Saint Denis

Today is the Feast Day of St. Denis. He is the patron Saint of Paris and France and headache sufferers.

I’ve always been happy to have Denis as my saint’s name because he’s kind of a maverick and a tough guy. According to legend Denis was Bishop of Paris in the third century and was martyred by beheading. He is said to have picked up his own head and walked six miles, preaching a sermon the entire way. Also Denis is the patron saint of headache sufferers, frenzy and strife. This is not surprising considering that six mile trek while carrying his own severed head!

St. Denis - Outside the Madeline in Paris (depicted with head intact)

St. Denis – Outside the Madeleine in Paris  (depicted with head intact)

Of course I admire the “saintly” saints who prayed and fasted and gave up all worldly possessions to follow Jesus’ call. We all love the saints who lived simple lives and made tremendous sacrifices for their faith but there’s something about a guy that’s got Denis’ spunk. I mean even the biggies like Francis and Theresa and Patrick and Clare didn’t carry around their own heads post mortem. So in my book Denis is a saint to emulate. Not only was he tough but he was cool. Let’s call it grace under pressure – extreme pressure.

 

St. Denis

Our grandson as St. Denis last year during All Saints’ week at school

Last year our grandson Noah chose to be St. Denis for the All Saints’ celebration at school. This morning he’s doing one of the readings at mass. Holy Noah (AKA St. Denis).

My Aunt Gene used to send me a ‘Saints Day’ card on Denis’ feat day and I will miss that again this year. When Alzheimer’s took it’s grip she forgot about Saint Denis and was sometimes a little fuzzy about who I was, too. But she’s the one who first introduced me to the saint who shares my name. And I have always taken a certain amount of pride (is that a sin?) in the fact that my patron saint was a badass who defied his Roman persecutors!

I’d like to think that Aunt Gene and Denis are in heaven having a conversation about that fateful day in Paris so many centuries ago…

Peace,

Denis

Carpooling, Chromebooks, Common Core and Other Confoundment.

This week we had two of our grandkids stay with us. Their parents were on a little get-away. We enjoy having the kiddos spend the night on occasion but full-time parental duty is a bit daunting. Don’t get me wrong. We had a great time and they are great kids but school and extracurriculars today are very different from when our children were students.

schoolCarpool drop-off and pick-up requires special training and following the RULES. You have to wait for your signal and be prepared to “REMAIN IN YOUR CAR” or “EXIT YOUR CAR” or “MOVE OUT OF THE WAY OLD MAN – YOU CAN KISS YOUR GRANDKIDS GOODBYE SOME OTHER TIME”. Those carpoolers don’t mess around. And I suppose giving someone “the finger” at a Catholic school is frowned upon. Live and learn…

A Chromebook (some kind of computer) is required for 5th graders. I don’t understand what happens with it, I just know that whatever it is can’t happen without it. And yes, I had return to school when it was left behind Wednesday morning. For the record: it was my fault. I asked my granddaughter is she needed her iPad thingy. Which she didn’t. What I should have asked was, “do you need your computer thingy in the pink case?”

I have no idea what Common Core is. Probably something that 5th graders do with their Chromebooks. I heard some Moms talking about it at the 2nd grader’s baseball game and pretended to understand. I think I had them totally fooled.

This week there was choir practice and a baseball game and Robotics. Each day was another adventure. We had homework and bath time and bedtime rituals. We shared lots of laughs at dinner as we talked about the school day. Bedtime prayers nearly broke my heart each night with their simple yet eloquent thanksgiving for life and love. Their little poochie slept snuggly between them. And we all fell fast asleep. Some of us were more tired than others.

Their Nana made their favorite foods for breakfast and dinner and I benefitted from the requests. Who doesn’t want to start a day with Red Velvet Pancakes? Lunches were packed with special snacks. I scored some of those, too.

