Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Wounded Prayer Warrior Keeps Trekking

By Robert R. Schwarz  

              HEAR  MY CRY !  ( PSALM 130:2 )

             FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH. ( 1 TIMOTHY 6:12 )

           TRIAL.  ( JAMES 1:12 )

          Peter Ruddy, age 54, sometimes rises at 3 a.m. and to say his morning prayers followed by a decade of the  Rosary .  Since diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October, 2011, he says he gets by well with 4 ½ hours of sleep. Most mornings he's up at 5 a.m. , before his  two-story Cape Cod home with the large red front door is filled with the voices of sons Peter and John and daughter Clare—all high school students—and  wife Susan. The senior  Peter  then hikes a short  distance to a McDonalds for coffee with friends.  He likes to walk and at times he'll trek five or six miles. But this morning it's a quarter-mile walk to Mass at the St. James Catholic church in Arlington Heights, Illinois.  
Reading at a weekday Mass
By 7:30,  Peter is sitting in a front pew , waiting for the an altar server to ring the bell that sounds Mass.  Before Mass is over,  he'll likely have to leave his pew for a brief , roundtrip walk to the back of the church. "My MS," he says, " makes it difficult for me to stand up for any length of                                                                                                         time."
            On this particular day it is his turn as lector , and he will stand—he's  six-feet, one inch tall—at the lectern and read verses from the Old Testament and the Psalms.  One phrase from Peter and you know  he's  British- born and educated.  He articulates his words  perfectly with a resonance that brings to mind  dialogue from the televised  "Downton Abbey."  ( Though he grew up 15 miles from Shakespeare's home town , Stratford-upon-Avon,  Peter  admits he's never read one of the bard's dramas. )
            Peter will spend the rest of the day reading—he says he  reads magazines voraciously, but seldom reads a book cover to cover , unless  written by Catholic convert Graham Green—and journaling ; there will be more walking and then , at 3 p.m.  , "divine office "  prayers and more Rosary decades.   " I don't like my routine to be altered in any way, " he avers.  Much of his happiness , he says, comes  from prayer and solitude. He describes his occupational skill as a "senior buyer" for industry.         
In front of church at his first communion
in Coventry , England
For our hour  interview  in a study room at the local library, Peter wore a blue sweat shirt emblazoned with the Union Jack. Anyone conversing with Peter eventually  and quickly hears  humor and  irony reminiscent of the old British TV show, "Monty Python's Circus. " When relating opinions and personal anecdotes he is transparent  with matters  most people  save for a confessional booth or a boldly written memoir.  He does not  sugar coat the bad stuff nor does he hesitate to mention the  good things about himself. Like many Exodus trekkers who have been wounded because they avoided the comfort of shortcuts, Mr. Ruddy appears to be  a complicated  individual.  

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a potentially debilitating disease in
which your body's immune system eats away at the protective
sheath (myelin) that covers your nerves. Damage to myelin
causes interference in the communication between your  brain,
spinal cord and other areas of your body. This condition may
result in deterioration of the nerves themselves, a process that's
 not reversible ( By the Mayo Clinic staff ) …  More than 400,000
 people in the United States have MS. An estimated 2,500,000
 around the world have MS.   ( from a report by the Multiple Sclerosis
Foundation )

Peter was candid about  a  life  smitten with unhappiness that has left him with a  long-term disability and  current unemployment—as well  as forty pounds under his normal weight of 225.  A large piece of  unhappiness he received  three and half years ago when told that his MRI scan showed   multiple sclerosis.  " I could not walk or use my legs , "  he wrote when preparing for a retreat at St.  James. " I remember that night wanting  desperately to be angry with God...I mean, I don't  miss Mass ; I'm a lector at St. James; so  what in the hell is going on ?!  I wanted to be like Jacob [ who ] …wrestled with an  Angel  of the Lord. But I could not…Although God seemed so very distant…it turns out that he was closer to me then that at any other time in my life; he was knitting me back together in His supernatural womb." 
            Nowadays Peter says , "I  don't let my MS define me; I define it…I embrace it more as a friend than an enemy. "   He adds, however,  "when you have MS , it's like your brain is attacked by a tsunami. "

