Sunday, December 31, 2006

Join The Chorus

Just in case you can't find the words to tonight's favorite song, I take you back to the post which has the link to find them.

Happy New Year!

Flashback

I wrote this a year ago, from the post titled "Whereas...Be It Resolved":
Stay tuned; 2006, I hope, will be much better.
It was. But it had to get worse before it did.

Obviously, that was the low point of the past twelve months. The apex was just a few days later. And about two weeks after that, the intercession of St. Anthony of Padua was answered.

What an amazing, incredible, merciful (literally, full of mercy) three weeks. Everything else pales in comparison.

Yes, I did Go Forward. Small steps, but in the right direction.

The fear of which I spoke is still there. This dragon must be slain.

So, again, I continue with the same New Year's resolution of the past two years.

And why not? God is not finished with me.

I make no bold predictions. As it is in the "Our Father," we are only given "us this day." All I pray is that I may continue to listen for the voice of God as did Elijah.

They are the hardest four words of Christianity: "Thy will be done."

"Be it done unto me according to thy word."

See you next year!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Name That Christmas Tune

At the family Christmas party I attended, an aunt found this on the internet. She devised a contest where the person who got the most correct would win a prize. I played; I won, getting 19 out of the 20. (The prize was a bag of poupourri.)

Here are the clues:

EXAMPLE: Bleached Yule=White Christmas
  1. Boulder of the Tinkling Metal Spheres
  2. Castaneous-colored Seed Vesticated in a Conflagration
  3. Singular Yearning for the Twin Anterior Incisors
  4. Righteous Darkness
  5. Arrival Time: 2400 Hrs. - Weather: Cloudless
  6. Loyal Followers Advance
  7. Far Off in a Feeder
  8. Array the Corridor
  9. Bantam Male Percussionist
  10. Monarchial Triad
  11. Nocturnal Noiselessness
  12. Jehovah Deactivate Blithe Chevaliers
  13. Red Man En Route to Borough
  14. Frozen Precipitation Commence
  15. Proceed and Enlighten on the Pinnacle
  16. The Quadruped with the Vermilion Proboscis
  17. Query Regarding Identity of Descendant
  18. Delight for this Planet
  19. Give Attention to the Melodious Celestial Beings
  20. The Dozen Festive 24-Hour Intervals
Answers are found in the comment box. Add your own creations there as well.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Card


May there be many presents under your tree!
May there be much peace, joy, and love in your being!
May Emmanuel, "God With Us", come to you in His glory and splendor!

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Repeat The Sounding Joy

"Behold, I Bring You Good News" is the title of the post using the Proclamation of the Birth of Christ and the two readings from St. Paul's epistle to Titus.

The link will take you back to it.

It will forever be "Good News".

2006 Christmas Eve Reflection

I am guessing many of you will assist at the Christmas Mass at "Midnight" (how sad this happens so infrequently anymore). The proclamation of the narrative of the Incarnation according to St. Luke (2:1-14) is the only one of the three synoptic Gospels where details are made known. As the first Christian "historian," Luke strives to be as accurate as possible in the telling of the event.

I have heard of homilist using the technique of putting yourself in the story. So, to those who read this entry, my question to you is simple. As you hear or recall it, ask yourself this:

Who are you in the beginning of the "greatest story ever told"?

Are you Caesar Augustus or Quirinius? You have some position of authority in the world on some level, in some small capacity. Somehow, you rule. Perhaps news of this birth and its circumstance has reached your ears; but, with your status of "eliteness," you quite don't know what to do with it. Dismiss it? Investigate it? Leave it to Herod?

How does it affect you?

Are you one of the myriads who went "each to his own town"? Wanting to be an individual, you still are lost in the crowd. You follow along, sometimes going along just to get along. You are just a number to someone. You hear of this story as well. It awakens echoes of what you were taught as you studied your religion.

How does it affect you?