It has been a fun week, but I’m not sorry that Mom and Dad are coming home to take over. I’m reminded once again that there is a time and place for everything and it’s time for me to go back to being a grandfather and to get out of the carpool lane.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

Cheese

Years ago I worked with a guy who had a young son. My workmate discovered the little guy, who was usually quite active, in solemn contemplation. Concerned that his son was anxious about something, he gently asked, “Hey buddy whatcha thinkin’ about?” His five year-old’s response: “Cheese.” He was just blissfully enjoying the moment. Not worried tomorrow. Or what had or hadn’t happened the day before. Just cheese.

Sometimes I long for those “cheese” moments in my life. Times when I am truly present. When I can turn off the worries and the anticipations of tomorrow and let go of the recriminations and regrets of the past. I’ve tried centering prayer and meditation but I usually fill the silence with silly pop songs in my head or I struggle to remember if I’ve paid a bill that was due or what my third grade teacher’s name was. I’m a “what’s next? – let’s move on” kind of guy. It’s a struggle for me to S L O W  D O W N and smell the roses.

LIVE-YOUR-LIFE-TO-THE-FULLESTThis weekend was my 45th high school class reunion and I felt blessed to be very much in the moment. Of course we reminisced about school days long ago but mostly I met my old friends where they are today. Some married high school sweethearts. Many of us are grandparents now. Some have had amazing careers. Some have found great fortune. Some have had more than their share of heartache. But for a brief shining moment we were the NEW AND IMPROVED class of 1973 in 2018. An updated version – free of adolescent angst.  We weren’t the jocks or geeks or cheerleaders or rebels anymore. We were just old friends sharing a moment in time. The wrinkles and gray hair and extra pounds seemed to magically disappear as we embraced one another.  We shared laughter and rekindled friendships. The familiar faces and warm conversations made me feel as though I had just graduated and turned right around and walked back through the door.

I know that it was just one moment in time. I know that we will all rush back to our busy lives for better or for worse. But I left the evening feeling extremely grateful. Thankful for my friends. Thankful for my memories.

And so I’m sitting at my desk today smiling to myself and thinking about high school (and a little boy who once loved cheese) and I’m living in the moment.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

And I Remain a Catholic…

This is not an easy time for Catholics. The unspeakable evil revealed in Pennsylvania that over 1,000 persons were sexually abused by 300 priests and even worse the systematic cover up by church hierarchy for seven decades is devastating. The details of the abuse are sickening but they should be read and understood by every practicing Catholic. We cannot bury our heads in the sand. It’s important to remember that pedophile priests aren’t just something that came out of Boston or Pennsylvania or Ireland. Many of my classmates will remember a priest in our Catholic grade school in the 1960’s that was “reassigned” as rumors whirled around about his behavior. I was spared but some of the boys in my class were abused (which is a polite way to say raped). It was an open secret. We all knew something, but we were too young (or ill-informed) to know what we knew. Twenty-five years later a popular young priest was removed from the school where our children attended because of abuse allegations. And on and on…

Many of my non-Catholic friends ask how I can remain in a Church so full of disgrace and sinfulness. How can I remain in a Church where the clergy attack the most vulnerable amongst us? Some of my Catholic friends ask that question, too. Truth be told, sometimes I ask myself. 

I’m angry. I’m outraged. I’m sad. I’m broken-hearted. And still I remain a Catholic.

We must not ignore the crimes of those priests and bishops. We should ALL speak up and speak out. We must ferret out the monsters who would prey upon the most vulnerable. I’m angry that anyone would sexually exploit a child, especially someone in a position of trust. I’m outraged that Church hierarchy covered up the abuse for decades, maybe centuries. I’m sad because of the loss of innocence and the destruction of faith in those young souls and that these despicable acts have been repeated countless times and it doesn’t seem to stop! I’m broken-hearted because now some in our Church are using these latest revelations as an excuse to attack progressives in our midst. Some ultra-conservative bishops are using this latest crisis to instill hate and doubt in the hearts and minds of others to further their political agendas. And still, I remain a Catholic.

