Patron for the teens….

OK, yesterday it was the feast of St. Monica…today is the feast of St. Augustine!

For last years take on this, go here.  But this year, well, this year I’ve got my mind and heart all wrapped up in teenhood and those wild teen  years.  And that has Augustine written all over it!

Yeah, because as most of us know, Augustine…he was all about sowing his wild oats.   He did the whole teen “I know everything” thing….even getting all involved in some pop heresies of they day.  He was the “New Ager” of his time, or maybe the “Christian Scientist” of his time.  He loved to pontificate. He loved to party.  He loved the socializing. He loved the libations of all stripse.  He loved the women.  He lived with a girl, even fathering a child out of wedlock.  He was any mother’s nightmare, considering.

And yet, he wasn’t.  Because he still had a soft spot for his mom.  He would trek back to see her when he traveled.  He endured her entreaties to change his life around without storming off and writing her out of his mind and heart.  He ignored her,  utterly.  But he loved her.  And oh, she loved him.  And that was the saving Grace.  Literally.  Finally, the truth of real love hit him like a ton of bricks and blew his mind.  And his heart exploded. He put his prodigious mind toward what is true and started plumbing the depths of that truth….and we, even we moderns, are now the happy recipients of his writings and his thoughts and prayers.  God took his wild ways and turned them, reinvented them into something SO SO much bigger than they ever coulda been on their own measly pompus youthful steam and let them develop into something so big that he is a Doctor of the Church for the wisdom of his writings and the depth of his prayers.

His life cuts across our measly modern denominational boundaries with the keen edge of theological truth and beauty.  He grew from a standard wild youth that any mom would sigh and fret over…into a strong man, a saint, that any mom would be proud of.  So, moms…..therein is our hope during these tumultuous teen years.  Teens, here is a role model for you…if you have the courage to look closely. I dare  you!

“You have made us for yourself, oh God. 
And our hearts are restless, until they rest in you.

Happy Feast Day!

St. Augustine, pray for us!

Patron for the Moms

It’s the Feast of St. Monica!

Painting of St. Monica, by John Nava

Monica is special in so many ways….and especially special to me.  She hails from North Africa, so many forget that about her and Augustine..But I love her because she prayed without ceasing for her son (and her husband). I mean, it’s fairly widely agreed that her fervent prayers, and persevering ones, were effective in the conversion of her wild boy, Augustine.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  To fully understand why she is such a role model for me (and moms in general)…read on….

Painting of St. Monica, by Janet McKenzie
Monica was from North Africa, and from a culture where women didn’t always have the amount of power that we enjoy today (ok that was worldwide, but still…to set hte stage here…).  She was married to a tough husband and had a mother in law who hated her.  Not easy.  Even so, she weathered her Mother in laws barbs and she prayed for the conversion of husband….which he did, on  his deathbed.  Then there was her son.  You mom’s of teens, listen up:  Augustine was a son that would give any mom fits!  In our era raising him would mean many sleepless nights and teary phone calls with girlfriends. I suspect she had many a night awake fretting over her boy, and possibly many a tsking talk with her girlfriends as they worked.  Maybe she had to be quiet and weather the gossip about him…not easy…but OH so much fodder for it!  Her son was wild and ignored her pleas, getting into all sorts of revelry; ok, trouble…the kind of trouble we moms go gray over (can read more about him tomorrow on his feast day!).

But Monica persevered, because this was her son, she knew the truth and that he was Good (capital G good) and she had the faith that her prayers would be answered according to God’s will….sooner or later. Well, it was something like 17 years later, but it happened. Not only did Augustine turn his life around and step back onto more solid ground, but he converted to the faith and was ordained by St. Ambrose himself. So, not only were her prayers answered, they were abundantly answered!  How cool is that??

I am just pretty darn sure that ol Augie’s conversion (as he might have been called in his party days) was in large part due to the faithful lasting sure prayers of his mom, as well as her prayerful example and steadfast love, no matter what. See that painting, just above?  It’s St. Monica praying for St. Augustine…see that intensity, this mom means business!  And no matter what trouble he got into, Monica didn’t shun him. She might well have corrected him, being his mom and all (whether or not he listened)…..….but she never stopped loving him.