Are you Joseph? Caught between doing what is right and doing the right thing, which are not necessarily one and the same, you perhaps trust your head too much and your heart not nearly enough. Yet, you do what is your duty to God and others in a spirit of obedience and loyalty. You are right in the middle of this tale. Intimately.

How does it affect you?

Are you Mary? Somehow having to endure the physical challenges of pregnancy, you also have "to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune" brought about by your saying "yes". The echoes of "how can this be" reverberate with every action. Yet, you are consoled by the words of Gabriel and Elizabeth as well as what you carry deep within your body and soul. You are even more in the middle of this tale; in fact, it wouldn't have gone forward without your assent.

How does it affect you?

Are you the innkeeper who couldn't provide room for even one more traveler? You are not mean-spirited in any way, shape, form, or regard. Your accommodations were stretched to the limit and perhaps beyond. Practicality had to take precedence. Perhaps, many years later, you heard a rabbi tell a parable involving another innkeeper in a small way and thought, "Was this directed at me from way back then and when?"

How does it affect you?

Are you one of the shepherds to whom the angels spoke? Considered somewhat outcasts in society, in a job nobody with any "dignity" would want, you wonder in your night watches where your place is in the world. Your reputation is soiled somewhat by "the company you keep," others who are only hired help and not true keepers of the flock. The "glorias" you hear that night ring in your ears and your hearts.

How does it affect you?

The answer to the repeated question is the same, no matter who you are. "'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this event which the Lord has made known to us.'" (Luke 2:15b)

Venite adoramus, Dominum.

Hodie Christus natus est.

This should be our response when we meet the newborn King. We should welcome the Christ Child with open arms and open hearts. He does nothing less.
The Word was made flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we have seen his glory: The glory of an only Son coming from the Father, filled with enduring love.

John 1:14
But the better question is not who are we at the beginning of the story.

It is who we are at the end.

Meme: Personal Practices

The Holy Fool thinks I need to post more often. He tagged me with this meme:

1. Favorite devotion or prayer to Jesus?
I have to admit I don't have one. To me, this is an indication I have a long way to go to see Him as a Person close to me rather than Someone far away.

2. Favorite Marian devotion or prayer?
The rosary is part of my walk to and from church (all 20 mysteries). I also try to recite the "Angelus" at least at noon every day.

3. Do you wear a scapular or medal?
I have worn a cross, a four-way medal, and a St. Christopher medal at points in my life. I would like to return to that habit of wearing something around my neck.

4. Do you have holy water in your home?
No.

5. Do you 'offer up' your sufferings?
Since I recite the "Morning Offering" the first thing before my feet hit the floor, I am covered (I think).

6. Do you observe First Fridays and First Saturdays?
No.

7. Do you go to Eucharistic Adoration?
When offered during Lent. There is also a parish which offers Perpetual Adoration, which I should utilize more.

8. Are you a Saturday evening Mass person or Sunday morning Mass person?
As a cantor/song-leader at my parish, I have to be flexible. Right now, with my work schedule, I am restricted to Sundays for availability.

9. Do you say prayers at mealtime?
What Julie D. says: "Yep. 'Bless us O Lord and these Thy gifts....'"

10. Favorite Saint(s)?
St. Joseph (my baptismal name), St. Anthony of Padua (my confirmation name), St. Cecilia.

11. Can you recite the Apostles Creed by heart?
I had better be able, after reciting the rosary as much as I have. Better challenge: the Nicene Creed.

12. Do you usually say short prayers (aspirations) during the course of the day?
I have been reciting the "Jesus Prayer" quite a bit as a form of meditation. I also have recited the prayer given by the angel to the children of Fatima ("Oh, my God, I believe, I adore, I hope, and I love Thee....") at times.

13. Bonus Question: When you pass by a automobile accident or other serious mishap, do you say a quick prayer for the folks involved?
If I remember, something short about granting grace to all involved.


Again, play along if interested.

Meme: Christmas Favorites

A new 'blog (to me), Obi's Sister, has tagged me with this fun Christmas meme:

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Egg nog. Straight. Usually Christmas morning breakfast. But I also enjoy hot chocolate as well.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? I wrap, but very poorly.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White, if I had a tree.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. No one with whom to utilize it. (But, then, I wouldn't need an excuse like that.)

