I am excited to realize that I was a mere almost one year old, definitely crawling, maybe beginning to take my first steps when the commencement of Vatican II took place, back on October 11, 1962. Now I am old enough, and blessed with being alive to connect and celebrate The Year of Faith on the exact day of the beginning of Vatican II. I do not have the words within me to describe what grace I feel, what gratitude I have in my heart to God, for allowing this in my life. Not just mine, but all of our lives. For some unexplainable reason, it has touched me deep in my soul. Maybe, it is because I realize, I am one of the lucky ones………….I made it under the line in learning the true teachings of the Catholic Church. By the time I was in Catholic high school, the teaching of the faith was a tad more “hip”. We had the folk music masses, we had the ”teen club”, and that was about it for our parish. Thank you, Lord!
Little did I know though, that God had so blessed my parish, our now deceased Msgr. Edward O’Keefe, and Sr. Anne Marie, the principal of my Catholic grade school liked the “old” ways. We still had plenty of nuns who taught at the grade school. We had a convent on the grounds, and were taught early to have respect for this building, and for the women serving God. I was awed by that building. One would have to “tip-toe” up to the door, lest you disturb someone. Then the doorbell would be rung, and you jumped, because it was soooooo loud, and we were supposed to be quiet, yet, what does one do when one is attempting to be quiet, and the doorbell sounds as though it is a “fire alarm”. Then a nun would come to the door, with a look of wonder, sometimes annoyance, sometimes love, and always “yes, what can I do for you”. While I shivered in my shoes, I would always state, very quickly, that it was one of the other nuns who sent us to the convent, we didn’t decide on our own! We always went with a partner, as children we believed it was moral support. We would stand on the porch for 10 minutes, saying, “you push it, no you push it, no you push it”. Sometimes, the nuns would be walking out the door as we were still discussing who was to push the doorbell. We so believed we still had to ring the doorbell, we stammered over ourselves trying to explain to the nun what we were doing there.
Reverence was taught often, and immediately in first grade. If you had not learned enough of it from home. You definitely understood it by the time you graduated from eighth grade. The convent was always to be entered with reverence. I never understood why, until one day, when I was in 8th grade, I was helping the younger, cooler nun who was the basketball coach. She took pity on me. I couldn’t play basketball, I couldn’t cheer. Somehow I ended up getting the important job of riding in the car with Sister, gathering the gear for the game, making sure she had everything she needed, along with the team. In other words, I was the “ball girl”, “go-for”; I never knew. It probably only dawned on me now, as I type this blog. She so skillfully made me….an inept, klutz, and poor student, feel as though I was one of her favorite students, enjoyed my company, and loved having me around. Matter of fact, she was the nun who taught me why we had to approach the convent door quietly, and once open to continue to be quiet and reverent. It was because the nun’s chapel was right next to the door. If the windows were open in the chapel, and if a nun was having her Adoration time, then we would be disturbing her or them. I learned, every morning before school started, the nuns had a special mass, just for them. I thought that was beautiful. I knew it was because they loved God so much! In reality, I’m positive the first reason was God, the 2nd……well, the 2nd had to be because they were about to enter into a six hour day with lots and lots of loud, noisy children. They needed the nourishment of God to make it through their day. Looking back, I must admit, those masses gave those nuns extraordinary strength to make it through the day, and able to treat us with such love. Only as I am growing older have I begun to truly realize and appreciate the level of faith this school implanted within me, and along with my parents nourished in me. The first time I was shown the convent chapel, I was so awestruck, I could not say a word, and was also to frightened to say anything, thinking I may get the nun in trouble! My what stories our young minds can imagine.
Matter of fact, between our two priests, and nuns, and the handful of lay teachers we had in the school……….we knew we were loved, cherished, and accepted. We also learned the teachings of our faith and the Catholic Church. My parish grade school did an excellent job. Our priests always came over to visit with the children, giving hugs, and attempting to walk up the hallway with children holding on to their legs. It almost reminds me of the movie “Bells of St. Mary’s”. Here, I always thought it was one of my favorite movies because of Bing Crosby, and Ingrid Bergman…..maybe, deep down inside it reminds me of a time in my life where I felt, and knew I was safe at school, with the nuns, teachers, and priests.
High school, as I mentioned earlier, was a tad more “hip”, so the Church could “reach the kids”. Thank goodness for my parish grade school! I was the odd man out, I didn’t buy the “hip” part. I wanted the “guts” part of our religion. I began to feel I wasn’t being fed anymore, I can say that now. I’m positive that is not what I was thinking then. I know one of the things I missed, the Latin Mass. Sounds funny, but, I remember it, and when I am able to attend Latin Masses now, I am overjoyed!
Move forward to this past year when it was announced we would be having “The Year of Faith” in commemoration of Vatican II, there was and has been a stirring in my heart. Last night as I taught my 4th grade CCD class, today would be the beginning of The Year of Faith, and the significance with Vatican II, their darling little eyes were glazed over. Yup, it made a big splash with them. Yet, I still passionately did my best to imprint into their minds the kid size story of Vatican II, along with this Year of Faith. Then I came home disappointed that somehow I failed, I missed the mark, the importance of this day…………………….that was……………until………………I woke this morning thinking about The Year of Faith.
Our prayer group decided we were going to do an hourly St. Michael Prayer for Paul Ryan and the debate tonight. Hourly, I was praying. Noon time came. My girlfriend and I were discussing how two Catholics were going to be in this debate. We discussed how we wouldn’t want to be the soul of Joe Biden, and then we discussed how we see in Paul Ryan, the kindness, the love of Christ, the caring, and love for his fellow man. I told my friend how I was able to use this as an example of two souls, one choosing to follow the path of Christ, and the other not, with my students last night, and what a beautiful moral story that came from this debate between two Catholics. My children went home thinking about their souls! I loved it! No, did not, at all discuss voting. Not allowed too, just discussed what a person’s soul could be like in following the path of Jesus, and what a soul might be like that doesn’t follow the path of Jesus. Personally, I’m thrilled I’m not Joe Biden!
At 12:30 p.m., this out of the blue, totally gut feeling came to me with the words of: I do not think it is any coincidence that the Vice Presidential debate with two (well, really one) Catholic (one in sheep’s clothing) is tonight on the FIRST DAY of THE YEAR of FAITH, and on the 50th anniversary of the start of Vatican II! God’s mercy abounds!
I texted this immediately to my prayer warrior friends. I was humbled by the responses sent back to me. That, that is the time I realized, for me, how deeply touched I am by The Year of Faith we are entering, that happens to be coinciding with one of the most possible life altering elections I will ever play a part in, and that will most definitely effect the future of my entire family’s life, and the lives of my present in-laws, along with future in-laws, and most of all my descendants. Most people do not understand yet, WE ARE TRULY ABOUT TO ENTER into THE YEAR OF FAITH, that I believe, will rock them to their core!
Praise God for the graces he pours down upon us! May the eyes and ears of the one’s who do not see, nor hear, have their eyes and ears opened during this Year of Faith!
Thank you, Lord, for your mercy!