And that is what will turn even the hardest furthest of hearts back to the truth of Real Love. So I love St Monica, and she reminds me to never give up. Ever. We mom’s can’t give up…it’s one of the things that keeps the world spinning correctly on it’s axis.  I know it.

Happy feast day, moms.
St. Monica, pray for us!

And Many More!

It’s my wonderful Mom’s birthday today!!!!

Marta says “Grandma, have cake!”

I’ll keep this short and just say, I miss her.  I wish I lived nearby so we could have easy great visits like this past summer.  It was the best, just being able to drop in on her after Buddybug and I got all stinky  playing tennis. I could laugh about getting thrashed by my son, we’d talk tennis and she’d make him a quick lunch from leftovers.

I wish her the  most wonderful relaxing and  happy birthday that can be.

I wish her phones calls from her favorite folks in the world, her sister and her friends.

My Sis, deliver the goods (hugs) for me.

I will call and sing the birthday song to her, badly, as ever.  She will smile (I can hear it when she does) and say thank you and we will hit the highlights of her special day.  I will task my sister with giving her a big birthday hug from ME, delivered by proxy but still mine.

I know that this birthday has been weighing on her, aging up can be a psychic drag but then again, she’s doing it with flare and still going strong as can be.

This past July, such a great visit!

I love you Mom! You’re the best of moms!

I’m shouting my, and all of our, birthday wishes to the world:

Happy Happy Birthday to You!!!!!!

Wordless Wednesday; feast day edition

St. Bartholomew, by Johannes van Bronchorst, 1652

Almighty God, strengthen us in that faith

  with which Saint Bartholomew gave himself wholeheartedly to Christ your Son”

from the Divine Office

St. Bartholomew, on your feast day, pray for us!

Little Miracles, Can You See Em?

One of the cool, inspiring blogs I follow, Love that Max, had a post that has kept me thinking. It’s a post about seeing miracles, big and small and worth a look. Go see, then come back…

Ok, thanks for coming back! So. Heres what I’m thinking after reading that: It’s easy to only have eyes to see the “Capital Letter Miracles.” Heck, who doesn’t want that? It’s awesome and wonderful to see the “Capital Letter Miracles!” Let’s face it, we crave those kinds of miracles (So much so that tv charlatans have manufactured fake ones for decades, don’t be snookered)….

But what I’ve been thinking about is Max’s point…that we see miracles every single day. In our own families. And no, I don’t only mean that it’s a miracle we got to school on time! Ok, maybe sometimes I do mean precisely that….ahem. Not to be too drippy or saccharin..but we can and do see them, all the time. And I need to remember to mark them, heck I need to marvel at them, with a wide open grin. Because, I don’t know about you, but I can all too easily slip into the daily grinding drill and forget to see any of those moments for the clutter and clanging of the chaos. Yes, chaos. The puppy peeing, the small boy banging, the larger boy crashing down the stairs while the silent attitude of the teen is a siren stomping up the stairs. Those times, I’m pretty darn hard pressed to see any miracle. Much less a capital M one. Mostly I see a certain preteen left shoes in the hall and someone else left the towels on the stairs….

But they are there, those tiny flickering miracles. And I kinda like the small ones best, in many ways. Maybe it’s all I can take…who knows? But really, if I can slow down my vision, still my spinning gears or, at least, stop after the rush hour is over and gaze around the momentarily silent house, take a breath….I can see past the smudges and the socks. I see miracles.

We did get to school on time!

And that silent-bellow, the freezing attitude of the newer teen? It shouts of a newfound security, strong enough to withstand a huffed stomp up the stairs and the scowls of a sibling and/or second mom. We weren’t sure we’d get there many months ago. A miracle.

The quiet drawing, so carefully intricately etched by a loud crashing whirling dervish of a seven year old boy? A miracle: the artistic gift, and the few mintes of stillness to allow it forth onto the paper.

A small warm sweet four year old, sleepy curling under his covers, whispering to me…asking if I would hold his hand while he falls asleep. Pure miracle; he came, wary, from across the world and now nestles by choice next to me.

A preteen with a guarded but hopeful heart, joining the same school again with her siblings, no longer needing to be separated in order to get the accommodations she needs….everyone doing their part to make up the differences. That one might be a capital M, it’s so good, so important, so unexpected all those years.

