New Issue of 12 Step Review is Out

photoFather Emmerich Vogt, OP has put out the Summer 2013 issue of The Twelve Step Review and it’s a really important one for those of us out here in recovery-land.  Letting go of resentments is the focus and he nails it.

“Among feelings of unexpressed anger, resentment is regarded as the source of many mental and even physical illnesses. It has been defined as anger re-sent. It’s reliving the bitter hurts of our lives. Going through life with deep resentments leads only to unhappiness and futility in our efforts to get along.”

It was interesting for me to read that there are only two individuals in Sacred Scripture who are called Jesus’ “friends:” Lazarus and Judas. Lazarus makes sense. But Judas?

In the feature article, Father writes, “When Judas comes to betray Jesus, he is not greeted with ‘You filthy betrayer may you rot in Hell!’ Rather Jesus greets him with “friend.” (Matthew 26:49) I’ll write more verbatim from Father’s words:  Why did Judas betray Jesus? This is an important question to ask because betrayal is something we might all be capable of, and the more we understand our sinful nature, the more we can learn from other people’s mistakes, even Judas’.

It would seem that Judas, having his own agenda, was trying to force Jesus into something that would play into his own plans, trying to force Jesus’ hand, so to speak. And, meditating on the role of Judas, some of us can see ourselves in his behavior. How? When we try to force the outcome of events, when we complain against God when things don’t go according to our plans. For this reason, the person seeking to recover from the effects of sin in his life is taught by Step Eleven to put aside all self-serving motives in his relationship with God. The focus of our prayers should be only seeking God’s will for our lives.

Father says he heard once, “Anger is not getting my way in the present; resentment is not getting my way in the pas; and fear is not getting my way in the future. ”

The Twelve Step Review is a quarterly newsletter and web site publication of the Western Dominican Province and written by Father Vogt.  Visit them at www.12-Step-review.org for the whole thing.

Ciao!

Alcohol + Alcoholic = Death, RIP My Sweet Friend

This Scripture must be talking about alcohol and alcoholism:

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

The crazy thing is that alcohol in and of itself will not kill and destroy. It will only kill and destroy the alcoholic—and I suppose anyone who is unlucky enough to be in the path of a drunk driver.

Most people can have a drink or two at the end of the day or at a wedding and nothing changes. But an alcoholic who takes that first drink immediately changes. Something in the brain and the body changes and the alcoholic (like these mice in laboratory experiments) will continue to take more and more despite the negative consequences to relationships, health and life.

A dear friend of mine passed away last weekend because of her alcoholism. She was a beautiful girl, 36 years old and a single mother. She has been in my meetings for the last year and a half.

She WANTED sobriety.

She had a beautiful soul—knew the goodness of sobriety was within her reach and she kept trying to get it.

She loved beer and football. She was always smiling and shining her light—unless she was crying and recovering from another relapse. She shared in many meetings that she had reached her limit and was going to stay sober. But then she would always drink again—usually because she liked to have fun. I completely relate to her on this.

At one point back in November, she had made a bigger attempt at sobriety than she had in the past. She was willing to do whatever it took to stay sober this time. She and I had/have the same sponsor. She started working the steps–like me, getting hung up on the 4th Step–and even attended a women’s sobriety weekend retreat.

She was a morning person and she and I would text at 5am when we were each talking to God–she would send me Bible verses and when sober she was filled with the holy spirit. But she couldn’t ever get more than about 30 days of sobriety.

And her alcoholism wore her down. Eventually she stopped trying as hard—after giving it her all over and over and still not being able to stay sober, she sort of resigned to her fate–she kept trying, but her periods of sobriety by this past Spring were mere days–she apparently began to add pills to her drinking.

And she passed away in her sleep a week ago—just like that. She didn’t wake up.

Below is an email from Stacey last November talking about how happy she was as well as a poem she wrote after that retreat:
—–Original Message—–
From: Anonymous <@gmail.com>
Sent: Tue, Nov 13, 2012 8:49 pm
Glad you enjoyed the poem. Writing is one of my most cherished passions that in being sober I am able to tap back into. 🙂 Got my 30 day chip today! So happy!

