Monday, December 31, 2007
Not a lot of original posts the past twelve months.
Then, again, things have been a struggle.
I thought 2006 was a wild roller-coaster ride.
2007 turned me upside down.
Leaving all that was familiar to me has been a challenge.
Trying to trust God this is the right thing to do.
There is still more fear in me than I want to acknowledge.
I am as good at walking on water as St. Peter.
But, then again, what can I do but repeat my mantra for the last three years.
"Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief."
See you in the coming year.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Good King Wenceslas looked out on the Feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel.
“Hither, page, and stand by me, if you know it, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?”
“Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain,
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes’ fountain.”
“Bring me food and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither,
You and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither.”
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together,
Through the cold wind’s wild lament and the bitter weather.
“Sire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,
Fails my heart, I know not how; I can go no longer.”
“Mark my footsteps, my good page, tread now in them boldly,
You shall find the winter’s rage freeze your blood less coldly.”
In his master’s steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, be sure, wealth or rank possessing,
You who now will bless the poor shall yourselves find blessing.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
It's just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.
It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas--oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it: the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma--the gifts given in desperation because you couldn't think of anything else.
Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended. Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church. These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes.
As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler's ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford. Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn't acknowledge defeat.
Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, "I wish just one of them could have won," he said. "They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them." Mike loved kids--all kids--and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball and lacrosse.
That's when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition--one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.
As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn't end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknownst to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope.
Mike's spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us. May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.
Monday, December 24, 2007
In Him, may we find what we seek:
"Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
May Peace, Joy, and Love fill you and those you hold near and dear.
Now living in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains, I can see the peaks getting dusted. When it had snowed earlier this fall, I enjoyed looking at the snow upon this range of the Rockies. In fact, I was looking forward to seeing this sight when I arrived here.
Ah, yes, snow-covered mountains. And a desert valley. Quite the contrast to the plains of Iowa and Minnesota, the only other places where I have permanently hung my hat. A most poignant reminder this Midwestern boy has been transplanted to a different time zone.
Mountains, valleys, deserts, and plains. The varied topography I have encountered this year reminded me of this passage:
A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the LORD! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.So, those of you who visit this infinitesimal corner of the universe, I ask you this: How was your preparation this past Advent? Have you removed, as best as you were able, the obstacles in the way so you could get to the Way? Are you ready to see the glory of the Lord, brilliantly disguised as a baby in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger?Isaiah 40:3-5
Don't worry if you were not successful. (Trust me, I wasn't.) Fulfilling that task is a lifetime process, not one which can be completed in four liturgical "weeks". Progress is also a blessing. Him Who we seek, in His eternal Word, continues to call us to Him. If we hear Him (remember the word "obey" has as it Latin root the word meaning "to hear") and seek Him, His guarantee is we will find Him.
So, like those being enrolled that first Christmas, like the shepherds, like the Magi, we go "to Bethlehem to see this thing that has take place," because we "saw his star at its rising and come to do him homage." We find Joseph and Mary being the holy parents they are, caring for their Son as best as able, surely full of curiosity about all the visitors who came to see the Child, slowly understanding the words they heard from their own angelic visits. We contemplate with our souls what we see with our eyes. We gaze at the Babe; unknowingly, we see the face of God. We meet Love; cor ad cor loquitur.
Venite adoramus, Dominum.
Hodie Christus natus est.
Tonight is just one stop on our journey of faith; we know there will be more.
The first place is the Manager. The next place is the Cross. The final place is the empty Tomb.
The search is over when we grasp this with our whole being.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
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!
Emmanuel. God is with us. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
Even though man left God, He never left us. The Word was always there: in the rainbow, the visitors to Abraham, the plagues, the cloud, the manna, the tablets, the ark, the temple, the tiny whispering sound, the speech of the prophets and psalmists, and whatever examples you may find elsewhere in the Old Testament.
- In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word.
Echoes of sound and glimmers of light. The faintest sensory perceptions for the soul damaged by Original Sin. Reflections of true reality. All pale in comparison.
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.Emmanuel.John 1:14
God is with us.
God is still with us.