5. When do you put your decorations up? I have very few decorations. They ususally will displayed starting Christmas Eve.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Don't really have one; Christmas dinner looks a lot like Thanksgiving (turkey and trimmings).

7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Christmas Eve supper was soups (chili, oyster stew, and potato), a relish tray, meat/cheese/cracker tray, and cookies and sweets made by my mother.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? When I noticed the handwriting on the packages were the same as my father's.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? I have never had a tree to decorate since I have been on my own. Someone has sent me a two-foot tall artificial pine (the kind that requires one to pull and arrange the branches) with lights and ball ornaments.

11. Snow! Love it or dread it? I still enjoy winter, save for the bitter cold. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

12. Can you ice skate? No.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Received or given? No favorites received. Quite a few given. (A future post?)

14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? The celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Fudge.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I have to start one.

17. What tops your tree? Nothing at the moment. One of these years, I will be able to decorate as I would like.

18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? I have been trying to take over for Santa for years.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? "Silent Night."

20. Candy canes: In moderation.

21. Favorite Christmas movie? The original "Miracle on 34th. Street."

22. What do you leave for Santa? Not a thing. He gets plenty from other homes.

As is my custom, play along at your 'blog or in the comment box.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

O Antiphon: God Is With Us


O Emmanuel, Rex et legifer noster, exspectatio gentium, et Salvator earum: veni ad salvandum nos Domine Deus noster.

++++++++++

O Emmanuel, our King and our Law-giver, Longing of the Gentiles, yea, and salvation thereof, come to save us, O Lord our God!
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz:
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered, "I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!"
Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:10-14

Friday, December 22, 2006

O Antiphon: King Of Kings


O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

++++++++++

O King of the Gentiles, yea, and desire thereof! O Corner-stone, that makest of two one, come to save man, whom Thou hast made out of the dust of the earth!
Rise up in splendor! Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds cover the peoples; But upon you the LORD shines, and over you appears his glory.
Nations shall walk by your light, and kings by your shining radiance.
Raise your eyes and look about; they all gather and come to you: Your sons come from afar, and your daughters in the arms of their nurses.
Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, For the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you.
Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; All from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the LORD.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered for you, the rams of Nebaioth shall be your sacrifices; They will be acceptable offerings on my altar, and I will enhance the splendor of my house.

Isaiah 60:1-7

Thursday, December 21, 2006

O Antiphon: Light From Light


O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol justitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

++++++++++

O Dayspring, Brightness of the everlasting light, Son of justice, come to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death!

Anguish has taken wing, dispelled is darkness; for there is no gloom where but now there was distress.
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing, As they rejoice before you as at the harvest, as men make merry when dividing spoils.
For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, And the rod of their taskmaster you have smashed, as on the day of Midian.
For every boot that tramped in battle, every cloak rolled in blood, will be burned as fuel for flames.

Isaiah 8:23b-9:4

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

O Antiphon: The Keys Of The Kingdom


O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel; qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

++++++++++

O Key of David, and Sceptre of the house of Israel, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth, come to liberate the prisoner from the prison, and them that sit in darkness, and in the shadow of death.

Thus says the Lord, the GOD of hosts: Up, go to that official, Shebna, master of the palace,
Who has hewn for himself a sepulcher on a height and carved his tomb in the rock: "What are you doing here, and what people have you here, that here you have hewn for yourself a tomb?"
The LORD shall hurl you down headlong, mortal man! He shall grip you firmly
And roll you up and toss you like a ball into an open land To perish there, you and the chariots you glory in, you disgrace to your master's house!
I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station.
On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah;
I will clothe him with your robe, and gird him with your sash, and give over to him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah.
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open.
I will fix him like a peg in a sure spot, to be a place of honor for his family;
On him shall hang all the glory of his family: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs.
On that day, says the LORD of hosts, the peg fixed in a sure spot shall give way, break off and fall, and the weight that hung on it shall be done away with; for the LORD has spoken.