Major Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent
 feeling of sadness and loss of interest….it affects how you
 feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional
 and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal
day-to-day activities, and depression may make you feel as if
 life isn't worth living. More than just a bout of the blues,
depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can
simply "snap out" of. (By the Mayo Clinic staff)….About 9 percent
of American adults from all walks of life suffer from some
form of depression. In fact, major depression is the leading
cause of disability for Americans between the ages of 15 and
44, according to the CDC. Understanding these very real
depression statistics helps paint a fuller picture of the
 impact of depression in America.  (Medically reviewed by
Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH for a  2014 report from  the Major
Depression Resource Center. )

In 1997 with 18-month-old Peter junior and  one-week- old John 
Peter  also talked openly about another serious wounding in his life:  major depression.   Engaging his sharp memory for historical data, Peter took us back to July , 1985, to his home in Coventry, England. "I awoke that morning knowing something was wrong.  My dad asked me what was wrong , and I said I didn't know   and proceeded to burst into tears and shake uncontrollably. ..Dr. Bindman  quickly diagnosed that I was suffering from major depression. I was off work for about three weeks.  Major depression  was a frequent visitor over the  years. " 
            Peter's  depression  would normally emerge in September or October and stay with him through April or May.  " Some years it was bearable; I wouldn't miss any time from work; other years ,  I would have to have a complete break [from work] for several weeks and occasionally a hospitalization. It was awful just trying to get through the day…It's almost impossible to do anything.  You're so far in the depth of your despair that there's no way you can get out.  If in November you want to look forward to springtime in May , you can't because you believe you will still have your depression."
            Peter remembers that  often the depression was so overwhelming  that he couldn't even pray; he   didn't want to live.  For 20 years he took medication  but it  lost its effectiveness in five or six years ,  and new meds would  have to be prescribed. 
            He reports today, however,  that  he hasn't had a bout with major depression  for two years.  His advice for people with major depression: " Take care of your diet, your health—and exercise . "   Peter also stresses the importance of seeking professional help, understanding the nature of major depression,  and having a "spiritual dimension to one's health. "
Born on a Small Irish Island
            Peter's grandparents and parents  were born on the small ( six miles long and three wide ) Clare Island  off the west coast of Ireland .  Its many  rocky outcroppings gives it a "moonscape" appearance, says Peter, who visited family members there last year .  According to Peter, the  tragic Irish  Potato Famine in 1835  eventually reduced the Island's  then  population of 5,000 to its current 350 residents, many of whom today are sheep farmers.  His parents were Catholic . "I commend both of them for passing on the faith . " Regarding his   five siblings ( three sisters and two brothers ),  Peter says, " I suppose I'm  the only one who has kept the faith.  "
            In 1948 after the World War II, the Ruddy family moved to England , where Peter went to High School  Upon graduation, he  went to work in a factory as did his father.
His father has played a major role in Peter's faith life.  While on night maneuvers in a peat bog with the Irish Army which  he  had joined at age 16,  his father  contacted pneumonia; it afflicted him for most of his life . Stricken in 1968 with double pneumonia   and tuberculosis, he was given last rites in a hospital. He went home to die but recovered. A parish priest suggested that Peter's father go to Lourdes to give thanks for his miraculous recovery. He did.
       "Once there, " Peter wrote in a memoir, " he was immersed in the holy waters daily…He returned two weeks later a changed man, a man that had been totally and utterly immersed  in God's loving care. This was the first time I experienced my spiritual Father's loving care for my earthly father, a gift that kept on giving throughout my life.  "    
