By Jim Schroeder
St. Mary Church, Ireland
“These things, I warmly wish for you – Someone to love, some work to do, a bit of o' sun, a bit o' cheer. And a guardian angel always near.”
The rains rolled in like a squall off the Irish coast. It had been a day of scattered storms, dashing plans of bike rides and extended outdoor play. For the most part, the precipitation had come in brief, intermittent spurts. Yet as we stepped outside to load the car, the heavens opened and the sounds of pitter patter soon gave way to a pelting staccato. As we took off to the northeast, the rains continued on the already flooded roadways as we approached Ireland, Indiana. School was less than two weeks from being done for the year, and children across the land were dreaming of what summer would hold. But, snug in the dry car with the two youngest asleep, our oldest four intently listened to their mother read another excerpt from the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder.
A bright green wrist band hung on my left arm, a remembrance to a young man whose life was cut tragically short just weeks before. He remained in my daily thoughts. “Christ be with him. Christ before him. Christ behind him. Christ in him….”
As we approached the church with the four steeple crosses, Amy once again recalled the early times of her youth. Ireland had been the place where she had spent many days encountering Christ as a teen and a young adult, in a movement called Teens Encounter Christ. As a young dating couple, I had listened to her recall the moving experiences of these weekends; yet in my stubbornness (despite her encouragement), it would not be until adulthood that I would undergo a similar retreat. But like many her age, it had been an encounter of the Most Real Kind, one that would lay the seeds of later pursuits.
As we pulled into the parking lot, we looked over to see our friends smiling in the car next to us. We joked that each other seemed to bring rain, but in reality we brought each other cheer. By the time our other friends arrived, we would have 12 kids in tow (and one due in July); and Mass quickly became about musical pews and traveling potty adventures. Above us appeared the upside down hulls of half-shaped arcs, which hung majestically over the windows where pictures of our seminarians were placed. It was Ascension Sunday, and as Father Read noted, it was a concrete reminder that Heaven always remained our first, and most important, pursuit.
By the time Mass ended, the rains had slowed and our party transitioned down the road to The Chicken Place. With a menu replete of many varieties including the Organ Trail, full of gizzards, livers and other solid organs, we were treated to all things poultry. The kids settled in to the corner table. The shenanigans quickly began, and the gradual removal of anything sharp, breakable or otherwise exploited ensued. But despite the loud, disorganized scene, our waitress maintained a sunny disposition and seemed unphased by the youthful escapades. Meanwhile, the stories, albeit fractured, continued as our group of old friends and new acquaintances celebrated an evening together. As we wrapped up dinner, our server informed us that just a year ago, she had suffered a stroke and wasn’t sure she had what it took to return to work. But after a dinner spent with us, she felt even surer that she had come back just fine. A round of support went up from our table as she had more than passed the test!
After puddle jumping (and submerging) and gawking at remnants of a decapitated bird, it was time to load the youngsters and head out of Gaelic land. As we wove our way back home, the skies had finally cleared. A bit of sun emerged as it slowly faded into the western horizon, brilliantly illuminating the billowy clouds that levitated in the heavens above. The rains would return the next day. Still, work had been done, cheer had been won, the sun had come, and love had been spun.
This reflection is from Jim Schroeder’s book “The Evansville Diocese Historical Tour: Footprints of Our Catholic Brethren.” Jim, his wife, Amy, and their kids live in Evansville. They are parishioners at Holy Redeemer Parish. Jim is a pediatric psychologist and Vice President of the psychology department at Easterseals Rehabilitation Center. “The full story, including illustrations, is available on Amazon or with his other books and articles at www.james-schroeder.com.”