Botany, Fertility God, and the Cross

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He was a dear friend from college and delightfully quirky. He was six foot eight, brilliant, perceptive, with a quick and witty sense of humor, and never disrespectful. He was the gentlest of souls and a devout Catholic of Polish descent.

I liked to think he saw me as a little sister. Even though I was several years older I was considerably more naïve about…well a lot of things outside Detroit’s city limits. On the long walks across campus he would often mentor, more accurately tutor me about chemistry, microbiology and research; we were both Botany and Plant Pathology majors. I lacked in formal education, having never attended high school, but he would encourage that I more than made up for it with a willingness to learn.

We remand friends through those college and graduate years, and met twice after he returned home to Indiana. When I’d phone him, his mother, who usually answered, would yell “It’s your Michigan Margaret!” I’d always meant to ask him how many Margarets he knew.

The other day, pulling out the Christmas boxes to repack the decorations, I discovered in the bottom of one a little leather pouch tucked into a plastic storage bag. I recognized it immediately as the last Christmas gift received from my friend—the last I’d ever heard from him.

It was a strange gift. He, as a devout Catholic, had gently tried to persuade me to return to my childhood faith. This gift was a Native American medicine bag—a spirituality that we had discussed, but that I was never really drawn to, either. When I had peeked inside the deer skin pouch there were tiny stones and a small turquoise bear. I remembered thinking then, how odd, and put it aside. That was over four decades ago.

Picking up the plastic bag from the bottom of the box, I removed the soft leather pouch and remembered a friendship long past. I smiled at the thought of him, an indisputably chaste man, giving me, a remnant of a woman from Detroit, a gift with the fertility god, Kokopelli, embossed on the flap.

As I am prone to do, I began praying for him while removing the little treasures from the tiny purse. I had no idea about the symbolisms of the stones or coins, or the why—at what I thought the bottom of the pouch—of a scrap of cotton cloth.004 Rubbing the pouch with my thumb, I felt something still inside. My fingers were too thick to fit within, so I tipped it up and a necklace chain flowed into my palm. A thrill ran through me, the same sort of feeling as when I saw that dear man waiting to walk me across campus.

I pulled gently on the necklace. Whatever was attached was too big to easily pass through the small opening. Pinching the bottom of the pouch, I wiggled the jewelry out and discovered a solid silver cross. I smiled, and then cried; I had never acknowledged his precious gift.

For over forty years the cross and his affection had lain hidden. But now, here was my old friend, come again, to remind me of the preciousness of my soul.

What ever family fills his life, where ever he may be, may the Lord bless him and keep him, may the Lord’s light always shine upon him and grant him peace.

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First image by Pexels from Pixabay . All others by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl. OSB. All rights reserved.

March for Life, Tuesday’s Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

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Our Lady of Guadalupe, we pray that you give strength and perseverance to our Sisters and Nuns as they continue their work for the dignity of life.

We pray that your compassion infuses their hearts as they minister to post-abortive parents, and all those sorrowing who have in some way, by their actions or inactions, been involved in the abortion industry.

We pray that our Sisters and Nuns find the words to encourage parents of unwanted babies, and guide and support them in bringing that life to life.

Holy Mother, in the face of such deep wounding, let our consecrated women never tire. Let them bring the presence of healing and love through Jesus in this battle to protect the unborn.

Amen

Image by adam morgan from Pixabay 

Bringing Us Jesus, Thursday’s Prayer for Priests

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Lord Jesus, you have chosen your priests from among us and sent them out to proclaim your word and to act in your name. For so great a gift to your Church, we give you praise and thanksgiving.

We ask you to fill them with the fire of your love, that their ministry may reveal your presence in the Church. Since they are earthen vessels, we pray that your power shine out through their weakness. In their afflictions let them never be crushed; in their doubts never despair; in temptation never be destroyed; in persecution never abandoned.

Inspire them through prayer to live each day the mystery of your dying and rising. In times of weakness send them your Spirit, and help them to praise your heavenly Father and pray for poor sinners. By the same Holy Spirit put your word on their lips and your love in their hearts, to bring good news to the poor and healing to the broken-hearted.

And may the gift of Mary your mother, to the disciple whom you loved, be your gift to every priest. Grant that she who formed you in her human image, may form them in your Divine Image, by the power of your Spirit, to the glory of God the Father. Amen

~Archdiocese of Boston web site.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Mother Bailey’s Kitchen

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She preferred to be called Mother Bailey. She was a stately Scottish woman; tall and handsome with wild blonde-gray hair that no matter how desperately she tried to secure it, frizzed and blew in all directions. Her eyes were a steely-blue and reminded me of thin ice over a lake. Much like her homeland she was rugged and sturdy.

Though she gave an air of fixed and singular determination, she was known for her wicked sense of humor that was subtle and witty. I was often a recipient of this humor and rarely caught on until I saw the glint in her eyes. She seemed to draw delight in my simple trusting nature.