            Later in England,  Peter did  office work at a Rolls Royce plant , which sent him to night school for further training.  In April of 1992 he immigrated to America at age 32 to marry Susan,  whom he had met incidentally ten years earlier on a Chicago  CTA bus in which he was riding with his two teenage cousins . When Susan, then 18,  got on the bus, she recognized the two cousins from her neighborhood and asked why they weren't in school.  When they replied they were showing the sights of Chicago to Peter,  she expressed  skepticism. Peter then  vouched for his cousins' honesty . When Susan exited the bus,  she unexpectedly  turned to Peter and asked, " What are you doing  for lunch ?" 
            With that memory now making him smile, Peter looks  across the library  table at me and says , " that just blew me away…these  Americans , I said to myself."
Honeymoon, then Egypt and Bible School
            The couple honeymooned in South Carolina for two weeks. One day Susan  saw a help-wanted ad in the New York Times  for  a logistics coordinator to work in Egypt for  a global  quasi-secret organization—as Peter describes it—called Multinational Force  and Observers . The organization consisted of  peacekeeping troops for Egypt and Israel.    Peter flew to New York City for an interview and got the job because, he says, the firm was impressed with his knowledge of it . Peter had spent hours at the Chicago Harold Washington Library  researching  the firm's operations.  
            But things just didn't work out for Peter ,  who , once on the job  in Northern Sinai for two months,  declined a directive to relocate to Israel, which he thought unsafe for Susan .   His wife now commutes from the Ruddy home to Lincolnshire, Illinois , where  she is  employed as a company resource manager.
            Back in Chicago, Peter enrolled in a four-year curriculum in Bible study at the  Chicago Catholic Scripture School  of the archdiocese . " And I've been continuing my education ever since, " he says with obvious pride .  For example, he says he's "always been very keen to understand other faith traditions.  "   He counts Muslims, Jews , and Indians among the friends he has made.  " From the Hindus I learned humility and service, and from the atheists I learned to  question things. I learned we're all brothers and sisters. "  Peter has three validated passports: British, Irish,  and American.
       A meeting  with  some monks in 1984 during a retreat in England  he claims as a life milestone.   One of his friends is a priest in England  and was best man at Peter's wedding.  " My friends told me  I had a different way of looking at the world ." When   asked to be specific ,  Peter replied by quoting what he considered the greatest compliment ever paid him :  It came from a foreign student who told him how very "eloquent"  Peter was.  And when asked what has shaped him most in life,  he replies without hesitating, " My faith and my sense of humor [which ] is very avant-garde… but it's me and it's very English. "  He would like his tombstone epitaph to be: He was a nice guy. He listened. He had compassion.  He says he does pray for more humility and compassion. 
     He also wants to complain less.  " Since my MS, I began to fall in love with myself all over again,  not in a perverted way, but in a generous way and to appreciate my faults. Although a handicap,  MS …frees me to be more humble and to be with people who interest me. I have no time for small talk. "
            He aims to fight harder  in spiritual warfare against demonic spirits. " The closer you come to the Lord, the more angry the devil becomes,  and then he brings in his best team ."   Peter is looking for a spiritual director.  Meanwhile,  he attends a faith group of men who  meet  at 6 a.m.  Saturday mornings in the church basement.  "It's one of my great bonuses, " he says. "It's been a tremendous inspiration for me to meet like-minded  people. "
            In the closing moments of our interview, Peter credited his father as a major inspiration during his own his life's journey. " He was a man with a "great sense of humor and a very compassionate heart who was prepared to get down in the trenches with you. "  There were  a few last words about his family , particularly daughter Clare .  With a twinkle in his hazel eyes , Peter said, "She's 14 going on 44 ; she keeps me young."    Then came  a final, fitting tribute to his father: " From him I got my love for children."    
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© 2014 Robert R. Schwarz