 

Victorious
by Anonymous
What an amazing place to be
In a place where I am faced to face me
There is no place I’d rather be
Than the here and the now
Looking back at my life
I can’t help but to think wow!
It all seems so surreal
I’m having to face how I feel
About all of the things that have been said
And all of the things that have been done
It’s surreal to be 36
And to feel my life has just begun
What a blessing it is
The gift of a new beginning
Right now, today, I feel like I am winning
Thanks to my God
For never leaving my side
I now have the courage
To no longer hide
The closer I get to Him
The more that I find
That all my life’s hardships
I seem to not mind
God is teaching me so much
But mostly about perception
To not dwell on the past as hindrance
But to embrace it as lessons
They say when the student is ready
The teacher will appear
These lessons I’m learning from Him
Are slowly ridding me of my fears
I’ve been shedding many tears
Not even sure of why they’re there
Whatever the reason is
I don’t even care
They’re obviously meant to be shed
So therefore I let them fall
And when they are done streaming
I thank my God for them all
This program of AA
Was truly God-sent my way
And each and every passing day
More gratitude sets in
The serenity I feel within
I can now accept as my friend
My prayer to my God
Is to never let it end
Serenity is not the only friend
That has come into my life
My new friends are all of you

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Galatians 6:8

You will be deeply missed, my friend. Look out for the rest of us please?

Weekday Mass, Saint Catherine of Siena and Judging Others

Saint Peter Chanel Catholic Church adoration chapel in Roswell, Georgia

Saint Peter Chanel Catholic Church adoration chapel in Roswell, Georgia

Whenever I have a lot of little things in my head that I want to write about, I title my posts like this. Just a series of unrelated topics.  First I wanted to say I love weekday Mass.

Recently the mother of the family we carpool to school with and I switched so that now I drive mornings and she drives afternoons. So, I’ve started stopping in for a quick adoration moment in the chapel after I drop the children off.

The adoration chapel at Saint Peter Chanel is beautiful, with statues and stained glass and wooden pews and a beautiful monstrance which holds the Blessed Sacrament. There’s a large crucifix behind the altar and stained glass windows on either side of Mary and Joseph.  To the right is a large painting of Jesus of the Divine Mercy and a kneeler beneath with candles ready to be lit for special intentions. To the left of the altar is — I can’t remember what is to the left.  I think it’s Mary. I’ll have to check tomorrow and get back to you on that.

Anyways, so I’ve been stopping in for a quick adoration–15 minutes. It’s so peaceful.

Lately, however, my quick adorations have extended into the time the group of parishioners spontaneously start reciting the Rosary as a group. This first happened last week when I was sitting there reading from one of the spiritual books on the shelves in the back. An older gentleman launched into the Rosary and every body else joined in — sometimes another lady would start the decade and another would chime in with the mysteries.

I LOVED IT. And I keep coming back and they do it every morning at 8am. It’s so beautiful. And I don’t participate in it. Not because I’m an awful person but because I love sitting there and listening to it. It’s like beautiful chanting. It’s rhythmic. It’s calming and brings me a lot of peace. And so I started staying through the whole Rosary.

Then Mass was starting and I left because I have “too many things to do.”  Right?  But then last week I started staying through my quick adoration, through the beautiful public chanting of the Rosary and on through for Mass.  And I leave walking on air, light and at peace.  It’s amazingly uplifting.

Wouldn’t it be great if I did this every day for the rest of my life?

Unfortunately, knowing myself and that summer is coming (no carpool for two months) I will inevitably let life get in the way and lose this beautiful practice of weekday Mass.  For now, though I’ll enjoy it one day at a time and not worry about tomorrow or forever.

I’ll write later today about Saint Catherine of Siena (my patron saint whose feast day was YESTERDAY and I didn’t even acknowledge it!) and judging others (I read a cool article in OSV by Mark Shea about this today).

