Besides institutes of consecrated life the Roman Catholic Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance. — Canon 603 §1
For the rest of this week I will be locked up for a few days in a hermitage, c/o of the generosity of my wife, to write in solitude. I love to write, and I love solitude, and I write best when I am absolutely alone. My plan is to write on the vocation of the laity and to come up with an article. I’ve tried this before, with marginal success. So, if I might, I’d like to solicit your kindly prayers that I might succeed according to God wishes.
As ever, thank you for reading what I write, to my boundless amazement.
As I will be away for 5 days, I’ll leave a 5 things for your reflection. 🙂 (N.B. Archbishop Eamon Martin, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland recently said, “Be positive and joyful. Offer ‘digital smiles’ and have a sense of humour.”)
1. Misérables. For those of you who love Les Misérables, I will share you with this amazingly talented one-man version of the musical’s signature songs. It’s about 13 minutes.
2. St. Dismas. There’s a gentleman who comments on this post now and again who leaves the most engaging reflections. I don’t know him. His pen name, Dismas Dancing, is clearly meant as a self-identification with the Good Thief, St. Dismas, the rebel-saint who finds joyful redemption dying on a cross next to Christ. All of his comments are candid and inspiring, and the one he wrote this past Saturday commenting on my thoughts on raising daughters was no exception. Whoever he is, he appears as a man of character and has a deep, blood-red faith. Enjoy.
Brother Neal, as you certainly know from most of my comments on your blog, I spent a full career in the Marine Corps. When I retired from the Corp, three of our four children were already married having kids of their own and marching to the sound of their own career drums. Interestingly, not one of our children entered the military, although our sons investigated the possibilities, but with their own well-established parameters for doing so in mind before making a commitment.
Last weekend, our youngest and his bride invited us to attend their collegiate Alma Mater to celebrate a couple of significant events the University School of the Performing Arts was conducting. He was the last to leave the nest, doing so in 1996 after having worked as a golf course laborer in New Orleans while discerning whether, where, and which career, profession, job would most suit his life. He ultimately chose Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, LA deciding to work toward life as a stage actor. His elder brother was attending Durham University in England at the time, also majoring in the arts. In that field he has excelled, just finishing up a gig in London’s National Theater in the critically acclaimed “Yellow Face”. He has a long and impressive resume. But, since I am not advertising for them, I’ll spare you specifics beyond that mentioned above. We also had two daughters, the eldest of the four. Both are exceptional in so many, many ways. Both are wonderful Moms AND professionally successful outside the home, one as a teacher in a private school in southern Georgia, the other as a property manager in central Texas. Indeed, Our Lord has not only blessed both of us (my bride and me) with wonderfully talented children, He has been magnificently generous in His blessings of them as well.
So what? In this age that denies ever more loudly that men (fathers) are no longer necessary for the rearing of children, I scream loudly in protestation using Our Lord’s message from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know NOT what they do!” If nothing else, the experiences my wife and I shared with our kids throughout our military life demonstrated in unassailable statistics and observable real life events the absolute criticality of an engaged father working in consonance with the loving mother as a holistic, functional team in order for the offspring to have at least some real potential to succeed in life. Absent an engaged father, a child (male or female) will find an alternative, often one that is the antithesis of what the child needs. But within that substitute relationship one finds approbation, approval, “Love” (such as it is), belonging, and purpose. Sadly, over the years, we knew and took care of a number of latch-key kids whose parents abandoned them to the vagaries of the social network around them. Fortunately, within our rather closed society that is the military family, these kids found acceptable substitute families willing to stand in for absent parents. My wife and I still keep in touch with a number of them through our own kids and their periodic communication with fellow “military brats” they got to know and befriend over the years.
Several years ago, following a very special event in which I participated with my sons while we were stationed in Seoul, Korea, I wrote a memoir about it. Perhaps the most poignant line in your blog was:
“Dad is a Son’s First Hero and a Daughter’s First Love.”