Mother Bailey was a devout Presbyterian and followed the rules of her church, one of which she believed included frugality. She wasted nothing and bordered on the edge of hoarding, except that she willingly gave away whatever she had.

She lived in Pennsylvania with her English Cocker Spaniel named Tillie, also a blonde. This particular area of Pennsylvania reminded her of home; hilly, rocky, windswept and a neighborhood clannish in nature. Her only frustration with the region was her inability to grow a decent patch of heather in the garden. I wondered if this inability was due more to the activities of her energetic dog than the environment. Whenever we would walk about the sloping gardens, care would need to be taken so as not to sprain an ankle in one of the many digs Tillie left behind.

Listening to Mother Bailey talk gave rise to wonder and curiosity about her native land. Her tongue would roll and lilt as she spoke of land and sea. Words like glens and straths or firths and links peppered her descriptions. I would set a mental note to check the encyclopedias when I got home.

Being Scottish, and as I mentioned, frugal in every regard, Mother Bailey repurposed everything—long before it was fashionable. And her home reflected this habit, especially her kitchen. It was a galley style kitchen with one end open to the central hallway and the other open to the dining area with a half-wall counter dividing the room.

Every surface, shelf and ledge were filled to capacity with half-hazard stacks categorically organized. A colorful mountain of seasonal and holiday napkins, some only slightly used, spilled over onto the canning jars filled with plastic cutlery—being utilized more frequently than the drawer of pristine flatware.

The white porcelain enamelware table, with red edged extender leaves and chrome legs, bore the brunt of the stacking. Only a small half-moon space at the front edge of the leaf remained open for her to work. The organized clutter sloped up and away to rest against the gold floral papered wall.

Boxes of loose tea and half used tea-balls rested nearest the front. Emptied bread bags lay half folded under the casual mound of English muffins, bannock cakes, and partial loaves of assorted breads. Cartons and cans filled the remaining space in an uphill climb with the summit of the pile stacked with steel cut oats imported from Scotland. Mother Bailey was a bit of a snob when it came to her beloved oats.

When I had come to visit her one afternoon, she had intended to make chowder for our ‘sup’. With bacon fat leftover from breakfast, she sautéed the onions as we talked. A barely concealed fear of a kitchen fire raced through my thoughts as I observed the nearness of her stacks to the lighted range. Rummaging through the cans on the counter to her right she pulled out whole corn and from the freezer a bag of lima beans. Opening them she added them to the pot. I had not eaten limas before and asked if they were like navy or black beans. “Tis neither” was all she said while dipping a wooden spoon into the stock, pulling up a plump green lima for me to taste. I enjoyed its creaminess, like butter wrapped in a pale green skin.

Mother Bailey explained that succotash was a baked dish of corn, limas and evaporated milk. She had adapted the ingredients to make chowder, “for the soups are healthier you know.” A practical woman, she often used boxed potato flakes when she had no leftover mashed. This is an adaptation of her recipe, God rest her soul.

 Succotash Chowder

4 strips thick bacon, diced, fried and drained, reserving about 1 tbl. of the grease

1 medium onion, diced

30-36 oz. chicken broth (2 large cartons or cans) or equivalent using bouillon paste

¼ tsp celery seed

¼ tsp thyme

10 oz. frozen lima beans (or canned, drained)

10 oz. frozen whole kernel corn (or canned drained), or for a sweeter chowder use corn stripped from the cob

1-1 ¼ c. potato flakes, or equivalent leftover mashed thinned with some of the milk

1 c  half-and-half, or  equivalent whole milk (do not use skim or low fat) mixed with a small can of evaporated milk

Pepper to taste 

Cook the bacon bits until well done but not overly hard. In soup kettle add the bacon drippings and sauté the onions until translucent. Add the broth, celery seed, thyme, limas and corn. Boil gently for 15 minutes. Whisk into soup the milk and potatoes. Add bacon bits. Add pepper to taste and simmer until thickened.

I usually use leftover mashed potatoes for this chowder. I find that boxed potatoes work very well to thicken up a soup, but use them in moderation for you can quickly wind up with a succotash mud. You can also use corn starch to thicken.

Enjoy…or as Mother Baily would say, “mealtainn!

Image from pixabay.com

In Piercing Sickness, Prayer for Sisters and Nuns

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Beloved Mother Mary, we ask that you enter the hearts of our Sisters and Nuns and console them in their sickness.

Give them strength to face the sicknesses that pierce our bodies: cancers, viruses, the diseases of heart and lungs. Give them courage to face the illnesses that impair our minds and rob us of thought: Alzheimer, strokes, and others that diminish our ability to perceive the world. In their time of physical trials there may be fear, resentments, confusion or doubts and a weakening of faith as they themselves become weaker.

Cradle them Mother in your arms, give solace to their aching hearts, lessen their disappointment in their infirmities, guide them to pray more deeply in their sufferings.

We ask all this in Jesus name. Amen.

Image by Tesa Robbins from Pixabay