Isaiah 22:15-25

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

O Antiphon: From Jesse's Tree


O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem Gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.

++++++++++

O Root of Jesse, which standest for an ensign of the people, at Whom the kings shall shut their mouths, Whom the Gentiles shall seek, come to deliver us, do not tarry.
But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD. Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide,
But he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land's afflicted. He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra's den, and the child lay his hand on the adder's lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD, as water covers the sea.
On that day, The root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, The Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.
Isaiah 11:1-10

Monday, December 18, 2006

O Antiphon: The Law Giver


O Adonai, et Dux domus Israel, qui Moysi in igne flammae rubi apparuisti, et ei in Sina legem dedisti: veni ad redimendum nos in brachio extento.

++++++++++

O Adonai, and Ruler of the house of Israel, Who didst appear unto Moses in the burning bush, and gavest him the law in Sinai, come to redeem us with an outstretched arm!
Now will I rise up, says the LORD, now will I be exalted, now be lifted up.
You conceive dry grass, bring forth stubble; my spirit shall consume you like fire.
The peoples shall be as in a limekiln, like brushwood cut down for burning in the fire.
Hear, you who are far off, what I have done; you who are near, acknowledge my might.
On Zion sinners are in dread, trembling grips the impious: "Who of us can live with the consuming fire? who of us can live with the everlasting flames?"
He who practices virtue and speaks honestly, who spurns what is gained by oppression, Brushing his hands free of contact with a bribe, stopping his ears lest he hear of bloodshed, closing his eyes lest he look on evil--
He shall dwell on the heights, his stronghold shall be the rocky fastness, his food and drink in steady supply.
Your eyes will see a king in his splendor, they will look upon a vast land.
Your mind will dwell on the terror: "Where is he who counted, where is he who weighed? Where is he who counted the towers?"
To the people of alien tongue you will look no more, the people of obscure speech, stammering in a language not understood.
Look to Zion, the city of our festivals; let your eyes see Jerusalem as a quiet abode, a tent not to be struck, Whose pegs will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes severed.
Indeed the LORD will be there with us, majestic; yes, the LORD our judge, the LORD our lawgiver, the LORD our king, he it is who will save us.
Isaiah 33:10-22

Sunday, December 17, 2006

O Antiphon: The Coming Of Wisdom


O Sapientia, quae ex ore Altissimi prodiisti, attingens a fine usque ad finem, fortiter suaviterque disponens omnia: veni ad docendum nos viam prudentiae!

++++++++++

O Wisdom that comest out of the mouth of the Most High, that reachest from one end to another, and orderest all things mightily and sweetly, come to teach us the way of prudence!
"The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
From of old I was poured forth, at the first, before the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no fountains or springs of water;
Before the mountains were settled into place, before the hills, I was brought forth;
While as yet the earth and the fields were not made, nor the first clods of the world.

"When he established the heavens I was there, when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
When he made firm the skies above, when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
When he set for the sea its limit, so that the waters should not transgress his command;
Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day,
Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men.

"So now, O children, listen to me; instruction and wisdom do not reject!
Happy the man who obeys me, and happy those who keep my ways,
Happy the man watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts;
For he who finds me finds life, and wins favor from the LORD;
But he who misses me harms himself; all who hate me love death."
Proverbs 8:22-36

Advent Update(s)

I will be reposting my series on the "O Antiphons" from 2005.

I will be modifying them slightly.

Good material never goes out of style.

The Face Of Christ

I had received this story from an acquaintance a week ago. Seem it has been making the rounds of the internet. The deacon who delivered the homily at Mass this morning used it as well:

++++++++++

Ruth went to her mail box and there was only one letter. She picked it up and looked at it before opening, but then she looked at the envelope again. There was no stamp, no postmark, only her name and address. She read the letter:
Dear Ruth,

I'm going to be in your neighborhood Saturday afternoon and I'd like to stop by for a visit.