In my own memoir, shadows of your daughter’s line to you jump out at the reader—often. For, in their invitation to me to participate in a stage production, I was asked to be that “sons’ hero”. It was an immensely awesome experience. In other aspects of that same memoir, I document the very real necessity and experience of being “a Daughter’s first love.” Specific experiences throughout our lives—daughters and father—are equally awesome. In the final thoughts of that memoir, I opine that, in the many trials my kids and I experienced together in our roles as a father and his children, they have become unwitting “heroes” to me. Before “tough love” became a cliché, it governed the rearing of my kids. The operative word, however, is “love” not “tough”. Anyone can be tough. That’s the easy part. Sometimes it was too easy for me as one of those “tough” Jarheads. The horribly difficult challenge is whether love governs the issue. I submit that if a father does not do as you did and find a place to privately “grieve”, whether happily or sadly, whether having received a “hand painted piece of construction paper” upon which is written a beautiful and simple love note, or having just meted out a “just” punishment in response to an errant action—If you cannot/do not find that private place and submit to the “LaCrema Christi” so to speak, you cannot, you are not, a father in the sense that your other quotes demonstrate that we should be. Even today, I indeed grieve for the times when I allowed “tough” to be my guide, instead of the “love” that is always richly deserved, regardless of circumstances. When my kids and I talk about those days and comment on the memoir, they chide me for “beating yourself up” over things “we probably deserved.” It soothes, but shall never heal, the wounds of remembrance.
BTW, two of my heroes, the eldest child (elder daughter) and her brother, the elder son, celebrate this year their 20th wedding anniversaries. Six grandchildren from those unions, four boys and two girls—ALL incredibly talented and smart (documented, NOT just braggadocio from a proud grandfather). Youngest son this year married 12 years with youngest grandchild (ditto the above). Next year another 20th anniversary—for second daughter. They have two very smart, lovely, and talented girls. Nine grandchildren in toto, ALL talented, smart, and possessed of a firm faith background (pls see above comment re proud grandpa). Can one question why, in my world where genuine heroes are in far too short supply, that my own children are MY heroes?
“My Father in Heaven, in Your mercy and generosity, You have allowed me, in unity with the love of my earthly life, the privilege of being father and earthly trustee of four of your beautiful creatures. In them are reflected Your infinite glory and majesty. I beg You in Your Fatherly love to rain down Your graces upon me and my own sons that I/we may be always “real” father(s) to our children in Your image and reality as Father of all creation. I beg also to be imbued with the necessary graces and strength to be a true son to You as is Your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I make this prayer as always in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. ”
Thanks so much for the great post. Upon finishing it, my own reaction was doubtless similar to yours in far more circumstances than we, as “tough” men might like to admit. Peace, my friend.
3. Dramatic proposal. A friend of my wife and I, who is an actor in Des Moines, recently proposed to his girlfriend (also a friend and member of my wife’s church choir in Iowa) in a really creative way. Click here.
4. Catholic-Orthodox. Pope Francis and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Barthholomew prayed together Sunday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and issued a joint statement. Here’s an excerpt:
…even as we make this journey towards full communion we already have the duty to offer common witness to the love of God for all people by working together in the service of humanity, especially in defending the dignity of the human person at every stage of life and the sanctity of family based on marriage, in promoting peace and the common good, and in responding to the suffering that continues to afflict our world. We acknowledge that hunger, poverty, illiteracy, the inequitable distribution of resources must constantly be addressed. It is our duty to seek to build together a just and humane society in which no-one feels excluded or marginalized.
It is our profound conviction that the future of the human family depends also on how we safeguard – both prudently and compassionately, with justice and fairness – the gift of creation that our Creator has entrusted to us. Therefore, we acknowledge in repentance the wrongful mistreatment of our planet, which is tantamount to sin before the eyes of God. We reaffirm our responsibility and obligation to foster a sense of humility and moderation so that all may feel the need to respect creation and to safeguard it with care. Together, we pledge our commitment to raising awareness about the stewardship of creation; we appeal to all people of goodwill to consider ways of living less wastefully and more frugally, manifesting less greed and more generosity for the protection of God’s world and the benefit of His people…
5. Papal Prayer. Pope Francis broke protocol by suddenly asking the motorcade to stop so he could pray at the Bethlehem Israeli-Palestinian Separation Wall beneath some graffiti that said, “Pope we need some 1 to speak about Justice Bethlehem look like Warsaw ghetto.” I could not help but think of this text:
Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by those called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands — remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near — Ephesians 2:11-18