Our Church champions pro-life causes when it’s about abortion or euthanasia but remains largely silent regarding affordable health care for the young and the aged. We proclaim our belief in a catholic (universal) Church; one that welcomes all of God’s creation but in practice we don’t really welcome everyone and are often openly hostile when it comes to LGBTQ rights and gender equality. We fail as a faith community when we refuse to fight for the dignity of immigrants and those separated from their children by our government’s overreach. We pay lip service to racism in the Church but in the U.S., we remain predominantly male, white and insular in our worship and leadership. Where is the compassion for those marginalized in our society? Pro-life should mean supporting ALL life not just that with which we are comfortable. I often feel ashamed of the unloving attitudes of some of my church-mates and myself. And still I remain a Catholic.

Our Church (my Church) is like a family: loud, messy, demanding, imperfect, passive-aggressive, arrogant, and intolerant. We have our share of crazy uncles, angry spouses, spoiled brats, privileged teens, and old codgers. We fight. We’re selfish. We neglect one another. We refuse to lift a hand to help one another. We are at times ugly, hateful and mean-spirited.

untitledBut because our Church (my Church) is like a family we also love, protect and cherish one other. We nurture, advise, and counsel one another. We pray for one another. Like any family, we come together in times of celebration and heartache. Our family cheers us on when we feel down-trodden or overwhelmed by circumstances beyond our control. Our family carries us when we’ve lost all hope and strength. When there is a death or a job loss or some natural disaster, families can put aside their differences and be there for one another. It is also true for our Church – we need to accept one another as we are. We need to celebrate one another as we are. I’m reminded that we are the Church. Not the priests nor the bishops, but you and I. If you’re searching for God; if you need to see Jesus’ face, just look at the person next to you in the pew.

We Catholics are human – hopelessly flawed and sinful. Still in spite our failings we are given grace because God’s love is without fail. No matter how we muck things up; no matter how grave our sins; no matter how unforgivable our actions; we are forgiven. God’s love is greater than our sin.

And so, I’m going to keep the “family” that I have and remain a Catholic…

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

Headache and Heartburn

I travel quite a bit for my job. It can sometimes be a humbling experience.

When I was a child I thought that business travel seemed glamorous and exotic. Fancy hotels with bellhops, jetliners with stewardesses and restaurants serving martinis at lunch were all depicted in the movies and television shows that I watched. I wanted to be Cary Grant or Sean Connery. Jet-setter. High-roller. Globe-trotter.

Instead I’m the schlub who lugs his bags into a discount hotel after spending painful hours cramped in an airplane seat so small that it seems to have been designed for pixies or driving a (less than clean) rental car for far too many miles while being equally frustrated and flummoxed by which side of the steering wheel the wipers are on and where the little button for the gas cap release is hiding. Cary Grant never had to deal with this crap.

Because I’m usually out-of-town for a few days in a row, I will on occasion buy groceries (you know – that already made stuff that can go in microwave) so as to avoid another dinner alone at Panera or Applebee’s or wherever. I will then “cook” in my rental suite while growling at the news of the day on television.

Recently after a long day, with a simmering headache, I decided to stop at the Kroger in Jeffersonville, Indiana and grab a few things. The checker’s name tag informed me that she was Delilah (although in all honesty, I was more interested in reading one of the messages tattooed across her neck). Delilah was big in all the wrong places and she had hair that was a color not found in nature. She proceeded to comment on every single item that I had purchased. Apparently Cokes have names on them now and she asked if my name was Landon because my Coke was named Landon. Of course because I had a headache and was tired and cranky I wanted to say, “Why yes, I make it a rule to only buy soft drinks with my name on them.” “You can imagine my delight in finding the rare ‘Landon’!” Instead I just grunted “no” and hoped she would shut up. Which she didn’t (or couldn’t). She went on to tell me that she had tried the salad that I bought and it wasn’t very good. In my self-righteous indignation, I wanted to sarcastically thank her for her culinary advice and compliment her neck tattoos and nose ring, but instead I just took my lousy salad and my ‘Landon’ Coke and left.

judginLater while getting into my rental car, I saw Delilah. She was hard to miss – neck tattoos, body piercings and all. She was patiently helping an old woman get into her car and then loaded her groceries in the trunk. She took time to speak to this woman and more importantly to listen to her. She absolutely refused to take a tip. She thanked the woman, wished her a good day and offered her blessings.