"And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20b)
Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God).Revelations 21:3
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.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
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!
It was a question which framed the beginning and end of His life.
A question of identity.
"Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." (Matthew 2:2)
Strangers in a strange land, the Magi saw a glimmer of the Light and inquired about to Whom it lead. When told, they were able to hear the Word and find Him, while those who help them wanted to silence the echo. The echo would now grow louder because more would be able to hear it.
"Are you the King of the Jews?" (John 18:33b)
An earthly ruler, feeling threatened by the Word (history does repeat itself, doesn't it?), asked again. He directly heard, but could not respond. In the end, he would help to attempt to silence once and for all the Word.
And even in between those two questions, people wanted to know if they were among royalty.
They were right.
Found in the Book of Revelation (cf. 11:15, 19:6 and 19:16, KJV), used by Charles Jennens in a libretto, and set to music by Georg Frideric Handel, the Word reigns just as true at His birth, death, resurrection, Good Friday of 1742, and today.
Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
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
Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man's ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
That does not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy sting is not so sharp
As friend remembered not.
Heigh-ho! sing, heigh-ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh-ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly.William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Friday, December 21, 2007
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!
Return again to the creation story. What was the first thing formed from nothing by the Word? Light. But Who was this Light? St. John gives the answer (and expounds on it further in his first letter):
What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (1:3b-5)Yet, once it thought it had succeeded with Adam and Eve, the darkness tried and tried again to overcome the Light during salvation history. But just as the echo of the Word still remained, so did a glimmer of Light. Noah saw it in the rainbow. Moses, who already viewed the burning bush, was privileged to see more than a glimmer on Mt. Siani. The Magi followed a star.
All of these pale when the Word spoke plainly:
"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12b)
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.
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.
How powerful is the Word. From nothing, creation sprang forth when He was uttered. He speaks and the Law is given. Any oration from Him is full of wisdom and truth.
Perhaps, as is suggested in the verse from Isaiah below, the ability to bind and loose is the most powerful message He delivers. To bind a not so heavy yoke upon us, unlike the Pharisees he chastises in His ministry. To loosen us from the bondage of sin. To bind us together as brothers and sisters in Him. To loosen us from the fear which keeps us from loving each other. To bind our sufferings with His. To loosen the grip of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
But the most powerful thing this Word says is to the gates of Heaven, "Open. I closed you when Adam and Eve did not listen to Me. Because I now have taken on the nature of the crown of My creation and have redeemed them with My life, because I obeyed My Father, I make it possible for them to enter the Kingdom if they heed My voice. My church, My bride, has been entrusted with My words, My teachings, My sacramental grace to make heeding My voice an easy yoke. Those who heed My church heed My voice, and I will raise them up on the last day."
"The King of Glory comes, the nation rejoices.
Open the gates before Him, lift up your voices."
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.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
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.
The genealogy of Jesus found in the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew (1-17), the Gospel proclamation for the Mass of Christmas Eve, established Him as a descendant of the royal bloodline of David. It also connects Him to our father in faith, Abraham. Through the trials he endured, the father of many nations faithfully obeyed (heard) the Word.
How appropriate the Word would once again be proclaimed through his lineage. Some 42 generations later, a man who was in that line would have to do the same thing as Abraham. Like his ancestor and his betrothed, Joseph was visited by an angel. The heavenly being brings a similar message which Gabriel announced to Mary. Again, the words were only secondary. Again, the Word is more than an echo.
Like "father of faith," like "son." Two righteous men, the same act of faith. Both obeyed a timeless Word.
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.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
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!
The first "O Antiphon" speaks of wisdom and how it created order from the chaos. It was the first time the Word was heard clearly and obediently. Even though Adam and Eve disobeyed (did not hear), God would not abandon the crowning glory of His creation to death. There were always glimmers of hope in early salvation history when the Word was more than an echo, for example, when Noah and Abraham obeyed the commands given them by God.
It was, however, time for the Word to become, in a sense, visible.
God was once again speaking His Word, this time through a mouthpiece which only knew how to stutter. The strange and awesome sight of the burning bush, where and when the Word revealed His name for the first time, was just the opening dialog. The ten plagues was a not so subtle way of getting everyone's attention. The parting of the Red Sea was just an exclamation point.
