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The Indefinite Article.

Friday, April 01, 2005

The Pope is Dying

My next door neighbor died at 5:00 a.m. on wednesday morning after a protracted battle with cancer. Another neighbor is in the hospital after a suffering another mild heart attack. And now, the pope is dying...

As long as i can remember the pontiff has been ill. Yesterday evening CNN reported that the pope has received last rites and today he is at death's door. This news touched me the same way that the news of a distant relative's death would: a deep thud from inside my chest.

I was raised 'very' Roman Catholic and spent a good amount of my young years attending various church functions; at one point, i was the president of my youth group at St. Mark's the Evangelist Catholic Church. My mother was a 'reader' on selected Sunday masses and i was frequently an altar boy. Even once i passed from a being a 'boy' into a younger man, i continued to serve mass dressed in an altar's boys alb that was too short for me. In my early youth, my mother coached a girl's softball team for a league confined to church members. Our weekdays were consumed with practice, and the weekends were for games where my grandmother (the candy-lady) would sell candies and pickles to the masses.

Everyone we knew had a quincenera, wedding, or other rite of passage at the church. It was the center of our lives.

As a small single-parent family fresh from a divorce, new to Houston, and living 'alone' for the first time, we all slept in the same bed. I remember my mother crying a lot. In order to get to sleep, we all prayed together. My earliest memories are of praying with my mother in bed. My mother used to have three plastic rosarys, two solid color ones (i can't recall the colors) for my sister and i, and a multi-colored one that she would use to pray. She taught us how to do the sign of the cross; she taught us the Our Father, and the Hail Mary. I can't remember actually finishing a rosary. My sister and i were asleep before the third set of beads.

I can fall into prayer easily, and when i do (unfortunately, this is not often) it is comforting. The Hail Mary tumbles from my mouth as a near sigh. The Our Father is a long string of soft hisses, and rolls and pops from my lips. My body tingles and i feel my shoulders drop.

My mother hung a bamboo roll up with an image of the pope printed on it (she still has it in her kitchen) in our living room. As a child, I only knew that he was the head of the church and that he had(has) a direct line, so to speak, to the 'big guy'. the closest i ever got to him was meeting a Cardinal (whose name i have regretfully forgotten) at the Seminary retreat i attended when i was still in High Schol. (Yes, i attended a seminary retreat for young men considering the priesthood. I was voted most likely in my senior class to become a priest.)

I can recall the assassination attempt, and his eventual face-to-face meeting with his would be assassin which ended with the pontiff fully forgiving him.

In other news: a bird has taken up residence in a hanging pot in our back yard. Carol's rosary vine, which she had gotten from Amber Scott when she still lived in Austin, had outgrown it's pot, so carol decided to split it up into two, keeping one out front and the other in a hanging pot in the back yard.


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