The same new teen from hard places who can freeze you out…. being able to finally relax enough to actually play, be playful…with a new sweet puppy that sparks laughter and silliness in a child that has known so little.

The unbidden hug goodnight of the eldest teen daughter, just now as I type, on her way to bed…with a real sparkly true smile in her eyes, and the same in mine, right back at her. If you have a fifteen year old, you know that, in itself, some nights, IS a miracle! I’ll take it.

So, I’m counting my miracles. I’m trying to open my eyes to see them. Because you know, miracles are funny. If you don’t have the heart to see them, or if you close your eyes for a moment too long. They are gone. And that is just a waste. Because if we open our eyes to look, we can but marvel….

Bank Deposits, kid version

So, this is in many ways an oldie but a goodie….this concept of banking with your kids.

No, I’m not talking about the allowance or financial planning; coins and greenbacks.  I’m talking, rather, about the most important kind of banking: the Bank of Our Children.  What I mean is this, an old parenting nugget is to make sure you make “deposits” in  your child’s bank account of affection, daily.  Sounds simple, no? Simplistic even.  That very aspect, so basic, doh, makes this an easy nugget to drop or brush off. It’s easy to nod in agreement and then blithely trip along on our daily treadmill.

But that would be a mistake.

It’s one I’ve made all too often and even too recently.  This has been an intensive summer, to say the least.  You all know that.  But numerous other events and things have been cranking up the pressure as well and with that vise, something has to give.  That would be me.  Or, more precisely, that would be my equanimity and even on some days, my kindness and affection.  One of my kids, in particular, has born the brunt of this, fueled by my frustration and disappointment in some of their choices, but aggravated by the general stresses of this summer and simply, mostly, by my sheer laziness and/or burnout in keeping that razor sharp tongue and lightning fast temper locked up.  Happily, Coffeedoc is most excellent at doing this, he doesn’t fall into that bear trap of temper and intensity.  He’s the most even keeled guy I know.  Thank goodness for such gifts.

Suffice it to say, I’ve made more withdrawals than deposits in this bank account lately.

So, I’m once again, flipping back the pages to the basics for a refresher course in parenting basics 101.  And the most fundamental one is: make sure you make sure your kid knows you think they are great, good, even awesome.  Even if they are frustrating you, you (ok, me) can look ’em in the eye and kiss them on their forhead and smile at them with soft eyes a couple of times in the day.  You can tell them “I love you,” without it sounding snarky.  Really, you can.  And if you can’t, you can touch their shoulder as you pass by them in the kitchen and you can let them see you looking at them with a smile.  Really. You can.  Ok, that’s right, I can.  But some days, some of those hard brittle parenting teen days…or five year old days, or kids from hard places days…..you have to intentionally MAKE yourself do it.

That’s right, you have to MAKE yourself do it.  Because you might want to growl at them, you might want to tug their ear to get them to listen, you might want to hold up your palm toward their face and glare instead of hearing them.  But that would be a mistake.  Because then your ‘bank account’ {by which I mean: THEIR bank account of this resource too} of closeness and affection with that kid, your kid, is draining like a sieve.  And if you (ok, me) can just pull them into even a half shoulder hug….you’re changing that pattern and building that interest and that reserve back up again.

But, this particular bank account….it’s not only your best resource for happiness and heck, even retirement (fair warning children!) but it’s theirs.  For their future too.  It’s their most important IRA, it’s  an IKA  – Individual Kid Account.  And you are the steward of it.  Those deposits may seem fleeting and ephemeral, but they are worth more than platinum or gold.

The knots.

As you all know – to the pain perhaps – I’ve been processing the departure of my eldest son, for a radical life choice.  I am also prepping, once again, to say goodbye on Sunday to my next son as he returns to college for his sophomore year.  Multiple friends have their kids also heading off to college this week; some their first to go, some their last {you youngsters, hang on, this may not the be phase you’re in, but you will be sooner than you realize and this post still sweeps you into the topic}.  

So, all that is to preface: my mind has been a-spinning.  I’ve been thinking about these tough parenting, family, and life transitions.  I’ve been wondering why they are so difficult.  Is it simply that I am a total baby about goodbyes and have never learned basic decorum? Is it that I’m a drama queen (hush, I hear  you laughing….be kind).  Is it that there might be more to this tough stuff; that we rarely take a closer look?  Well, I don’t want to engage in naval gazing, but I think I might do well to engage in some gazing at the very threads.

