This past week of record breaking everything according to The Weather Channel® has truly been a doozy and a half. Growing up in the North East, I had this childhood concept that it just didn’t ever but NEVER EVER SNOW IN THE SOUTH. My Grandmother would tell us stories during her annual Christmas visit of how the Nuns had to be exceptionally careful walking back and forth in the snow from the Provincial House to where they were teaching at St. Joseph’s College for Women. Others would go down the road to Mount St. Mary’s College for Men – which always baffled my young mind – why would girls go to one college, and boys go to another one literally down the road from each other? When I was 12, the girls started going to Mt. St. Mary’s… and the college that my Grandmother had worked at her entire life closed when I turned 13. Mt. St. Mary’s went on to become a full-blown university, while Grandmother’s beloved school sat dormant for years until the U.S. Government thought it would be a great place to set up training for the FEMA Academy. Somehow, the concept of government types of all persuasions running all over a very peaceful and tranquil campus practicing on how to deal with any number of disasters just didn’t make sense to me. Many years later, I stopped by to visit the Provincial House and pay my respects to the Sisters – Daughters of Charity. Although none of the Sisters who had watched me grow up from an infant to a member of the USN and then the DHS were no longer alive, their presence continues to live on in each and every one of the Sisters who are in residence at the Provincial House. Indeed, it is truly a humbling but powerful experience each and every time I stop – even if only for a very short while. You cannot ignore the very real presence of Our Lord throughout the Shrine and the surrounding area.
This brings to mind something that I often grouch about – in our attempt to find peace and tranquility, we often over-look the simple fact that we cannot detach ourselves from the ‘modern connected world’ for any great period of time. This past weekend, our parish was visited by a priest from the Archabbey in Latrobe – the largest abbey of the Benedictines in the United States. He was advocating for our parish’s continuous support to provide a place of peace… the Monastery… where young men discern their calling, and gain the knowledge through education to become priests. He made mention of how smart phones had permeated even their quiet grounds… noting that on a particular retreat weekend, ‘please do NOT bring your smartphones’. This of course caused something approaching withdrawal symptoms with the reflexive ‘grab yer phone’ twitch continuously cycling. Not having it caused a real thought-provoking (some might say heart-stopping) period when not having instantaneous communication from or to anywhere on the planet was a HUGE surprise. Our priest freely noted that while attending a nearby Pittsburgh Penguin hockey game, he was furiously texting in between periods… “DON’T FORGET ASH WEDNESDAY” and other short but impact-laden notes. He didn’t say if he utilizes that near cryptic ‘texting language’ that is something that would send any English teacher into fits… “r u going 2 rck ur hse 2nite?” or “ttyl…c u at sams” and the ever-present “OMG”… yeah… call the United Nations and get a translator. The point he was making to all of us – RELAX take a chill pill… LISTEN. Truly, he was right on the mark. I chuckled when people were sheepishly looking around – they knew that they too were in the same ‘trap’ of WHERE’S MY PHONE? Although I carry two – an iPhone 6+ (geek that I am) and a Samsung S4 (because my company wants me available 24/7/365), they stay in my truck when I go to Mass. My ‘world’ can go on hold for an hour, it will still be there when I get back, and yes, I immediately check to see if I have any messages – work or family. The point is, we really need to look inwardly at ourselves, take a serious assessment and consider what kind of projection we are really making. Starting with me, improvement is a continuous process. Only then, can we really appreciate all of the things we have and generally take for granted. How about instead, let’s show some time for helping others and step it up… just a notch or three, and look around you... see what you can do... for others.
As a very special friend would say “We are a work in progress” (Fr. Jim Parke).