Wife, Mother, Catholic, Alcoholic

fall in north georgiaI submitted this to another Catholic forum and wanted to post it here too. Click here to read this article on Catholic Mom.

—-

I’m a Catholic mother who loves my Faith, my husband and my children more than anything else in the world. I pray the Rosary every day. I visit Christ in Adoration. My children attend a wonderful Catholic school. I volunteer, play tennis, help with school parties, and drive carpool.

Oh, and by the way, I’m an alcoholic.

I never would have admitted that when I was still drinking. But now that I have been sober for a while and am in recovery I have found that admitting I’m an alcoholic helps me hit back at the shame that can cripple me if I let it.

And if I’m lucky, being somewhat public about my problem might help another woman face hers.

Shame goes hand-in-hand with being an alcoholic mother. Shame is awful, sneaky. And it’s not of God.

The stigma of being an alcoholic can keep some moms from getting help earlier, says Ann-Marie Loose, LSW, a clinical supervisor at Caron Treatment Centers based in Wernersville, PA.  “You try to have the perfect home, be the perfect mom and wife,” said Loose. “And you look completely under control to the outside world, but alcohol is slowing destroying your life.”

And, Sarah Allen Benton, M.S., L.M.H.C. author of, Understanding the High-Functioning Alcoholic, said “It is as though the image of the “mother” and that of the “alcoholic” seem contradictory.” However, alcoholism does not discriminate and there are definitely good mothers who are also alcoholic.

My “problem” affected my marriage and my children, and it separated me from God. It wasn’t just about me anymore. As a Catholic mom it was imperative I tackle this truthfully, and in light of my Faith—without saddling myself with shame.

To be honest, I always knew there was something different about my drinking. I seemed to really love it. Everyone else could take it or leave it. Where other people had a couple of drinks to loosen up or wind down, I had a couple of drinks to “get going.” I eventually crossed the line from being a social drinker to being an alcoholic.

How did I know?  For me, I came to accept that I had a problem because of two things: God and my children. I came to recognize my dependence on alcohol was affecting my relationship as a daughter of Christ and as a mother to my children. So I became committed to seeking help.

The desire to mature in my relationship with God and the desire to be the mother I knew I could be were finally enough to get me to admit my problem and seek help. This was a very humbling endeavor, one I am so grateful to God for walking me through.

I think for each of us facing the facts about our drinking is a process, sometimes a long process. Sometimes that process is helped along a little bit by a DUI or an embarrassing episode. But for the most part, it’s something we come to accept through our relationship with God and with our families.

Experts offer these signs that our drinking might be out of control:

  • We start making mistakes, forgetting our child’s sporting event, missing appointments.
  • We start drinking before a social activity.
  • We begin to avoid situations where alcohol will be present because we have difficulty controlling how much we drink—we wanted to protect our reputations.
  • Once we start drinking we have trouble stopping.
  • The time between drinking binges gets less and less.
  • We might experience “blackouts,” which are simply periods of time we are unable to remember what took place when we were drinking.
  • We behave in ways that are uncharacteristic of our sober selves. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

If you think you might have a drinking problem, or you love someone who does, I encourage you to talk it over with your Confessor. I found great strength and courage from admitting my problem first in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

A few Lents ago, in the homily at Mass Father Frank challenged us to determine that “one thing” in our lives that was separating us from having a more intimate relationship with God.  For me, I knew right away what that one thing was.  I thought about this a lot. And then, finally, I gave up the alcohol.  And in doing so, my whole family benefited.

Dear God

deargod insecureDear God,

Hi. Good morning. Just thinking about things, up before everyone else in the house. I love this time of the day,the early morning with my coffee and my runaway dog Gypsy.

I’m a little conflicted as you know, God, about this blogging thing. I told you in the beginning when you and I decided it was okay and time for me to go “public” with my alcoholism and this blog that it was a risk because of my scruples. After a couple of years of just writing for myself and you, I have since early January been writing for a third person now. I have the reader in mind. I edit what I write. I re-word things that might sound controversial or stupid.