I mean, I think that really we have threads that run through our lives.  We weave them together, if you will (an old, perhaps tired, metaphor; yet useful).  Or we simply knot them together as a lifeline, literally in some ways.  Or you could use the patchwork quilt analogy.  Whatever works for you….but the point is that common feature: the knot.  We have to tie threads together as we change direction, color, pieces, pictures, parts.  It’s a job, not always easy.  Just like life, we have to tie together  the different parts places peoples, directions, changes and things.  And it’s not always smooth or simple, it can be frustrating and tricky and confusing.  Sometimes it’s really hard, even painful.  And that these transitions, the tough stuff?  These tough moments, times, events…they are the knots.

Knots are not pretty…unless you are my husband and are tying beautiful surgical or rosary knots, intentionally…or are an artist making celtic knots for the aesthetic cultural coolness.  But typically, knots are tight and looped and smooshed and twisted up, turned inside out on top of themselves, pinched and pulled as tight as can be.  And  when you get your unsuspecting finger stuck in one? Yowch!  But knots on the flip side are where the transitions happen.  They are hidden work. But they underlie the beauty of shifts and shades and pieces coming together and standing apart.  The knots tell the fullness of the story.  They are it’s very support and structure, of course.

So, why do we so often, why do I, try so hard to sidestep, soften or skip those very knots?  To stay on point with my summer knots: I hate goodbyes, they make my chest tighten and my stomach hurt.  I usually want to just end them as swiftly as I can and go recoup somewhere, distract myself from the pain of it all.  I think that is so common.  Who wants to hurt? Who wants to be sad?  But I guess what I’m thinking about so much this summer is that this very hard tight pulling from these events/times – even these knotty sad hard goodbyes, changes, transitions – they are a suffering, literally knot in my stomach.  But, in so many ways I think that knotty hurt itself provides the depth and the beauty to our lives. {No not in some masochistic way, rather in that contrast between the joys and sorrows, the experiences that shape and mold us.}

As parents, when we have to undo and retie those some of those knots…when we  have to let a young adult step forward into their new adventure…those knots are especially tricky.  You have to untie them, not to drop the thread though, but to gather that thread and retie it, looser, in a whole new configuration.  I don’t know about you, but I’m especially inept at knots and mine are messy and tangly and uneven with odd misplaced loops.  So retying the old ones that have become very tight – of a piece – into new, elegant relaxed ones…well, it’s a learning curve.  I’m no seamstress, no weaver, no quilter.  So my knotting is kind of a mess, it hurts as I tug to undo it and it catches and pulls as I remake it.  I cry and I cuss as I struggle with it.  But, even so, I know….I trust and I know… that these very knots are the important parts.  Even with the tugging tight hurt of them, they are the parts that count the most.

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Name Edition

Introducing, Brother Peter Joseph!

Yeah, they get new religious names.

A post on that very big deal, later.  For now, go see A GREAT SHORT SLIDE SHOW of the Vestition and  his new brothers…..

And, as always, for more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

Leaving all things behind….Updated. With pics

Today is the feast of St. Dominic, an amazing saint and one we are getting to know much better around here.  For a prior post of mine on his feast day, go here.

St. Dominic in Prayer, by El Greco

As today is St Dominic’s feast day, that means this day is one of great import in our family and for my eldest son.  My son has just entered the novitiate of the Dominican Order (the Eastern Province of St. Joseph).  Today is the day of Vestition.  Which means, today is the day my son gets his habit (those white and black robes) and very likely, a new, religious, name.  Today is the day that he really begins.

It’s a big day.  We feel it.

To go and see what I’m talking about, you can go here to see last years Vestition…I saw it last  year and it made me cry.  I’m not watching it today, because it will make me cry all the more, I already puddled up during the Morning Office and prayers.  I’ll save those watching tears for any video that might come of the Vestition for MY son. Those are enough for me, for this.  And while it all sounds like I’m so torn up and sad; I’m not.  Not really.  I’m remarkably peaceful about it all…..but…..I surely do feel the moment of this day.  I feel the weight of it.  Heck, I feel even now that connection to my son and I wonder if he’s feeling nervous or edge or just excited for it all?

