obviously, that belief, and the required blind and silent obedience, is no longer a part of my life.

A letter to the editor, Kansas City Star, Thursday, June 30, 2011 taxes my ability to maintain an open-mind. In the letter, Laura Long of Pleasant Hill writes:

“All I see from SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) is a bunch of money-hungry, publicity-hungry folks jumping up and down creating havoc for the sake of havoc.”

Excuse me, but how does a mean-spirited remark like that fit into the Jesus philosophy? “…jumping up and down creating havoc for the sake of havoc.”

Really, Laura Long? Victims of abuse should quietly go away, perhaps being sheep to a flawed Shepard?

Men and women seeking justice following molestation by trusted priests are simply jumping up and down? Priests given honor, prestige and trust violated the victims, their families and the trust of their ordination.

Ordained men who professed the Jesus Philosophy fondled, raped, violated, tortured children and now the children are “…creating havoc for the sake of havoc”?

If the survivors manage to create some havoc in the name of justice I honor that havoc, not unlike chasing those money changers from the temple.

Out Of The Woodwork (CCR)

“You have become a Johnny One-Note. Are there no other topics? Move on. These people come out of the woodwork.”
That one got to me, salted the moral ache that festers. The meaning was clear. “These people come out of the woodwork.” Mistrust of motivation. Blaming the victims. Protecting the abusers by saying that the woodwork people worm out to join the bandwagon.

In defense of this person, there are no TVs, newspapers or news magazines in the home. Current events are the day-to-day drama of over fifty seniors, age 62 plus, living in an apartment building. The outside world is too filled with bad news to allow in–so ignore and pretend it doesn’t exist.

It does exist. It is real. The abuse tolerated, perhaps allowed in the belief that the church required that depth of protection. The cover-up hid the truth and gave permission for abuse to continue.

Mike Hunter of Kansas City is the volunteer director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. David Clohessy of St. Louis is the executive director of SNAPNetwork.org, the same organization. Hunter and Clohessy co-authored As I See It, an opinion piece for the Kansas city Star Newspaper. The final paragraph of their piece offers the only solution that holds promise.
“That’s why we’re desperately hoping police and prosecutors will step up. While our justice system isn’t perfect, it can often unearth the truth in such situations and punish the guilty, thus deterring recklessness, callousness and deceit in the future.”

Now, Do It Now

There are many clichés to cover the idea of’ reading between the lines, of mindfulness  in awareness, of reaching out before a need is voiced.  This is a good day for that.

We all know people who struggle, short-term or in a sort of perpetual depressive state.  Some struggle with loud bumps and moans letting the world know that this is a bummer.  Some struggle with times of being overwhelmed, drowning in details and no life-preserver in sight.   Others struggle with a quiet, “Fine–I am fine” when we know fine does not cover the pain.

So in case anyone is listening, this is Now, Do It Now Day, a day to put our personal concerns under the stack and take an action that will surprise and soften the life of someone in our prism.  A note, a phone call, handling a task that isn’t getting done, anticipating, understanding with true compassion and taking action.

No Massage of History (ccr)

Originally published July 8, 2010    Reviewed today after minor editing.

The Kansas City Star carried a letter of gag-inducing sarcasm referencing those who dare to challenge the actions of the hierarchy that  covered-up sexual crimes against children.  The writer blindly (my opinion) supported the actions of the church hierarchy.

The writer of that letter labeled the cries for justice as a “massage (of) history in an effort to self-serve, confuse or divide…”

Wondering how the writer’s God of love and justice would judge the venom of his letter.  Maybe it is OK to self-serve, confuse and divide if you are on the dark side of the church.

It is not a massage of history to note that Pope Benedict XVI accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty of Ireland.  Bishop Moriarty admitted that he did not challenge the Dublin Church policy of covering up sexual abuse of children by priests.

It is not a massage of history to write about a church absolutely addicted to rigid male hierarchies, relegating women to second class status.

It is not a massage of history to focus on Jesus being more inclined to care for the needs of people rather than the perpetuation of dogma.

It is not a massage of history to note that Jesus lived in poverty without coffers to pay for lavish dress and appointments.

It is not a massage of history to note that sexual abuse of minors appears in the records  as early as 1908 and with consistency from the 1930’s through the 1980’s.

It is not a massage of history to wonder at the portrayal of Mary, the perfect woman, free of original sin and eternal virgin even as she gave birth to Jesus.

