This week I had an appointment in Regina, that got me half way to Saskatoon, my hometown. I decided that since I was already half way there it was the perfect time to abandon the ranch for a few days and plant myself amongst my people in Saskatoon. It was a very good few days.
One of the visits I had was with my oldest friend in the world, Deb, my pal since we were nine. We went out to eat but when I arrived at her place to pick her up I was told I needed to come in, Ava had something for me. Ava is Deb’s 17 year old daughter. So I sat on Deb’s couch and was handed a small white paper bag. I was told a story. I was thrilled with the story and with the gift.
The gift is a rosary
The story is that Ava took part in a school trip to Italy and Rome at Easter time. There were many amazing sights to see and things to do, including time at Vatican city. This is the home of the pope. Ava told me that when she found herself in the gift shop she told herself or maybe it was her friend, I can’t quite remember exactly, “Heh! My Auntie Kathy is very religious, maybe she would like these things, I want to get her something!” She selected this beautiful blue toned rosary. When she went to pay for it the cashier told her that if she left it with them they would present it to the pope to receive a blessing, it would be returned to her tour group the next day. Ava did that. When she told someone in her group about the gift she had purchased they led her to think she had made a poor choice. Ava was given the message that since I am a woman and a minister I could not be Catholic and that I therefore would not appreciate a gift like this. With that message ringing in her ears she did not know how it was all going to unfold and I got the sense it took a bit of encouragement from Deb for Ava to present me with the gift she had purchased.
I absolutely love this gift. So I asked Ava to pose with it.
I don’t love this gift because I have been wanting a rosary for a long time. I never ever considered owning one, because it isn’t part of my tradition, but this one seems so meaningful. I have to admit that I am super thrilled with the thought that this rosary has been in the presence of the pope. The first chance I got after Ava gave me the rosary I went online and researched how the pope was to bless them. I couldn’t find anything definite. In my mind, ideally, it was that he held it in his hands. Realistically he likely offered a prayer and sweeping hand motions over a pile of little white bags, or maybe they were simply in the cathedral while he offered mass and were part of a general blessing of items. Who really knows. But none of that seems as important to me as a more pressing and personal reality. Ava thought of me. On the other side of the world, in the midst of her busy and awe inspiring days, Ava thought of me. It seems to me that she was living out the title of my blog….I see you, you see me. I am immensely touched by this gift for its clear message that I am seen. Since I got home I have not removed this white bag from my purse, until now, to take some pictures. I have found it comforting to have it with me. Ava is a young woman with a huge heart and much passion for the world. I have known her since before she was born, I baptized her, I love her. She thinks of me. It all is just really touching to me.
There are so many sub-stories and questions to this story.
-It is wild that I might incorporate a rosary into my faith life. I don’t know if or how that might happen at this point. The fact that I am even open to it marks a huge transition in how the world works. I have an aunt that wanted to marry a Catholic man in her youth, her mother outlawed that possibility, because he was Catholic. Do the walls that divide start to crumble eventually? What would my grandmother say if she could read this post?
-When with great excitement I told Russell the story of the rosary he said to me, “Kathy, he’s just a man.” (Referring to the pope part of it). I know that. I often actually think of the fact that the celebrities we would be thrilled to have contact with are simply men and women like you and I. The people we do live among and have contact with can be just as fabulous as these celebrities, just not famous. It is possible that Russell has character and skill that make him a mashup of Jimmy Stewart and Kevin Costner and I get to live with him! Anyways…..its easy to get swept into the cult of celebrity worship and I am on the verge by being so scintillated by the thought that my rosary has been in the presence of the pope. (On that note, have you heard the story about Gina singing with Carol Burnett?….Epic moments).
-Most of my life the popes have just been in the background of my awareness and receiving a gift like this, blessed by him, would not touch me like this one has. The thing is that this pope is different. I was away and had access to cable tv when the events unfolded that proclaimed him pope. I was sitting in front of the TV in my suite, with my bible open, doing some daily reading. For a while I always noted the date I read something and whatever came to mind as I read, or in some cases what was major in the world that I was bringing to the text. So in my Bible, on March 13, 2013 I recorded the announcement.
Cardinal Bergoglio who chose the name Pope Francis was known as a humble person with a deep concern for the poor. The name he would take put him in line with Frances of Assisi who penned the phrase “make me an instrument of your peace.” It would become the foundation of the hymn I love to sing, “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.” I loved what I had the chance to learn about the character of this man who became pope.
-Also……..I had a seriously meaningful experience when I was a student minister in a long term care home. In a time of crisis a Roman Catholic person needed last rites and there was no priest available to come. There was however an elderly nun who resided in the home. She became aware of the situation and worked side by side with me to offer prayer over this dying man. The thing is that she was challenged by dementia. It took her several tries to find her way through the entire hail Mary prayer but when at last she did the entire thing, she was proud of herself. I felt that the pure love and devotion coming from our efforts must have been similar to last rites. I was wrong. The patient lived another day and a priest came and offered the official last rites. What that patient received from the nun and I was whole hearted devotion and I swear it meant something. I will never forget what the combination of love, devotion, ritual and rosary stirred in the air that night. Some people talked about it for days after. (Several were privy to the moments as the patient was in the hallway, no rooms were available, a nursing strike was on and hospital patients had been shuffled into long term care homes, it was an unusual time.)
I don’t know how this gift will fit into my life but I know that it fits into my life. It might be a reminder that walls that divide can be broken down, it might be a reminder of Ava’s affection and her ability to see me, it might serve as a mandate from Pope Francis to do my best to see and to serve those who suffer, it might remind me what the Nun taught me, that we don’t have to be perfect, we simply need to do our best and offer what we have with love.
Thank you Ava.