But today is here, and he begins.  He literally lays down his life from before, to take up a new one.  Thus, the habit, a clothing of a new man.  And he steps up and forward into a new life, and living it to discern if he is called to it ALL.  That’s what this is for: to live it fully and completely, in order to grow into it, or find out that it is not fully, finally, for him.  Either way, it is a huge transition.  For him.  For us.  And hopefully it is a life that will be covered in joy, as is the  mark of all Dominican’s I’ve ever met.

Today, it begins.

UPDATE: That’s my boy, oh dear, my grown son…..center.

This is my first glimpse, it just came through email…and yes,

it made me burst into tears…of joy and..i don’t know…took my breath away.  wow. (And no, it’s not a requirement that he shaves and buzzes his head. That’s just him. Yeh I was surprised too. That’s my son!)  

St. Dominic, pray for us.  St. Dominic, pray for my son.  Happy Feast Day, everyone!

Go figure….no, TRANSFIGURE

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration.

This feast is, once again, a timely juxtaposition with my mundane little life. And, for full disclosure, some of this post is from a few years ago….because we are undergoing our own transfiguration here in the Coffeehouse and it’s a little bit slamming hectic around here…not to mention, you read my last post on dropping my son off at the Novitiate…I’m still a little gobsmacked over it all.  Anyhow……I love how living the liturgical year through the Church brings me these connections and reminders of what’s real and important…and helps me see beyond my own little self absorbed tinny walls, even if only for a millisecond or two. It’s cool. It’s almost like it’s planned to do that or something, I don’t know…

This feast is the story from the gospel (Luke 9:28-36) that we meditate upon in the fourth mystery of the luminous rosary. Its when Jesus and his apostles, Peter, James, and John go up onto Mount Tabor with Christ. Then Christ appeared to them, not only as the man they knew but in all the blinding splendor of His Divine Nature, and what’s more, with Elijah and Moses beside Him. Peter, one of my fav’s, was so excited that he burst out and said, “Lord it is good to be here! Let’s put up a tent!” (well, that’s my paraphrase, anyhow). He was so thrilled that he just wanted to stay there, it was that cool! (He reminds me of my sweet Jon here, ok often, but that is just what my son would say and do.)

Well, I just really love the visuals and imagery of this story. But I also love the whole concept of transfiguration. Even as I cringe at change in general, I beg to be transfigured myself as I need it so. And this passage promises that, for each one of us. Now, the caveat is that it promises it through the cross. It was just following this event that Christ went to His Passion, the Cross. He went to suffer. But the transfiguration was a promise to his disciples, his most beloved, that the suffering would not be the end. That there was more and it was Glorious, breathtaking. It was also a promise to us and a path: that our suffering is not for naught, that it too transforms us.

I know, I’ve written this before. I think about this a lot. Maybe because it’s hard to wrap my puny brain and sensibilities around the whole concept. And now, especially, it’s been a struggle, because this past summer I’ve been soaking in it with even more intensity than before.  Hard to imagine, but true, and I suspect will be this year ahead. I know my son Chris will be.  And you know, suffering, um, hurts. But even so, even in the weary of it, the core of me believes it does change you. It transforms you. And you come out on the other side different. Better, stronger. No, not faster, this is not a Six Million Dollar Man cheapie tv show….. but more. Transfigured. More the You that you were made to be. Whatever that is. But MORE. And that, to me, is glorious, and hopefully, for me personally, shinier (as I am nothing but smudgy of late).

I like Raphael’s drawing, below. One, because I love drawings, but also because I love how this study is about the apostles. The actual imagery of the transfiguration of Christ is of course impossible to really know or guess; it is beyond our ken. But the apostles, this story is very much about them, and us, as well. And the wonder and the stunning awe that they must have felt, the joy, the fear, the gasp…..well, I keep finding my mind turning to that. So, today on this feast of the Transfiguration, I will try hard to remember and trust that even we regular Joes (And, erk, Janes) can be transfigured too. The promise is for us as well. In fact, I am beginning to realize it is much, much, more than a mere promise…it’s happening even now, we only have to have our hearts turned in to see it.  And for that, on this feast day….I will meditate on that in gratitude and wonder.

Raphael, study of heads of apostle’s for Transfiguration painting.
Happy Feast Day!