Now, fast forward to Mount Siani.
The Word was about to become, in a sense, visible.
Recall the scene from the Book of Exodus. God came as a dense cloud. This holy mountain shook from the conversation between God and Moses. The Chosen People were commanded to worthily prepare themselves. Then, on the third day, when God finished speaking to Moses, He then spoke to the Israelites through Moses.
God gave them the Decalogue.
The Word became, in a sense, visible.
Despite it being "ten words" on stone tablets, it is still the undivided Word.
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.
Monday, December 17, 2007
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!
Looking at the beginning of this antiphon, I am drawn to the opening of the Gospel of St. John, which is proclaimed at the Mass of Christmas Day:
- In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
Then entered sin.
Then entered the need for salvation.
Throughout salvation history, the Word was uttered repeatedly, from Abraham to Moses to David to the prophets to John the Baptist. Some did heed the Word again, much like Elijah hearing the faint whispering sound (1 Kings 19:11-12). But these utterings were only echoes of Genesis. One knows how faint an echo becomes after the first repetition, no matter how loud the original sound.
So became the need for re-creation. The Word was then uttered "to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary." Note that when she accepted ("Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word"), she was not heeding the words of Gabriel. She heard the Word as clearly as the first fruits of creation.
Et Verbum caro factum est. Et habitavit in nobis.
There would be no more echoes.
"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."
...These ancient titles inspire and excite and are so beautiful as well as instructive. Indeed they shall not go out of style; here (almost like that line from St. Augustine) we have words and tokens, some thousands of years old - and they are cast in electronic form and "sent out to all the earth"! Something in the Gospel about the wise steward who brings both the old and the new...
Besides: this is the very best part of Advent, where we and the Church get to "count down" to Christmas, just like little kids... Oh, that's right: "unless you become like little kids, you shall by no means enter the Kingdom"....I also know the Happy Catholic promoted them (and, Julie, I am still ever so appreciative of that).
Once again, "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something purple" (I have read where a specific shade of dark blue is used instead; but, as much as I personally enjoy that color, I will stick with the liturgically correct hue).
The return begins later today.
Sunday, December 02, 2007
There are also other curious people who noticed as well.
This portion of a personal e-mail, sent to me September 21 by a former member of CatholicSingles.com, is a summary of what people are asking:
Ok, Mr. Ron...I will even include "Why" and answer all those questions.
It appears an update is in order. I was out cruising the website, and lo and behold.... Rollingrj is no longer in MN! Who, What, Where, and When???
It is long overdue.
Over the summer, there was a cosmic event in my life. In the grand scheme of the universe, it was barely a blip. In my infinitesimal corner of the universe, it was a major event.
By The Numbers
June 1 of this year started a new round of unemployment for me. In filing my claim, I had to supply wage information to the state agency which oversees unemployment insurance, something my former employer failed to do. After a month, I was approved. However, a bleak picture became even bleaker.
I was eligible for a benefit of $102 a week for twenty weeks. If there is a mathematician or economist who could have explained to me how to make that into a $540 a month rent payment and allow me to pay my other bills, I would have listened. Speaking of rent, did I mention my apartment lease was to expire on July 20?
These ingredients were added to the leftover in the stockpot from last I was seeking a job. The area was still not a place where I could not get an interview, much less a job. Even if I could, another figure was staring me in the face. As I was reviewing the starting wages for the full-time positions I had since 1996, they were all at $7.00/hr. That wasn't going to change either.
The handwriting was on the wall and I could clearly read it. A town which hosted a medium-sized university and could afford to pay for the inexpensive labor that lived basically next door to me (the campus was directly west of the apartment complex) was not the place for me anymore.
I had to leave.
I had no choice.
Horace Greeley Lives
The next question was where. Although I had family in the area, they were in no position to help me with living quarters, much less my (lack of) transportation issue, much less economically. Nor did I want to impose on them. But I did have an option.