I told you I was worried this would happen, that I would care too much how or even if I’m perceived by others. You know this is one of my faults. Sometimes I call it vanity. But still you encouraged me to do this.  Why?  I’ve lost my time with you in the mornings. I’ve lost the intimacy you and I shared. My mornings used to be 45 minutes of sitting in my prayer chair, reading, praying, listening to you.

Now the first thing I do in the morning—well, I do make myself say the Rosary before I get out of bed, but it’s rushed and I can’t wait to finish it in order to get up for coffee and to check my blog.  Did anybody read what I wrote yesterday? Comment? Do I have a new follower overnight? Where did my traffic come from? What search words do strangers use to find my blog? How interesting it all is to me!  And although this information shows me that you and I are on the right track with this, I don’t like how my focus has shifted from you to me.

I just wanted to talk about this blogging thing, this public alcoholism I’m engaged in. What about all the people in my life, my professional life and my Facebook/personal life—my Facebook life is filled with people I’ve met along the way all the way back to elementary school!  What will they think if they find out I’m an alcoholic?  My blog posts are showing up in SEO, in Google.

What about those girls from high school and college, you know the perfect ones?  What will they think of me?  What about my sister, the one who is more private than I am.

You know, that’s the thing that’s bothering me the most right now.  The sister who may not be comfortable with me being publicly alcoholic.  I try to summon up the courage to not worry about this but it does make me question myself and your plan for me.  Maybe I should just be a quiet, non-wave-maker, mother and wife. I have that scruples thing, not all the time and not with everybody but with some people. But the love is there. Definitely the love is there

Should I be sharing these personal things about my life?  Shouldn’t I be more careful about what I put “out there” on the internet?  Why am I even doing this blog? It’s not like I’m blogging about arts and crafts, cooking, motherhood, something respectable. I’m blogging about alcoholism and how it has affected me and my family.  Maybe I should be more private about things, especially these things?

Even though I’m INFP on the Myers Briggs personality thing, I do have a way about me that sort of barrels through life. I don’t take  precautions, and I usually just go for it, do things. I’ve always been this way. I’m always like, “Okay, sure. Let’s do it.”  I was a gymnast and a diver in my youth, and I’ve always had a lot of courage–or maybe some would call me a “risk-taker,” which is actually one of the qualities the experts say is evident in every alcoholic.  A risk-taker. My coach would show me a difficult thing in the gymnastics book and I would say sure, I’ll try it.  So I guess my point here is how does me doing this blog affect the people I love? Am I being selfish here, risking more than just my own reputation? By having this blog am I hurting the reputation of those I love, too? Will my children be embarrassed one day when they’re old enough to know the difference?

Anyways, I”m not making ANY sense. I sound like such a victim here which is not how I feel at all.  Just wanted you to know that part of my fear and reservation about going public with my alcoholism and this blog. All of this could be in my head.  All of this, I suppose unfortunately IS in my head. ugh.

Back to you.

Dear God, I’m just asking you this morning two things. Well, of course the normal things like bless and take care of Husband and the children, my parents, Husband’s parents and all of my siblings and their families. Of course that.  But the two things I’m asking for in addition to the regular things are:

1. Bring me back to you in my mornings. I am loving blogging and writing, but I think of Wormwood in the Screwtape Letters, how satan is a master manipulator and uses the things we love to separate us from you. So help me give my mornings back to you, in my prayer chair, with my journal and my Lectio Divina, my Magnificat subscription, My Daily Bread book…  I want to be with you in the mornings again.

2. Release me from my attachment to pleasing anyone but you. Help me not worry about what I think people think of me.  I’m not the kind of person anymore that worries about what everybody thinks—but I guess I do still worry too much about what “certain” people think.  So, can you release me from that?

3. oh and three. I know I said it was just two. But three, can you reveal what it is exactly you want me to do with this blog?  It’s all for you, you know?