Love Always,

Jesus
Her hands were shaking as she placed the letter on the table. "Why would the Lord want to visit me? I'm nobody special. I don't have anything to offer."

With that thought, Ruth remembered her empty kitchen cabinets. "Oh my goodness, I really don't have anything to offer. I'll have to run down to the store and buy something for dinner."

She reached for her purse and counted out its contents. Five dollars and forty cents. "Well, I can get some bread and cold cuts, at least." She threw on her coat and hurried out the door. A loaf of French bread, a half-pound of sliced turkey, and a carton of milk, leaving Ruth with grand total twelve cents to last her until Monday. Nonetheless, she felt good as she headed home, her meager offerings tucked under her arm.

"Hey, lady! Can you help us, lady?"

Ruth had been so absorbed in her dinner plans, she hadn't even noticed two figures huddled in the alleyway. A man and a woman, both of them dressed in little more than rags.

"Look lady, I ain't got a job, ya know, and my wife and I have been living out here on the street, and, well, now it's getting cold and we're getting kinda hungry and, well, if you could help us, lady, we'd really appreciate it."

Ruth looked at them both. They were dirty, they smelled bad, and frankly, she was certain that they could get some kind of work if they really wanted to.

"Sir, I'd like to help you, but I'm a poor woman myself. All I have is a few cold cuts and some bread, and I'm having an important guest for dinner tonight and I was planning on serving that to Him."

"Yeah; well, okay lady, I understand. Thanks anyway." The man put his arm around the woman's shoulders, turned, and headed back into the alley.

As she watched them leave, Ruth felt a familiar twinge in her heart.

"Sir, wait!" The couple stopped and turned as she ran down the alley after them. "Look, why don't you take this food. I'll figure out something else to serve my guest." She handed the man her grocery bag.

"Thank you, lady! Thank you very much!"

"Yes, thank you!" It was the man's wife, and Ruth could see now that she was shivering.

"You know, I've got another coat at home. Here, why don't you take this one." Ruth unbuttoned her jacket and slipped it over the woman's shoulders. Then smiling, she turned and walked back to the street, without her coat and with nothing to serve her guest.

"Thank you, lady! Thank you very much!"

Ruth was chilled by the time she reached her front door and worried, too. The Lord was coming to visit and she didn't have anything to offer Him. She fumbled through her purse for the door key. But as she did, she noticed another envelope in her mailbox.

"That's odd. The mailman doesn't usually come twice in one day." She took the envelope out of the box and opened it:
Dear Ruth,

It was so good to see you again. Thank you for the lovely meal. And thank you, too, for the beautiful coat.

Love Always,

Jesus
The air was still cold; but even without her coat, Ruth no longer noticed.

++++++++++

The king will answer them: "I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for me."

Matthew 25:40

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Roses In December



A website with more information on the Patroness of the Americas.

Fedora Doff to MamaT at the Summa Mamas, where the image was originally discovered.

Buried (Vaulted) Treasures

This is quite an interesting story, for those interested in first-class relics.

"Right now we can treat it as a symbol, regardless of its contents."

Friday, December 08, 2006

Ora Pro Nobis

(NOTE: Originally posted in 2005.)

As patroness of the United States of America under this title, we are under her care. On this feast day, let us pray for the welfare of our country, that we may continue to be "one nation, under God".
Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone that fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you, O virgin of virgins, my mother; to you I come, before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy hear and answer them. Amen.
St. Bernard

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Death Remembered

Because I could not stop for death, He kindly stopped for me; The carriage held but just ourselves and immortality.

Emily Dickinson, 1830-1866
I am no stranger to death. The past six months have brought notice of the deaths of three of my uncles, two by blood (paternal) and one by marriage (maternal). My only memory of my paternal grandfather was his funeral. There was the untimely death of a cousin via an automobile accident in 1979. And the anniversary of my maternal grandfather's death is later this month.