Another person whom I met through CatholicSingles.com and have an on-going relationship (in fact, I had gotten her interesting in 'blogging) has known of this trial in my life. In fact, I vacationed at her home for the first two weeks of June, wanting and needing the time away to take a step back and assess my situation. As the status quo remained status quo, an invitation she presented to me before my visit was now becoming the only viable solution to my problem.
On July 13, I accepted.
"Go West, young man."
The Long Good-Bye
I now had ten days to get my affairs in order, as I arranged with the property manager to stay until July 23. Most of my personal belongings were already packed, the results of an ill-advised attempt to change locale two year earlier. I was able to rent a 5' x 10' storage shed about a mile from the apartment and borrow a large cargo van from my former employer to help with moving. My best friend, a fellow soccer referee and referee instructor, helped me as much as he could in packing a few things in boxes, shifting most things to the shed, and shipping some things to my new address.
The sports officiating community was the group most needing a formal good-bye. Letters of resignation were sent to two different officials associations, one in which I was an officer. I also wrote to my volleyball partner and referee of the football crew I was involved, a tough thing to do since the season was to start in about five weeks.
A formal good-bye to my parish also included a letter to my pastor, who was enjoying a vacation during this time. My last Sunday Mass there was July 15, where a missionary priest was the celebrant. I do wish the "good-byes" could have been more personal, but time was short with me.
I did, however, have somewhat of a "farewell tour."
My last four days were when I did all of my moving and shipping. I did, however, manage to make my last "public" appearances, all involving soccer refereeing.
July 19 saw me working a youth game which had been re-scheduled due to weather issues, a game I was originally assigned. As I was walking toward the touch line I was to patrol, I briefly spoke to the home team captain, who was also a soccer referee. I made mention to him that this was my last game here. He was genuinely surprised, but he didn't know all the details.
The weekend took me to a city about 60 miles south of Mankato, where a qualifying tournament for advancement to the state tournament was being held. Here I was among people who knew me and what I had done for the soccer refereeing community in the area, humble as the contribution was. All the teams there did not have the sharpest of skill; they played because they wanted to play. The effort made for an enjoyable tournament.
That Sunday was also when I was able to say "good-bye" to my mother. We had made arrangements to meet after Mass that morning. We talked for about 45 minutes; I was caught up on the news of my immediate family. She was concerned (as all mothers would be, no matter how old their child) about my new living arrangement. I assured her this was the best thing I could do. A handful of money, a hug, and a kiss; then we went our separate ways.
After the last games of the tournament, I was able to finish packing and storing. After dropping off the keys at the office, I spent my last night at my best friend's home.
I had purchased my bus ticket a week earlier. Now, on July 23, I was about to hit the highway. The bus was scheduled to leave at about 8:00 AM; it didn't leave until 8:45. I still feel fortunate I travel well; this was going to be a long trip.
Around 12:30 PM, we pulled into Sioux Falls, SD. It was our first change over; it was also a four-hour layover. We left the terminal at about 4:30 PM.
During this leg of the route, we had a short stop in Sioux City, IA, where I had lived before my move to Mankato. I hadn't seen the downtown area for about ten years; with memory being a sad privilege, I could tell how things had changed. It was another fond, if quiet, good-bye.
The bus pulled into the terminal in Omaha, NE at about 8:00 PM. What was supposed to be a one-hour transfer and layover took two. On the road by about 9:00, this movie occupied some time before I got comfortable enough to get some sleep.
When I awoke, I was just outside of Denver, CO where we pulled in at 6:00 AM on July 24 and transfered to a new bus at 7:00. Now came the longest part of the trip. The route took us north to Wyoming before it turned west. Going up and down the Continental Divide, seeing the ruggedness of this part of the Rocky Mountains made this a tedious and seemingly slow part of the trip.
It was. We were on the bus for 11-1/2 hours.
The Final Stop
Finally, at about 6:30 PM, the end of the line for me came: Salt Lake City, UT. I disembarked from the bus for the last time. A welcoming party of one was waiting for me.
Welcome to my new home.
Just east of the Great Salt Lake, just west of the Wasatch Mountains.
Fifteen minutes from the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
As it was Pioneer Day when I arrived here, a local amusement park conducted a fireworks show that night in celebration.
It seemed a fitting way to end this chapter of my life.