Sunday, March 2, 2014

Not Your Everyday Teacher: She Directs Child Spiritual Direction

By Robert R. Schwarz

                        "The bottom line: help students fall in love with God"

            The teacher held a mirror up to the 6- year old student. "Whom do you see here?"  she asked the girl.
 " Me," the girl replied . " And my name is Susie."
" And what else do I know about you? "
"I live in Arlington Heights, " the student  said, no  doubt wondering where her teacher was going with this.
It was the  teachable moment all teachers wait for to  drive home an important  point . In this case, it was the child's spiritual formation. "You are Saint Susan of Arlington Heights,  " the teacher affirmed . "You are a saint- in- the -making. "
The teacher, Mrs. Pat Farrell,  wanted her student to realize that saints were normal people like this student and not "just someone up on a cloud who always had the right answer."  Pat is director of spiritual formation for k-8 students  in the St. James Catholic parish in Arlington  Heights, Illinois.
A student and his "sketch" of her as his saint. 
Pat's next learning strategy that day engaged  a  student  in a role play  to help him  form his prayer life.  After that, she led the class in an informal talk about God and Jesus . It was a concerted effort—one she's been doing for the past 13 years—to bring children closer to a living relationship with the Holy Trinity. 
            " God is a God of relationship , and my goal, my mantra is to help these young people become aware of the God within them and to relate to that God,"  Pat explained during our recent interview in her parish office . Asked if the concept of God being within one was too abstract for a young student, she replied:  "You start of the see glimmers of this [ understanding ] when they are in junior high."
"Teaching spiritual formation is very different from teaching English, " she said.  "Spirituality to me differs from theology or religious education in that these are cognitive processes. It is that relationship with that indwelling God….We have  only to listen with different ears, see with different eyes."   At the  9 a.m. Friday  Mass she also trains her students to appreciate the church's ongoing  liturgy " Anyone is welcome to come." 
            Pat, a fiftyish  woman obviously not short-changed in either intellect—she also teachers critical thinking as an adjunct professor at Roosevelt College— or expressive humor, sits at a small desk top-heavy with papers. Her eyeglasses match her   fuchsia colored Celtic sweater with a golden-like Celtic cross on it.  We are surrounded by  teacher and church  stuff: sacramentals, classroom props—and lots of family photos . She likes to be precise when speaking.
The Farrell family in 2011
 Pat has observed that  that many Catholics are leaving churches today   because,  as children,   their faith was taught to them intellectually  and not by or through a  personal relationship   with God. "There are so many challenges today to raising a faith-based family ," she asserted . " And I'm going through this too because I have teenagers and a young adult. " What saddens Pat is "seeing the number of young people stepping away from their faith . " Aware of those  parents who  dismiss this fall-out  by saying , well, that's what all the youth is doing, she counters with: " We have to work a little harder to give them reason not to ! This is why the archdiocese had indentified this year as the "Year of the Strong Catholic Parent." Pat is doing her part by giving spiritual direction to adults when they ask for it. Her academic background also includes three master of arts degrees : from Loyola University in religious education; Dominican University  in library and information science; and Northeastern Illinois University in philosophy and phenomenology.     
            At a special ceremonial dinner last month,  Pat was one of 33 employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic Schools to the receive the 2014 Distinguished Service Award. The presentation was made by  Cardinal Francis George and Sr. Mary Paul  McCaughey.  
            I asked Pat to  relate her life's  spiritual journey .    She talked about it with apparent candor, confidence, and a knack for anticipating  my  next question.  " By the time I was three, I knew I was being called to do God's work , " she began .  It was a calling she felt deep within her and one she soon shared with her parents.  "My parents were the biggest influence on my life. They were people of great faith. My mother was the quintessential volunteer with a strong sense of [Catholic] social justice and mission.  " 
       Her father, who   emigrated as an infant from Ireland and later worked for the American Oil Company, would quote to her St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine.   "My parents were devoted to each other, and when Dad would put us to  bed at night, he would always say , ' Did I tell you today I love you ? '  He never left the dinner table without saying to my mother,  'Your dinner today, my darling, was delicious. ' "   ( A plaque in Pat's home, from a Lutheran friend, reads:  The greatest gift a father can give his children is to love their mother.  )
            " While growing up, I did not want to be a nun ," Pat said . But after graduating from Dominican University, she considered  going into a convent because she was still in awe of the Dominican sisters . She admits  that these nuns  " in a large part made me what I am today ." Since then Pat has kept  a strong relationship with the Dominicans and today is a Dominican Associate.
