She Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

When I was in the 4th grade, we had neighbors named Ringo.  A guy one year older who seemed pretty normal until the Beattles came to New York in 1965.  Then suddenly, Jim started just using his last name and he was a superstar.  His name got pronounced differently.  With a lot more screaming.  Ringo went to Fuller School.  I just never knew Catholics went to Fuller.  I thought they all went to school with me.  1965 was the year I learned that not all the kids in public school were non-Catholics. 

That same year I had my first lay teacher.  Up until then, it had been all nuns.  My experience with nuns was the same one my parents had before me.  I am not sure if my grandparents all had nuns.  Three of them were Catholic.  My paternal grandmother was non-Catholic as a youth, in an age when she practically had to petition the Vatican to get married in the Catholic Church, as I understood it.  She eventually converted.  Her ancestors had come from the North of Ireland – before the partition – and somehow, for reasons I never quite understood, she did not consider herself Irish but Scotch Irish.  And she never drank Scotch that I could tell.  But I think that might have been why she was the only Catholic in Minnesota who had voted for Nixon in 1960.  Her father was the fire chief here 100 years ago when I imagine the fire department still used horses, when she was a child.    

Belief was always personal.  A possession like your own body.  Only it was in your mind.  Or maybe deeper.  I owed a lot of my belief to nuns. 


A lot of people throughout the times were born without belief in God.  At birth there was no real belief.  So belief had to be   either discovered, as Abraham discovered it, or it had to be taught.  In my case it was taught.  At home.  In parochial schools.  At a Jesuit university.  And my own curiosity then pursued it.  Belief is an interesting thing.  The measurement of belief, how much you had, really was a lot like family medical history.  It was based upon not genes. Seemingly, it was not in the chromosomes.  But I had owed it to someone.  Belief was formed by the degree of time that I went in search of my own curiosity, a lot like those nuns had in their lives. 


Concerning the amount of time spent, in challenging times in pursuit of that curiosity, I went about at this time of year to hear one priest I had heard about on retreat on a Saturday morning ten years ago.  I eventually had that priest on retreat.  His morning was spent talking about the Examen which he had learned of through the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola.  It was a prayer that was based upon the day.  My day.  So it was a personal prayer.  In a sense, this Jesuit spoke about prayer which was found in just thinking about the wakening hours.  


Today I awoke to the thought how God’s appearances in a day seem mostly fleeting.  Last night I found myself home alone, cooking a hamburger for dinner, using an electric fry pan.  A pretty mundane moment in the week.  But it caused me to think about my grandmother both at the end of the night and the start of today.  That electric fry pan had come from her home.  She gave it to me when I took my first job.  I had not used this frying pan in more than 15 years.  She had died in 1988.  In April 1987 I had moved to Chicago.  And almost at the time of my move she had had a severe stroke where she never was able to talk again.  That frying pan made me think of how I had failed her in the time of need.  In the period between April 1987 and July 1988.  The failure was not so much in not being there.  But when I came home to visit.  Oh I always stopped in.  But she couldn’t talk.  And it was difficult for this young man to say anything in a one way discussion.  Young men mostly always had answered questions, at least at that point in life.  And I did not know what to say in just a monologue.   True conversation, like true prayer, took a while to learn. 


I wasn’t much good in those days talking about what stirred my soul.  It took a while to find out.  Her eyes moved indicating full knowledge of anything I said.  But as she was every day, she was trapped in her bed, unable to say anything.  This was a woman who had never questioned me like a mother.  This was the woman whose unconditional love I had felt each time I had seen her.  Every time.  I see a couple grandkids who have that kind of relationship with my own mother.  In the old world when a mother’s job was at home, there was little need for the conflict that developed between mother and a male child when it came to a grandmother.  This was the woman who also was my godmother.  One thing I had learned about mostly all the Irish, Irish don’t like verbal expressions of love as much as those shown in action.  I never really expressed what this lady always had meant to me. 


That Examen taught me a lot about myself and my life and the authentic way to pray.  In a lesson which only had been on my mind for 20 years, that Examen yesterday had ended with me thinking about an electric fry pan when the broiler did not work, and giving thanks for a hamburger.  That electric fry pan was also an outward sign of the past, which had lain dormant around here for more than 15 years, a sacrament a lot like Wonder bread, which helped build bodies 12 ways.


In a subtle way, God appeared every day, however fleeting.  With love like that, you know you should be glad. 


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