While all remind me of the words of John Donne, there is one which casts its shadow a little darker than the rest. It is the one which reminds me of the lesson I still need to learn: learn to love before it is too late. It is the one which leaves a void. It is the one which makes me ask at times, "What if...?"

I speak of my father, Francis Joseph Rolling. It has been fifteen years since he passed from this world. The memory of that day still lingers.

Expect The Unexpected

December 5, 1991 was a rather routine day for me at that time. I was working for a family-owned sporting goods store in Sioux City, Iowa in their trophy and engraving department. It was only a part-time position, but as a sports official, the advantage of being able to leave work by 2:00 PM was a big help. I had a junior high basketball double-header to work in Ida Grove later that afternoon; after a brief stop at my apartment to grab my gear and a bite to eat, I was on my way.

The first game started at 3:45. Late in the first quarter there was a time-out. I was standing on the opposite side of the benches, holding the ball. I looked up at a clock on a wall beyond the basket at that end. The time was 3:53 PM.

The second was done about 6:15. I returned to Sioux City about 7:00 and went back to the store, which was open later that night during the Christmas shopping season. The newer road salesman, a guy in his early 20s, was still there. After he finished processing an order and closing the store, we went out and grabbed a pizza, played a few pinball games, and basically "shot the breeze" the rest of the night.

It was 10:50 when I unlocked the door to my apartment. At that moment, the phone rang. Having not been home all day, I needed to answer it. The first voice I heard was rather unfamiliar to me; it was my younger brother's wife, who then passed the receiver to my brother who broke the news to me.

Preparations

My first reaction was one of incredulity. "Is this a joke?" was the first thing I asked. Assured it was not, he and I made arrangements to meet when he arrived in Sioux City via airplane. My next call was to a member of the church choir which I was directing, letting her know the news and asking if she would keep me company for a bit. We visited for about an hour; then I was ready to sleep as best as I could.

The next morning found me preparing for the journey home. I went to work for an hour, making sure some things that needed to be done were completed and being told I had whatever time off I needed. Next was a trip to the pastor's office of the church, where I informed him of the situation, as was my contractual obligation as director of the choir. Then there was a stop to a social worker who I had seen for counseling, who graciously saw me on very short notice. Finally, back to my apartment to finish packing and wait for my younger brother's family. They came; we left my place at 12:30 PM for the two-and-one-half hour drive.

(Some) Details, Details

Due to a problem getting the body released, the funeral Mass would not be until Monday. During that time the family was told of the nature of my father's death.

He had suffered a massive coronary. Not meaning to sound callous, this really was not unexpected. He was overweight, at least a pack-of-cigarettes-a-day smoker, may have had a milder heart attack a number of years earlier, and has a family history of heart disease. From all accounts, he was dead before he hit the floor of the auto body shop where he was working. The shocker was it happened sooner than anybody would have guessed.

The estimated time of death was 3:53 PM.

The days in between were unremarkable. There were a few moments which I recall:

1. A visitor on Saturday, a nun as it happened to be, has asked me how I was doing. While my mother would have the community minister to her and my siblings were married, I was going at this alone. I replied with the opening lines from Psalm 121.

2. Saturday afternoon was the first chance I got to get out of the house and be alone. As I had done when I was living there, I took a long walk around town. The route was still very familiar to me, even after leaving there five years earlier. The only person I encountered was the gentleman who would be the organist for the funeral.

3. Saturday night, after my mother finally had literally cried herself to sleep, the four siblings gathered around the table to discuss her financial situation. Despite my remembering seeing a policy, there was no life insurance or any means of support. She would hold an auction five months later to raise cash and eventually work two jobs as a waitress to support herself. The four children would eventually pay the funeral expenses.

4. This was the time I seemed to perfect the ability to shut off my mind mentally and emotionally and sleep. Despite using a recliner for a bed, I seemed to have gotten about six hours of sleep a night.

Religious Readying

I had two roles in my father's final preparations.