When she decided to pursue that childhood  calling  to do God’s work,  she sought work with the  lay ministry office of the Chicago’s archdiocese  but was told she had to be a nun to qualify.  So, she went to work for a medical society, still feeling  the call for church work.  When several years later the archdiocese began promoting lay ecclesial ministers for its  Together in God’s Service Program,  Pat applied . Her call had been answered.
Her  "Call to Adoption"
With son Patrick at age 5
  Yet, another call was waiting for Pat. She now had  met Jerry , whom she married .  Jerry today is the business director for  Queen of All Saints Basilica in Chicago. Now came the tragedy of  three miscarriages for Pat . Doctors told her that because she and Jerry were genetically identical twins ( a rare occurrence of when  the  DNA of husband and wife match exactly ),  Pat would never be able to carry a pregnancy to full term.  "I was dumbfounded, " Pat said.   " I was numb."
             Before the miscarriages,  Pat and Jerry  had talked  about adopting children in addition to their planned  biological children.  The couple now prayed over adopting a child and were willing to accept a child of any race or with any handicap. They contacted the former Family Counseling Clinic in Grayslake and  soon 11-day-old Ann arrived  in the Farrell home. 
             Ann, now 21 ,  will soon graduate from her mother's alma mater and  intends to  pursue a doctorate in biomedical ethics.  " She's very strong-willed, like her mother, " Pat said.   
  From the same adoption agency ,  came 13-day-old  Joseph, who today  Pat describes as the family's  "song and dance man" . Joe is a  sophomore and a theatre major  at  Dominican University, where he has been cast as a leading man in  several Dominican productions.   "He plans to go on to graduate school in Social Work and hopes to be a high school counselor and teach theatre," his mother  said. Explaining her son's dual goals , Pat said that sometimes  students being counseled can better express themselves through drama.  "Joe has a heart for this. "
Patrick, the third adopted child,   arrived at the Farrell home  when only three days old. When Patrick attended the St. James school,  Pat  once described him   as "the happiest kid in the world with an incredible belly laugh I can hear half-way down the hall. "  He is now a high school sophomore and  has told his mother he would like  to work with animals. " That may be," she said, " because one of our  family dogs was born five months before  Patrick , so the two grew up together. "   
            All three of Pat and Jerry's children are Afro-American.   "The desire to adopt black children was from the  God deep within me, " Pat said. " I had a gut feeling, a sense that this  was the path I was supposed to be on. I did not want children to look exactly like me."  Then , speaking slowly, softly, and  with conviction, she quoted a  gynecologist : " You get the souls that are supposed to be yours. "
            "I don't  mean to sound arrogant, " Pat said , " but my kids are very good kids. " She does admit, however,  that raising children can make a mother lose her temper now and then.          
             Fourteen  years ago, while employed as  director of research for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and also working   part-time  at St. James, Pat faced  another critical decision:  whether she should leave the surgeon society to work full-time for  St. James.  Chuckling, she said,  " I've always loved medicine and considered being a doctor when I found out I couldn't be a priest. "
            Then one day in church, after everyone had left the St. James Mass service and Pat was sitting alone in the dark  praying for direction,  she swears she heard  a deep voice saying to her,   Do  you not think that I will take care of you ?  It wasn't  long before she  had  traded her research tools for a full-time commitment  directing student  spiritual formation at St. James.
The Bottom Line: 'Fall in Love with God '
Pat on her way to form a saint-in-the-making
  One of Pat's goals today is to  "
deepen the parents'  partnership " in developing   their children's spiritual formation.  Asked to make a pitch for a St. James school education as opposed to one in a public school, Pat thought for awhile before replying with: " Look, the  bottom line is that we are here [ at St.James ] to help students fall in love with God."  Can't  public school teachers can do the same? I asked. " Absolutely, " she said. " But at St. James , religion  is really well integrated into everything we teach. "  For examples, she cited that when the students are learning about  World War II history,  she'll walk into classroom  and teach about the church's position on a "just war " ;  or, at Easter  time , when the Jewish-Arab conflict might again be in the news,  she'll  '' form her students into three groups and have them "decide" how they would divide  the Holy Land into parcels for Jews, Muslims, and Christians.
                     And what of Pat's own  spiritual  formation ?  Anything she's had to learn the hard way ?  "Pretty much everything, " she said with self-deprecating  humor. Then , turning  serious, she added:  " Trusting God, letting go…that's something I've really worked on with my spiritual director. " Pat sees her  woman spiritual director "now and then " ,  prays a  lot during the day, and  attends  Eucharistic Adoration . Does she always obey God?  "Yes," she replied. Then offered a Farrellesqe retort: " But I may tap dance around Him for a while. "
She goes to the sacrament of reconciliation weekly or monthly —"depending on what I've done, " she said grinning . " I couldn't do this work without it. It's such a cleansing. I think it's the  most human of the sacraments. Heaven knows I make plenty of mistakes every day." She shares some of  her convictions about confession with  her students.  With people who may  not be happy with what she does, she looks for "common ground. "     