Mrs. Brown {Or, the Dropoff}

So. I’ve hesitated to write this post. Heck, I’ve not written anything at all for over a week…which surely tells you that I’ve kind of “gone to ground.” I’ve waffled between wondering if I have no words at all left to say/write or if I’ve just got so much too many….

Anyhow, after a week of processing all this, I’ve decided that in order to really follow through on my series about Chris entering the Novitiate, I need to at least give some account of “the dropoff.” I would have given my eye teeth to be able to read another parent/mom’s experience of this uniquely layered event. It might have prepared me a bit more, not that anything really can, of course. But, as you know, this is such a different deal, it’s not dropping your kid off at college, or his first apartment and new job, or going to his wedding….it’s much less common, and has different layers. But in entering the novitiate, he chooses to step OUT of the world and leave it and all things behind, to walk closer to God and a life of prayer.  That means even us, to a degree and it’s a kicker.  Of course, it’s also different for each and every person and their family. However, this one…it was ours. And…before you recoil in horror, those of you who know me well, rest assured I will try to spare you all the histrionics and be as objective as I can for the reporter value to any mom who comes behind me.  Read on:

Call me Mrs. Brown. That’s right, as I pondered how to get through this last month or so with my son before his big exit , I prayed and stewed and then finally came to this realization.  I was, in many ways, “the delivery mom.”  You know that ad campaign, “What can Brown do for you?

  • Well, I was Mrs. Brown.
  • My job was to deliver my boy back to God.
  • Via the Novitiate.

His dad and I were delivering our boy, this young man, safely to his next adventure and the next phase of his life.  It was our job to get him there safe and sound, with as much support and encouragement as we could muster for his excitement and anticipation of this big day.  In short, we had to try (ok, me) to work hard to be happy for him and not steal his thunder with those pesky sparking tears and the difficulty of this change.  It was momentous enough for him, he is keenly tuned into the emotional radar of the family and he knew how big this was for his folks and his sibs…no reason to have him have to bear the burden of that sorrow or feel conflicted about looking forward to getting there.

Kids with cousins (minus hannah who was in england. priceless)

So, I put on my Mrs. Brown hat and we had a great vacation at the beach, we ate meals together, I had him help with big guy chores, he hung out with his dad on a special project (‘nother post that), I cooked all his favorite foods (and didn’t season them with my tears).  He was able to visit with friends, and sibs and play bananagrams, whooping us as usual, play  music with his brother, laugh joke and relax.  I’m telling ya, I begged for prayers during this time and you all pulled through in a huge way as I was cheerful, was ok, and felt like I was  wrapped in a a mantle of grace. Really, there is no way I can thank you all for those prayers, except to return the favor, anytime.

Anyhow, so I thought it was going really well and it was.  But by his farewell supper, I broke.  As we went around the table in our usual way of each person saying what they are thankful for that day…I just kinda broke down into tears.  I think the “night before” is always SOO hard. .  The night was busy with packing and prep, Chris, his dad, and I ended up staying up too late, well after midnight, despite knowing the tough day ahead.  The puppy was a terrific distraction, still is.  Finally we all fell to bed for a few  hours sleep.  The morning came early, I woke with knots in my stomach and hot tears behind my puffy eyes.  Tom and Chris went to an early Mass, the kids slept and I got final things ready to load into the car.  I’ll spare you the tough details of the next hour or so, but the short version is that they came back and we loaded the car, the kids all woke and then we had to have them say goodbye. It was just as sad and wrenching as you might imagine, for us all.  As Chris hugged one, and then another, I went behind him, soothing hugging tears falling all around, tom did the same on the other side.  Quickly, hugs had been made, sibs were crying and we had to just go.

And so we did.  It was a quiet start, some coffee, a letter dropoff, then heading out of town.  Chris looking out the window, me driving to use the distraction.  After awhile we all prayed the Office and Morning Prayer together, Chris and Tom reading the prayers while I drove, streaming. It was a beautiful day, hot, sunny.  We had five hours of driving ahead.  Soon we could start talking and joke a bit here and there, we tried to find some music to listen to but all the songs off  his ipod made me cry. I had to box that idea.  We settled into sports news and a book on tape.  As we got stuck in a huge construction project we took his new rosary, 15 decades, for a spin and prayed them all . That was tough again, that searing cold poker stabbed through my chest, causing tears to stream again, especially in the sorrowful mysteries.  What is it about prayer that makes you so vulnerable? Oh, yeah, doh, it’s prayer – opening up that heart.  Gee whiz.  Ow.  Once finished we were pulling into Cincinnati.   Perfect timing. Of course.

