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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Goodbye and Hello (Loretta G. Kettinger, 1925-2019)

There are a lot of things I might say about my Grandma. That's how I knew her, too. Sometimes, even before she died, I wished to know her in younger days. What was she really like? What was my Grandpa Bill like, who died before I was born, in 1979? He had to be quieter than her! It's odd, you know, a family in Missouri, that's to a person Dodgers fans (except my brother and me). That's weird, you know. You'd have to let my Uncle John tell you the story. The boys, her sons, they all love baseball. That's why I love baseball. They wore out the tape of Game 1 of the Series in '88. Kirk Gibson's home run, when he could hardly walk. It's as much a part of our family as anyone's. My Aunt Karen made the mistake once of saying, "Haven't you guys seen this enough? You know what happens!" John, without missing a beat, said, "Be quiet! I'm afraid he'll strike out this time!" Grandma would laugh and laugh, as if we'd never heard it, or a hundred other stories. She poured herself into her children and grandchildren. That's who she was. If you know us, you know her. Her house is where we always met. And she always cooked, and we always ate. "No thanks, I'm not hungry" would be ignored, as if it were not spoken. That's just how it went.

And then I think of my aunts and uncles I still have, and those departed. How hard they worked, and still work, as well as the kind of reputations they have. The point makes itself: This lady was their mother. When I think of how much I admire my Uncle John, and have heard the stories of who my father was, especially, I realize: Who do you think taught them all that?

You notice she was preceded in death by 6 of her 10 children. How strong do you have to be, to bury one child? I gave you the obituary, so you could perhaps pray for all of them. But how strong do you have to be? I guess you have to be a Kettinger. We have cried rivers over the years, and that is true. But if you saw us together, you'd see the joy of living. She was the focal point, but we have lived. It seems we take joy in every little thing, and we got that from her.

I think I was about 30 when I realized Grandma snuck off to an early Mass before I woke up, on the days I stayed over. She never spoke of such matters, but I knew we were Catholic. I had my own journey to the Church, but I also understood another blessing: I am to be the one who fills in the hole in her heart. Every Mass, every prayer, every thought of higher things, was for her, and for those we lost.

We're not a churchy bunch, as a group, but someone has to do it. I will never fully understand the power of the Church's intercession, nor of the sacraments, but I understand we have been leaning on them, one way or another, our entire lives.

If I could stay in 1988 forever, I would. I still had my Dad, Rick, and most everybody, except for Uncle David, and Aunt Janet, who died as children. They made a funny video celebrating Loretta, and Dad was the director. It may be in the same shape as that Dodgers World Series tape, for all I know. Those were joyous days. Those are the days I remember.

I didn't feel too sad today, because she poured all she was into us. I remember the way she called me "Jay," and mountains of fried potatoes. I remember the way she laughed, how she started, and could never stop. I remember how loud her phone was when it rang, and how it was one of us, usually. Then again, everyone who came through her door was family. I took it for granted, because I thought that's how everybody was. I would love to be this naive again, and I would love to be as generous as she was.

Friday, March 15, 2019

St. John Vianney, Pray For Us!

What a great day! I resolved to go to Holy Mass, because a relic of St. John Vianney would be there. I don't always get to go during the week these days, but today is special. I had in mind Confirmation Sponsor Lady, and one of my sisters, who has been sick. Truthfully, whenever I am at our parish, I think of them.

It strikes me as odd that the separated brethren of the Reformation are so convinced of the error of the cult of the saints. As one hymn puts it, "Yet she on Earth hath union/With God the Three in One/And mystic sweet communion/With those whose rest is won." As I was thinking about this, I realized that in the hearts of the saints, there are no strangers. Therefore, in the one Eucharist, we know each other, and are fully known. There is so much loss in death and suffering, but even this can be rendered sweet in redemption. John Vianney got my requests to heal some people--not usually his normal thing--and my thanks for my family, especially since we are partly French (on one side) like him. I heard a talk about Therese of Lisieux last night. I felt much closer to her since I heard that she struggled with prayer. In recent days, I find my sole anchor in repeated recitations of the Memorare.

I had my normal Lenten dinner at the neighborhood restaurant, and as I walked home in the bright sunshine, I said to a dear departed friend, "Man, Raff, you'd have loved a day like today!" I caught myself, and added, "Then again, in Heaven, every day is like this." I hope she gets to meet my Grandma Loretta, who died this week (if they haven't already). Maybe we cry on this side of the vale, but the joy of Heaven utterly swallows up every sadness. The exercise of hope is to invite God to give us a foretaste of it while we are here.

There is so much fellowship denied or delayed by the trials of this life. In any case, beloved brethren, I'll see you in the Eucharist, by the mercy of God.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Keep It Simple

The trial of life eventually reduces down to this reality: every joy, prayer, work, and suffering is brought to the altar. Everything becomes a question of faith, or the lack of it.

Everything pertaining to worship that isn't the Mass imitates it. It is both intriguing and tragic to know that so many people believe other things, and quite doggedly at that. God in Christ either answers sorrow and sin with grace, or he does not. I find myself with little patience to debate the theological particulars of the holy Mass with those not yet reconciled to holy mother Church, if only because there is little time to reconcile that which remains unredeemed in my life, and in my sphere of influence. If ecumenism does not include the possibility of return to the Catholic Church, it is a waste of time.

It still remains true that I am gentler on those outside the Catholic Church than I am on those within. It may be in part a function of my own pride and forgetfulness, in the sense that I did not know once that which I know now. I have become a native now, for better and worse.

This life will be beat you down, and just when you think that you can't take anymore, this life will demand more. Without faith--without the reality of the supernatural--there is no comfort in religion. May we be spared this nonsense of religion as a comfort despite not being true. I would laugh at such patronizing foolishness, except for the fact that so many people think it is a true account of what is going on. Christianity is either maximally true, a totalizing reality, or it is useless. I'm not the first to say it, and I won't be the last. But there's probably someone out there who hasn't taken religion seriously enough to consider it. Perhaps someone even reading this blog.

There is almost a cottage industry of those who set up a false dichotomy between piety, and an ability to deal with reality. Such people almost use "pious" as a slur, or a backhanded compliment. To be pious, however, is to accept what God reveals to be the truth; indeed, the total truth, and to order one's life in accordance with that reality. We are quite aware that life here offers us many opportunities for distraction, and even to be convinced of some other reality, but in the end, we either believe that God has spoken, or we believe that he has not.