Wow. What a complete jackass I had been. Perhaps instead of judging my checker’s apperance, I should have been looking into her eyes. Instead being annoyed by her friendliness, I could have shared a kind word or smile. Maybe then I might have seen some of the beauty that the old woman had experienced. Cary Grant likely would have.

Instead I went to my economy hotel suite and ate dinner alone and realized that I missed another opportunity to love like Jesus. And in spite of my arrogance and heartlessness I realized then that I’m forgiven even when I struggle to forgive myself. It’s humbling to know that God still loves me in all my selfishness, vanity and absurdity.

And by the way, Delilah was right about my dinner choice. It wasn’t very good.

Peace,

Denis

Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Matthew 7:1-2  

 

 

Happy Birthday

Today is my wife’s birthday. I met Debbie 45 years ago while we were both working part-time at a discount store while attending local colleges. Friendship turned into love and love turned into marriage. And the rest is history; her story; our story. There have been plenty of ups and downs but we’ve held on tight. We have laughed nearly every day of our married life (sometimes through the tears). We’ve raised three kids, had multiple careers, lived on two continents, and traveled the world together. We’ve had grand moments and enjoyed simple pleasures. We’ve worked hard; played hard and taken turns carrying one another along the way.

IMG_3774I’ve often wondered why I’ve been so fortunate. I look at other couples and I sometimes feel a tinge of sadness (or is it pride?); realizing they’ll never experience the profound love I’ve known. I witness all the madness in our world and I’m secure in the knowledge that at home I will always find comfort, peace, and joy. Those of you who know Deb, know that she is the heart of our family; that friendships are lifelong; that her word is her bond; and that I’m the luckiest man on earth. Lots of people love Debbie. And her love for others is boundless. But somehow I was one who got to share this life with her. Through all these years; the good days and the bad; through the joys and sorrows; I’ve had this beautiful hand to hold.

I’m a simple man and I simply love my wife. Today seemed like a good day for me to tell her again.

Happy Birthday Deb!

I love you,

Denis

 

 

Land of the Free

Today is America’s birthday. A great day for celebrations. Parades. Fireworks. Flag waving. This should be a day to be proud of our great nation.

Unfortunately politics have become uglier than I  can remember in my lifetime, with harassment and threats, and retaliation. The current political climate is disgusting. With constant insults and boorish behavior being directed towards anyone who disagrees with one’s policies or agendas, all the while demanding loyalty and blind adherence to party lines. Where is any compromise or unity? This is America! What has happened?

As a nation have we become so narrow-minded; so entrenched; so chauvinistic; that we can’t accept another point of view? Are we condemned to be living in fear or loathing of our neighbors? We sing “God Bless America” but where is God in all our hateful rhetoric? How do we pledge to be “One Nation Under God” and deny basic freedom and dignity to those in desperate need of asylum? While families are being separated and babies are being torn from their mother’s arms, where are our statesmen and stateswomen?

What can I do?

First of all: instead of wringing my hands, I will be a patriot. I will wave my flag. I will continue to write to my congresswoman and senators and the president. I will vote. I will debate. I will support candidates who will fight for justice for all. I will stand tall. I will speak up. I will remember that our nation is not perfect. I will celebrate what I can. I will protest what I must. I will pray. And I will remember.
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I will remember those who have died to protect our freedom. I will remember that my great-grandparents were immigrants who were welcomed into a strange land with no money, no education and no discernible value or skills to offer. They didn’t speak English. They didn’t have degrees. They probably wouldn’t be welcomed today.

As a nation we have much to do. We have to work to insure our freedom and to guarantee freedom to all who enter here. We can do better! Our children and grandchildren deserve to live in an America that is still beautiful.

Our nation should be celebrated today. It’s messy. It’s imperfect. It’s mine. It’s yours. It’s ours. And it has ALWAYS been great.

Peace,

Denis

“I do not look upon these United States as a finished product. We are still in the making.”Franklin D. Roosevelt