We had about 30 minutes to kill.  So, we went to get him a sandwich. I got a cup of coffee, no eating gonna happen for me, went to freshen up, nervous, knowing we had about one hour left with my boy.  Jittery.  Tried to make my bullfrog eyed self presentable to meet the Novice Master and anyone else we might have to say hello to.  Don’t want them to think his folks are unstable or horrible, right? Sigh.  Fail.  I not sure there IS makeup that can cover up a nose like that or cheeks flushed.  Give up.  Coffee cold.  The guys choked down a sandwich, conversation was tough.  You feel like you have to say those last words of wisdom, but they’ve already been said.  So, we all decided to head on over, we couldn’t stop the clock. It was time.

Driving to the Novitiate was a 5 minute hop.  Through Madeira, a very charming little town. I thought, “I could live here, it ‘s lovely.”  That was a comfort.  The parish is beautiful and they had white tents on the lawn, receiving parents, though it was a small group.  Chris was nervous and excited.  Tom and I were just nervous.  I dreaded meeting the Novice Master, being such a mess.  Chris was calm.  He had a smile on his face.  We walked over and one of Chris’ pals from college was there, finishing his Novice year; he strode over to hug and greet Chris.  Chris grinned, happy to see him.  Other brothers came over to say hello, and there was Fr James Sullivan, right before me, hand out to say, “Hello Mrs Gautsch!”  I kind of burst into tears behind my big sunglasses.  He’s no fool and said, “I seem to have that effect on mom’s....” I laughed and said hello and told him he was funny and apologized for being a mess.  He took it all in stride, God bless him.  Fr. James asked two of the postulants to show us three around the priory a bit and off we went for a quick tour.

St. Gertrudes Parish

The priory is where the community lives, rather like a dorm, but not overrun with freshman moving in with stereos and boxes and bedding.  It’s not fancy; it’s modest but serviceable.   The refectory, where they take their meals has three long tables connected in a U shape and a bank of windows across one wall.  It is bright and pleasant and cheerful.  We couldn’t see the bedrooms, community only.  We saw the library, the laundry, the exercise room, the chapter room (where they have weekly meetings to go over biz and whatnot), the lovely chapel.  And I have to say, part of me thought, “Oooh, maybe I shouldn’t have gone on this tour.”  Because my mind was shouting at me: “I could never do this!”  Which made my heart kind of seize and I kind of stopped breathing a bit.  Then, as we went back outside….it was time.  Time to hand over his one suitcase, his mandolin, his guitar and backpack.  Time to hug our boy goodbye.  I tried to sear the image of him hugging his Dad long and tight into my memory and heart.  Then I held him one last time (break……..blink blink blink  blink  blink………………………………..breathe…………..exhale.  Ok, typing again) and (wait……blink blink blink) kissed his cheek, made a cross on his forehead and told him I loved him so, and turned and walked to the car.  Tom got in beside me and we drove.  I couldn’t help but turn to look at him, there in the parking lot, and was happy to see  him standing and talking with the other new novices as they loaded their bag(s) into a van.  They took the newbie’s to a retreat  house nearby to stay for a few day, as the exiting novices were still living there and there was just not room in the priory (their home).  So, as we drove off, my son was smiling and talking, even as I could see he was a little on edge and nervous.  But he had begun.

Tom and I had completed our task.  It was heartbreaking, so much more so that we had anticipated (which is saying something) but also exciting and worrisome and a whole sea of emotions; a mini tsunami of feeling.  It was hard.  Make no mistake.  And even as I keened as tom held my hand tight tight tight and he drove….we talked and I said “I couldn’t do it.

But we both immediately knew and know the answer to that cry: we don’t have to.  Nor does he.  But we were NOT called to.  We were called to marry and parent.  This year is for our son to decide if he truly IS called to this life, this radical life that will take major adjustment and transition just to go and try it out.

We did our part.

We delivered our boy back to God, and into his new life.

Call us Dr and Mrs. Brown.