Love, Regina

5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Great Choice for Alcoholics

ignatius.trinity5 Reasons Pope Francis is a Wonderful Choice by the Holy Spirit for Alcoholics

1.       A Jesuit, Pope Francis embraces Ignatian spirituality

The spirituality of Saint Ignatius in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous is undeniable. Bill W., the “co-founder” of AA did not rely on Ignatius’ teachings in drafting the Steps; however, he developed a devoted friendship with Father Ed Dowling, a Jesuit priest who was the first to notice the presence of Ignatian spirituality in the Steps.

A gentle, charming man, Fr. Dowling sought Bill Wilson out and introduced him to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. It is said the Bill Wilson took his 5th Step with Father Dowling. The similarities between the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and the 12 Steps hint at why the Steps have survived intact over the years. The principles of the Steps are based in ancient Christian principles.

ignatiusspirituality projectA remarkable Chicago-based Jesuit ministry which offers retreats to those who are homeless and seeking recovery from alcoholism and addiction is the Ignatian Spirituality Project. This ministry helps them find meaning and purpose as they reclaim their lives. The Ignatian Spirituality Project also trains the formerly homeless to assist in giving retreats.

As a Jesuit, Pope Francis no doubt is familiar with and practices these Spiritual Exercises, which would foster an empathetic understanding of the plight of the alcoholic and the recovering individual.

2.       Choosing the name “Francis” and the Prayer of Saint Francis for Alcoholics

In Alcoholics Anonymous’ companion book, the “Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,” Bill Wilson offered the Prayer of Saint Francis to alcoholics as a way of practicing the 11th Step. This prayer is typically noted as the 11th Step Prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life. Amen.

What practicing, active alcoholic is not focused on self?  By design alcoholics put the drink before all else. We may call ourselves “functioning alcoholics,” but are we really?  Are we really present in the lives of our loved ones or are we seeking to be understood, loved? Aren’t we in the end in despair and lacking in hope?

By choosing the name Francis, this pope is reaching out to all of us to let us know that the key to peace, the keys to the kingdom are in serving others and thinking less often of ourselves and our needs, which also happens to be the foundational principles of 12 Step programs.

3.       Pope Francis and the “War on Drugs” in Latin America

As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, then Cardinal Bergoglio was familiar with alcohol and drug addiction and its impact on families, cultures and parishes.

In 2011, in the annual Mass for Education he spoke to more than 5 thousand students about fighting drug trafficking in the schools. “We are giving future generations a culture of death and darkness,” adding that, “drugs and alcohol kill.”  On Apr 23, 2009, he exhorted thousands of students present not to be trapped by “the proposal of the easy shortcut, instant gratification, alcohol or drugs, because that is darkness.”

He urged, “Open your hearts to the light even though it is hard, do not allow yourselves to be enslaved by the promises that seem to be freedom but are in reality oppression, the promises of vain happiness, the promises of darkness.”

To the same group in 2008, he spoke about the children of alcoholic parents, of the boys and girls who are “abandoned of love, meaningful conversation, joy and who do not know what it is to play with Mom and Dad because their parents have succumb to the proposal of alcohol or drugs, which,” he says, “is darkness.”

An alcoholic mother myself, I appreciate Pope Francis’ focus on the perspectives of our children and how family alcoholism affects them.

in 2008, on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of 12 recovering drug addicts at a rehabilitation center in Buenos Aires.

4.       Pope Francis and Humility—the hallmark of recovery

One of the first things we discovered about our new Pope Francis was his apparent humility. From asking the crowd to pray for him to the stories of him washing the feet of AIDS patients, this Pope has already been identified to us as a very humble man.

ignatius2In Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the guiding principles behind the 12 Steps, and especially steps 2, 5 and 7 is humility. The word “humility” occurs 52 times in the first 164 pages of the “Big Book” and the “12&12.”  An alcoholic who fails to capture the essence of humility in her heart—not just in her mind—has a difficult road of recovery.

In speaking to the necessity for Step 7, Bill W writes in the 12&12, “That basic ingredient of all humility, a desire to seek and do God’s will, was missing.”

In speaking of taking Step 2, Bill writes on page 33 of the 12&12, “True humility and an open mind can lead us to faith, and every A.A. meeting is an assurance that God will restore us to sanity if we rightly relate ourselves to Him.”

