Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!
A warm hello from me to you after my August hiatus from blogging on the network! I guess, after spending several weeks in France in the early part of the month, I figured I would complete the typical European vacationing month. I took my metaphorical break on the shores of the Mediterranean in southern France while not posting my thoughts on the Network of Love.
But alas, I return. It is by no means a knight in shining armor returning on his white horse here to save the trembling princess from the grip of the evil man somehow related to the royalty of the country. It is, however, a young, impressionable, naïve but willing twenty year old writer returning to dive into his spirituality through the medium of the world wide web once again, willing to share some of his faith and feelings with the audience willing to give an ear and give advice when needed.
So we begin the Network of Love via Chicago, via Loyola University and the “north shore campus” located in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago, and, most specifically in my case, via St. Joe’s College Seminary on the Campus of Loyola University in Chicago. I am now a junior in college–––one year older, but I doubt a year wiser. We’ll let my reflections reveal my character.
I feel like twenty is the new eighteen, for though I have come to be a “twenty-something” I feel as if days have become like years in this journey of life. Maybe that’s too extreme, but it really does feel like time marches on with more brevity…if that makes any sense at all.
If your not tired of my arguably overly flowery language, I sure am. So enough of it! To open up this new school year on/in/with the Network of Love, I’d like to share a brief poem I wrote some time ago to honor my deceased Aunt Pearl. It is a personal ode to a woman who always inspired me. Though she died when I was only seven, she still haunts–––and I mean to use haunt in a positive manner–––my thoughts and dreams. Interestingly, I dreamt a little about her last night. In my dream, I was stretching out my hand to say hello to Aunt Pearl, but I abruptly woke up before I had an opportunity to embrace her. Nevertheless, I still feel a special, unexplainable connection with her even in my waking hours.
Aunt Pearl actually came into my mind quite clearly when I was in France. We were in a mass in a chapel in Nevers, a place where a young woman named Bernadette, who had claimed to have visions of Mary the mother of Jesus at the age of fourteen, spent her adult life. Bernadette died in a convent in Nevers, the convent where we were having mass. There is quite a profound sight in this particular French chapel; visitors to the chapel have the opportunity to view Bernadette’s body through a glass casket of sorts. The church keeps her body in plain sight because it is essentially in the same state as when Bernadette died over 100 years ago. That is to say, her body is “incorruptible.” Scientists have a difficult time trying to explain this phenomenon, while those who share in a particular faith believe it to be some sort of sign from God, message of hope. Truth be told, it is chilling and yet incredibly, unexplainably soothing to see Bernadette’s body. It is also a very emotional site. This particular mass we had at the chapel was a time for me to internalize my memory of Auntie Pearl and also, fortunately, externalize my continued prayer and admiration for her Spirit, for all that she was and is.
The priest saying the mass gave all of us in attendance an opportunity to make an intention for the mass. It was an incredibly touching moment for me, one of the moments from my trip to France that I will cherish for some time to come. I chose to make my intention one for my Aunt Pearl. May she continually and eternally rest in peace and strengthen us who still breathe in the way in which we understand life to be on this earth.
After saying aloud Aunt Pearl’s name in the chapel, something came over me that brought unexpected tears to my eyes. They seemed like tears of peace, tears of perpetual hope. I presume that at that moment, in some mysterious way, the Spirit of my once vibrant Aunt Pearl played a particular chord on my heart. She was a distinguished pianist who knew how to bring music to a room. At that moment, the song she was playing she was playing for me. And I wish to store that moment and share it for others in the future.
Today, as the Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Monica, it seems fitting to celebrate a person, such as my Aunt Pearl, who in one way or another was a mother, a guide, wisdom carrier, and blessing for those around her. Monica was the mother of St. Augustine (354 – 430), one of the early Christian fathers and one of the first persons to truly bring philosophy into the realm of Christian thought. Religious and non-religious philosophers alike, to this day, believe Augustine to be one of the most influential philosophers to have ever lived. The Catholic Church honors Monica with a feast because she constantly prayed for Augustine’s conversion. It finally came in an overwhelming manner, for in addition to becoming a practicing Catholic, he also became bishop, philosopher for the church (as aforementioned), acclaimed Spiritual writer, and ultimately recognized saint.
By sharing this poem about my Aunt Pearl, I speak to her, to my own mother, and to all the women that have played a role in shaping who I am today. As a Christian and Catholic, I speak to Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, St. Claire of Assisi, Monica the mother of St. Augustine, Dorothy Day, and, in a sense, to God, thanking my creator for allowing women to enter the lives of men in the Christian church to change their hearts for the better. My continued prayer for my church is that women continue to be recognized as leaders, thinkers, movers, and necessary components of the Catholic Church. Though Aunt Pearl was not a practicing Catholic, not even a church go-er, if you will, she possessed the Spirit that Christ preached and made known, that compassion, creativity, and zeal for life that allows humanity to become a form of art, a true sign of love.
Without further ado (I don’t even know if there was any ado), here is An Ode to Pearl.
She’s right there–––ten, maybe fifteen feet in front of me. Darling Aunt Pearl, ready to play me a masterpiece on that black Baldwin piano.
Aunt Pearl, I have something to tell you, a favor to ask of you. You always stayed true to yourself, always kept your creative side salient. You always had a certain grace about you, a class everyone who knew you could attest for. And, well, I’m asking, because I know you’re listening, I’m asking you to pray for me and my brother. Pray that I may have the courage to be myself, stay creative. And pray that my brother may have the strength to be himself–––be content with being independent.
But, when you pray, don’t feel obligated to put your hands together and reach for the sky. You’re already at the lighted summit, resting in solitude. Rather, I want you, if you could be so kind, to pray for us with your hands hovering over keys, pressing them down ever so gracefully to release the chords of the angels, chords sufficient for the heavens, chords that unite the human spirit into a body of beatitudes. Through your music, the memory of your melody, may those of us here on earth remember the rose and seek the sound of your inner strength.
We remember you, how could we forget you? Shower us with your spirit Pearl and pray for us to our Creator, that the music you breathed may continue to glorify this globe and, in a smaller sense, touch the lives of my brother and I.
Thank you for sharing in the Network and I look forward to being with all of you this school year!
Peace and blessings.
Your friend bob.