Every young Catholic was given Mary as the image of perfect womanhood.   Mary, Virgin Mother of Jesus, was the  impossible model, the unattainable goal.  The Mary, as constructed by the church, proved that all other women were unworthy no matter how great the effort.  None other could be both virgin and a mother.

Maybe that paradox is  the excuse for deeming women as unworthy of ordination.

 

In The Shadow Of The Steeple (ccr)

“If you had been born and raised Catholic, you would not write the things you do.  You would understand.”  Words from a person recently joining Gentle Readers and bridling at certain blogs perceived as anti-Catholic.

In The Shadow Of The Steeple appeared in January, 2008.  It is a rerun in the interest of disclosure.  I intend to follow this with reruns of other blogs that are Catholic Church Related.

There is a huge chasm between being anti-something and being pro-reform.

In The Shadow of the Steeple

Shadow is a twin, a shaded place of respite and comfort as well as a shroud eclipsing what needs to be seen. The steeple of St. Peter’s represents an amazing heritage of doctrine and tradition, giving shelter and shadow to religion, family and community.

Most specific memories get boxed and stored because emotions are always stronger than detail.  I would have said that I did not have specific memories of grade school, but snippets are there.

After dinner to dark kick-the can in the alley, digging a foxhole in the backyard, reading on Mert’s screened porch, baby sitting for 25 cents an hour, Sunday night radio on the living room floor, seven for dinner almost every night of the week, chocolate pudding for dessert, bacon on Sunday, Dad’s famous cracker soup when the budget required….Snippets of a wonderful childhood.

Long sleeved blue serge uniforms, suffocating in the spring and early autumn…
Esterbrook pens, Script ink, coupons for Grapette pop after helping the teacher clean the classroom…Absolute silence as the class lined the hall waiting for a scheduled turn in the restroom…
The privilege of giving up recess to sell candy in Sister Mary Lawrence’s fourth grade classroom…
Suffocating green corduroy slacks and weskit designed to protect modesty while playing basketball…
Getting caught wearing pink Tangee lipstick to a basketball game…
The excitement of a school year spent in a small basement space when numbers overcame the available classrooms…
Crying over the story of a young saint martyred for refusing to surrender a host to his tormentors…
Tiny paper desk mangers waiting for a ‘good deed’ piece of straw as part of Christmas preparation…
Believing–totally believing–in being Catholic…
Praying as if an answer would come…
Confessing to ease the original guilt I never understood…
The sound of snow when Susan and I did the winter walk to 6:00 Mass each morning…
Longing to play basketball without embarrassing myself as Mary Jo finessed every part of the game…
Daring the first peek at my report card, needing grades somewhere close to the standard set by Jack…
Overwhelmed by the importance of responsibility when walking with Bobby to school or to the store. “Take care of him”, was Mom’s standard.
The anticipation of recess on the girls’ side of the playground…a space with few trees and pocked asphalt. Our jump ropes and a handful of jacks the only equipment…
Rare occasions of newspaper wrapped lunch carried to school…
Terror in the stomach when Msgr. McKenna looked at me for the spelling of ‘transubstantiation’…
Awe remembering Sister Mary Regis handling 51 eighth graders with few discipline issues…
Thursday night devotions perfumed by incense and followed by a cherry coke at the Confectionary…
Wondering why a young priest rarely called on a girl for the answer to questions from the catechism…
The deliberate disobedience of stashing our winter slacks under bushes on the way to school…
Retrieving them stiff with cold on the way home…
Shame when I did not always defend the three ‘special needs’ kids in our class…
The choir nun telling me to stand on the back row and move my lips…
Having Mom and Dad discover that I charged candy bars for my friends at McCarty’s mom and pop…
Hating the hand-me-down blue winter coat worn my seventh grade winter…
Loving the off-white coat that Mom sewed the next winter…
Wondering if I actually fit into any group and praying that I did…
Embarrassment at making cheer leader only because few others bothered to try out…
Consuming pride when a teacher wrote a positive comment on my paper…
Guilt at my lack of humility and failure to thank God for the work that earned the comment…
Absolutely loving school…

Snippets that, from this distance of over 60 years, have the richness of warm chocolate swirled with cream.

I am intensely grateful for my education at St. Peter’s Parish and the Catholic community surrounding every part of those years. And that comforting vapor called time has given me the gift of acceptance for the chasm between some of the teaching and the reality of my life experience.