And to Step 5, it says in the 12&12 on p.58, “Therefore, our first practical move toward humility must consist of recognizing our deficiencies.”

Fr. Joseph A. Tetlow, S.J., who became a Jesuit in 1947 and has served as a professor of history and dean of arts and sciences at Loyola University, writes in Making Choices for Christ,

“True humility does not attract many in this new age of self-realization. We tend to equate humility with self-abasement, but such “humility” would attract only the mentally ill. Christian humility, properly understood, requires a strong sense of self, and the greater the humility, the stronger the sense of self. For as more than one saint has remarked, humility is seeing and acknowledging the truth about yourself and your world.”

By practicing such a deep and obvious humility Pope Francis will show the way to those of us in recovery hoping to do the same.

5.       12th Step Work and the then-Cardinal Bergoglia’s call for a new evangelization in Latin America

Pope Francis, as Cardinal and head of the Church in Argentina, has shown a committed focus to the new evangelization, which is key for Catholic alcoholics.

Last May, along with the Latin American Bishops at their convention, then Cardinal Bergoglio, presented the Aparecida Document, which is the comprehensive document proposing a new evangelization. Pope Benedict gave his blessing to the Document. Our new Pope Francis spent a great deal of effort through this Document insisting the way to bring others back to Christ is by evangelizing through our actions. We normally might think of “evangelism” as intrusive and salesy. But this is not what is meant here. We are to evangelize by our example.

According to 12 Step texts, alcoholics are initially spiritually bankrupt; but many find their way back to God through practicing the principles of the 12 Steps.

The 12th Step calls us to “carry this message to other alcoholics.”  We are to “evangelize.”  We are, through our actions and example, to show active alcoholics how good life can be without alcohol.  We never insist or compel. We don’t force interventions. We can only be an example. We are to “evangelize” other alcoholics not with words but by our actions.

Taking the 12th Step a bit further, the Catholic alcoholic is in a position to be an example of how Christ transforms us.

Alcoholism has driven many away from the Church. In AA meetings I sit beside many “ex-Catholics.”  These ex-Catholics have found their way back to God, yet have not found their way back to their Church.  How do we evangelize them?

This is delicate but important 12 Step work. And I believe in addition to participating in communities like the Calix Society, the best way is by our example. Like Pope Francis’ example of forgoing the palace and the limo, our example of living our Catholic faith joyfully in recovery will lead ex-Catholics home. The New Evangelization called forth in this Latin American Aparecide Document, in the Year of Faith is in essence “12 Step work” for the Church.

Late on the Gospel But Thoughts About Fathers

me and dad 001I’m a few days late on this. Last Sunday’s Gospel reading (Luke 15:11-32) was the infamous story of the Prodigal Son. One of my favorites, of course–no need to explain that one–but aside from the obvious (me being the prodigal son–ok there I explained it) I like the story for others reasons, too.

I’ve got two sons. If one squandered and messed up but then came back home I’d be thrilled and unconditionally welcoming. Like the Father in the story, all I would care about is that he had returned, humbled and reborn- and wanted to turn his life around.  I’d probably run up to Publix, buy his favorite meal, call everybody to let them know he was back, make up his room with new sheets and fresh flowers, and take him shopping for new clothes.

But at the same time I’d be really intuitive to the other son, the one that stayed with me all along.  His feelings of resentment are natural, but not healthy. And I’d figure out a way to instruct and walk him through this.

All the articles and posts and homilies on Sunday focused on one of these two characters, the repentant son or the prideful one.

My brain wants to focus on the father.

My dad is my hero.  Now 80 years old, he’s lived such an interesting life. He is a great story-teller. I wish he would write all of his stories down so that I could  pass them to my children. Story-telling is a terrific way to help children feel part of a “tribe,” a family. Before the advent of the printing press, most stories were passed on verbally.  The stories of our ancestors in the Bible were originally passed on verbally.  But today, I think it’s so important to write things down. That gives them a permanence and an accuracy. Especially if they’re written in first person.