The first was the night of the wake. Along with my paternal aunt, who is a Fransican nun, we lead the Rosary. It was not hard to kneel by the open casket; in fact, having seen him in it was the beginning and end of the denial stage of my grief. My aunt made the comment about the dirt under his fingernails. And there was a string of Rosary beads in his hands as well. I thought I remembered seeing him use it when I was a child, but I could be wrong.

The second was my choice to be the Reader for the Mass. Despite my twin brother's wife trying to dissuade me (for I was the Reader for their Nuptual Mass), I was resolute; this was part of my grieving process. The Readings chosen were the Old Testament verses which included the text, "For my ways are not your ways," Psalm 23, Rom 8:31b-35, 37-39, and John 11:21-27.

With that and Sunday Mass (with December 9th. being the Feast of the Immaculate Conception that year, I don't remember it being offered), all I could offer in prayers was a heart groaning only as the Spirit could know.

Minor Breakdowns

I was able to leave for home about 3:00 PM that day. I made one last stop at the cemetary where he was buried, remembering my twin brother had put a pair of his Air Force wings on top of the casket before it was lowered into the ground. In my solitude I was still asking, "Why did this happen?"

While my body was caught in the physical signs of grief, I never did publically cry during those four days. A deluge was coming though, if I had seen the signals.

I went back to work the next day, asking only not to be called to the main floor. My request was not honored in the last hour. I was asked to help someone find a pair of athletic shoes; I really was too numb and self-consicious to be of help.

Wednesday found me in front of the two groups I directed. Early in the bell choir rehersal, I had to pause to keep control of my composure and did make mention of my father briefly. It did catch someone by surprise, as she was not around when the announcement was made that Sunday.

Thursday found me on a basketball court. I got through the first game OK. I got through the first quarter of the second game OK. But then for parts of the second and third quarters, I acted like I didn't want to be out there. The game didn't get out of control, but I was not there mentally.

A Vail Of Tears

After almost eleven days of holding my emotions in check, the floodgates of my eyes opened. A week after the funeral, I was sitting in a pew my home parish, waiting for the beginning of a communal penance service during Advent. Playing over the speaker system was a recording of a flute. Its melody to me seemed to be one of peace, something my soul was craving. That was all it took. For the next few minutes, I was crying without end in sight. Despite my plea to God not for it to be in public, I was finally overwhelmed by grief. In my confession that night, I also asked for the grace to be healed of this.

After that night, I was able to move along with my grief. About a month later I was in the same gym. Another time out. I moved to the same spot as I was the last time. I looked at the clock.

3:53 PM. I said a prayer.

It was about eleven months later when I felt I was finally over the loss.

Last Things

The last time I saw my father alive was July 28. I had made my way home to see if he could repair the latch to the driver's side door in my car, as I could not open it from the inside. No such luck. I learned to live with it.

The last time I heard my father's voice was a week before he died, Thanksgiving Day. Wanting to make it home for the holiday, my car wouldn't start that morning but did later after a jump. I called him later that night for his advice. He thought it was the cable; he was right.

The final irony I discovered was while I was taking a graduate level music history course on the Classical Period. Heavily focused on Mozart and Haydn, I discovered a fact I did not know.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791. Two hundered years to the day.

I prayed for my father's soul at Mass today, as part of my intentions as I recited the Rosary, and around the time he died, I recited the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Requiem prayers.

I wish he was still among the living.

"But my ways are not your ways."

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Foolish Sounds

It is nice to see the Holy Fool back at it on a more regular basis.

His reason why the hiatus is found here.

A recent sample of his foolishness I submit for your edification.

Five Digit Figure

It was a short visit; according to SiteMeter, the person was only here for the time it took to click on and off the 'blog. But, it was a historical one for this infinitisimal corner of the universe.

Someone using a computer on the campus of East Stroudsberg University in Pennsylvania became the 10,000th. visitor to my humble musings late Friday night. My guess it was a student looking for material for a term paper.

I have never worried about traffic coming here. If your 'blog remains on the internet long enough, you will get there eventually. And I know the numbers increased because of my little predicament in late March/early April.

I can only hope what I say is doing good.

I can be encouraged to continue.