Memoirs of a shattered hope.
(Page 9 of 10)
This past week has found us all at Le Mans. For the 3 days after the Mission, the 4 of us csc’s visited Arras, Lille, Rheims and Paris. Ah Paris. In my two visits (before and after the Mission) I saw an opera, 3 presentations of the Comedie Francaise, the film Dialogue des Carmelites (Gertrude von Le Fort and George Bernanos), spent 2 days in the Louvre, another at the Museum of Modern Art (the French Impressionists) and the rest of the time visiting St. Sulpice and the Catholic art shops, Montmartre, La Madeleine, Notre Dame de Paris, la Sainte Chappelle, etc. I really got around in 5 and a half days, and I’d really looked for sleep on returning to Le Mans.
But instead it’s been 5 straight days of tearing off wallpaper and washing off water, paint and plastering. Next week we begin painting….
Dick’s own room was painted to his taste, as best they could manage:
The window wall is a beautiful deep maroon-red, and the other walls silver grey, with a pale yellow ceiling. With the floor waxed it looks like a castle. The other rooms are various shades of green, grey, blue, salmon, etc. Sorry, no beige. But it will be bright and clean and refreshing during the rainy season.
In December, Dick was ordained a subdeacon in a church in Le Mans whose origins went back to the sixth century. “I didn’t find it very romantic, however, as these long-drawn-out ceremonies leave me cold literally and sensitively…”
Mother and Dad, meanwhile, were already planning to visit Europe for the ordination in June.
THE PRECEDING AUGUST, Jim, then a senior at Boston College, had married Patricia O’Reagan of County Galway, Ireland. Since Pat had no immediate relatives in the U.S., my parents offered to hold the wedding in Johnstown. That was the first major family ceremony to be held in Our Mother of Sorrows, our beautiful, quiet English-Gothic church in the suburb of Westmont. Dick, of course, could not be there.
But the next summer Dick was back, a priest. On June 29, 1961, in the parish church of Notre Dame de Sainte Croix in Le Mans, Archbishop Lawrence Graner of Dacca, a Holy Cross man who happened to be in Europe, ordained Dick a priest. Mother and Dad participated. While Dick was on retreat before the ceremony, there had been hours of long conversation with the other boys, the priests, the Archbishop—and the bottles of wine in festivity. By the day of the ceremony, all were one at heart. At the mass of the ordination, then, turning to descend with communion to my parents, the Archbishop tripped and the new white hosts, which Dick had co-consecrated, were strewn across the sanctuary floor. There were tense moments till the Sacred Breads-become-Christ were recovered, and the ceremony could proceed.
After traveling through France to Rome and back with Mother and Dad, Dick returned to Le Mans. He followed them later to the States, and said his first Mass in Our Mother of Sorrows Church in mid-August. The church was full of well-wishers, relatives and friends. The day was clear and bright. They gray-blue flagstones of the church floor, and of the sidewalk outside, remain fixed in my memory. I was master-of-ceremonies on the altar, putting to good use the knowledge I had acquired of such things. After Mass, the procession of visiting priests, pastor, and servers wound around to the new parish hall, where a lovely breakfast had been prepared. The mood was happy. The women wore summer outfits and flowers; flowers decked the room. Relatives who had not gathered for many months, even years, were present. There was great pride in the family. Dick, we knew, was a true priest. Compassionate, open, honest, thirsting after justice. Ben and Jim, who are suspicious of all outward piety, were also proud of him; for him, they could swallow their anti-clericalism.
To the despair of all of their children, Mother and Dad insisted on calling Dick “Father Richard,” and even tried to make us do it. Dick let them have their way, without open protest, though he made plain by ironical winks to us that it was only not to mar their joy.
At the reception, Dick shrugged off all ceremony and fuss. He was uniformly “present” to everyone who came to greet him in the receiving line; he gave of himself, effortlessly. His chalice, a tiny silver one modeled after a tenth-century chalice he had seen in a museum, was as honest, solid, and traditional as his own personality. He was not a “regular guy.” He was trying to restore in himself a long tradition. He hoped it would shape him in such a way that he would only need to be himself for it to speak. There was no gimmick to his affability. He was himself.
While he was still in Le Mans, Dick had written several poems for Colloquium, the international student publication of the Holy Cross Fathers. One of them seems especially revealing.
I AM NO LAZY LOVER
I am no lazy lover
With sweeping grandeurs
of small talk. Words, you discover,
are passing; love endures.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?