Imagine if Jesus had written the Bible in first person?  How interesting that would have been!

My dad was born in 1932 in upstate New York. It actually might not be called “upstate New York,” because it was the Catskills, not a place like Rochester or Syracuse.  I don’t know much about his life before his father left them but after his father left his mother (he was I think about 8 years old) I love the stories of him helping his mother run things. A single mother and a divorced woman, I can only imagine the hardships my Nana went through emotionally and spiritually.  I wish I could go back in time and hang out with her, help her.

My dad collected the eggs from the chickens, did odd jobs for the community and helped his mother run a boarding house to make ends meet.  Last year, my parents took a trip and spent 3 weeks back in my dad’s hometown. They visited his old house and even spoke with the woman living there now who is renovating it.  Good stuff.

DaddyAnother way my dad made money when he was a boy was to caddie for the golfers at the nearby resort. In doing so, he learned the game of golf. He started playing and became quite good. The golf pro at the resort hired him to run the shop. My dad was very mature from a young age, probably because he had to be the man of the house after his father left.

The one room school house ended up being a tremendously instructive environment and my dad progressed quickly through the lessons, graduating high school at age 16. He took a year off, moved to FL to live with his father who had remarried and he played golf every day. After a year, the golf coach from the University of Florida discovered him and recruited him to play on full scholarship.

My dad really took to college life. He was a leader, not a partyer. He became president of his fraternity and president of the Lyceum Council on Campus which brought in a variety of entertainment and events to the University students.

I think he moved back home after college. And that’s when he met my mother. My mom, a true city-girl born and raised in Brooklyn, and her sister were vacationing at the resort and my Dad courted her. Those stories are priceless!

Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day, May 26, 1956 (feast day of St Philip Neri :) )

Mom and Dad on their Wedding Day, May 26, 1956 (feast day of St Philip Neri 🙂 )

They married and he joined the army, which brought them out to Oklahoma. My mom was in culture shock! And she’d never driven a car so my dad taught her. She totaled his Jaguar. In the army, the boss discovered my father’s golfing talents so my dad’s “job” in the army was to run the golf pro shop and golf course for the officers and play on the golf team.  On the golf team in the army, his teammate was the amazing PGA great Chi Chi Rodriquez.

After the army, my parents moved to Pensacola, FL and my dad ran the golf pro shop at the Naval air base. He became president of the Pensacola Sports Association (now on their “hall of fame” wall) and expanded the course from 18 to 36 holes.

Great stories from this time! Once he threw an officer out of the shop (literally, by his pants threw him out into the bushes) because the officer had belittled a private in front of my dad. My dad always looked out for the little guy—even when he WAS the little guy.  They had nine children (I’m number 9!) in Pensacola, before moving to Atlanta to join an exciting venture to open a golf and country club.  For fifteen years, he ran the club, had two more children and supported all of us with a very nice lifestyle!

Today, he and my mom live simply and in retirement he has gotten deeper into his Catholic faith, something he must have found difficult to do when working to support a big family. He got a PhD (or maybe a Masters degree, I can’t remember), has read all of Shakespeare’s works and every other work of classical fiction. He has made his Faith a study, reading Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and all the great works of the Doctors of the Church.  He enjoys his grandchildren but I think the biggest lesson he’s taught me is the lesson of marriage.

mom and dadHe and my mom have been married 57 years. I’ve never seen them fight. They put each other first. Even when we were little, I always knew that their marriage was first, a priority above the children.  I think this is so important.  It’s something we miss in modern times because we put so much focus on the kids and neglect our marriages.  But this focus on their marriage as primary taught me that marriage is a sacrament, for life, the bedrock of the family and the foundation needed to raise children.

In the story of the Prodigal Son, my Dad is the Father. Always open, always forgiving, always encouraging me to grow and celebrating it when I would. Where was the mother in this Gospel? hmmmm.  Maybe I’ll write a short story from the mother’s perspective of this Gospel.  That’s all for today.  Time to wake the children, make breakfast and lunches and send them off to school.