     Her favorite prayer is from St. Teresa of Avila, her favorite saint:
Christ has no body now but yours
    No hands, no feet on earth but yours
             Yours are the eyes through which He looks
compassion on this world
            Christ has no body now on earth but yours. 

            For fun and recreation, she and husband ride their bicycles ; she swims  all year with her son Patrick in a Park District pool, attends son Joseph's stage performances, and goes to some movies ( she wants to see " Saving Mr. Banks "  and " August: Osage County  "; she likes Meryl Strep ) . She says reads voraciously , especially  biographies like On Heaven and Earth, a dialogue between Pope Francis and Rabbi Abraham Skorka.  She likes to quote the 13th Century mystic Meister Eckhart : If the only prayer you ever said in your whole life was 'thanks', you've said enough. 
Teaching liturgy in the St. James chapel
   When I wanted know what she would like to hear  Jesus say to her at the front door of heaven, her  one-liner was:  " Come on in, Pat " !
            Pat's  biggest personal challenge is winning the daily battles of spiritual warfare. "I  do believe in the forces of evil, " she said.  " When you are called to this work, you are a target for spiritual attack .  "  Most people don't sense that this spiritual warfare is going on,  she added.  Pat believes that for everyone—to one degree or another—  spiritual warfare is  a lifetime deployment .  " But it's a process that deepens your faith, " she gladly added.  
            Apropos of that, she claims James 2:18 as her favorite Holy Scripture: Indeed someone might say,  you have faith and  I have works . Demonstrate your faith to me without works , and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. 
            As for  those students whom Pat instructs to look in the mirror if they want to see a saint-in-the-making,  some  child eager for affirmation of this  is always stopping her in the hallway to ask,  " Mrs. Farrell,  am I a saint-in-the-making, too ?"   Pat's reply: "Oh, yes ! "

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                                                                                                                                                                              ©  2014  Robert R. Schwarz

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Why They Come to Mass Every Morning

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those
who weep. Have the same regard for one another.
(  Romans 12: 15  )
For when you meet frequently, the forces of
Satan are annulled and his destructive power
is cancelled in the concord of your faith.
( Saint Ignatius of Antioch)

By Robert R. Schwarz

            It's 6:44 a.m. on a sub-zero day in January, and the St. James Catholic church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, lies in darkness . When the sun rises, it will reveal a prominent architectural feature of St.James: its sky-piercing steeple . Add this to the outside  red brick and looming white Ionic pillars , and the front of the  church might  bring  to mind a splendid  historic county courthouse . 
  In a minute, three or four cars will pull into the
parking lot for the  7:30 a.m. Mass. One of the cars will have the license plate, "Mom to Ten." The epithet is a tribute to the mother of ten but now deceased wife of Jim .
Mary , the altar "preparer" , enters  and   dips a finger into the holy water stoop just inside the door, crosses herself ,  then walks across the altar  to  the sacristy door .  The church has already been  lit by 96 light bulbs in eight enormous chandeliers and  by flickering  votive candles in racks  along both walls.  Faintly seen is the red glow of the "perpetual  " light high above the tabernacle.
            Mary gets to work with tasks she's been doing  here for 25 years: there are candles to  replace,  holy water stoops to fill,  two Eucharist chalices to place on  the altar,  and the   "gifts" of water ,  wine, and  wheat hosts  for two worshippers who will later carry them  up  for the priest to bless. Then there  are the pitcher of warm water for the priest  to  wash his hands before the  blessing and  the Mass cruets to fill with holy water  and wine.  Lastly, Mary walks to the  ambo ( lectern ) t0  set up the lectionary  ( book of Holy scripture to be  read this morning ) and a microphone.  As usual, she takes a second to hope the altar servers will  show  up—these young students  sometimes don't—as will  the three  Eucharistic ministers needed to help the priest distribute  the  communion wine ( Christ's blood )   and hosts ( His body ).   
Mary, the 'altar preparer'
Though Mary sometimes finds it difficult to get out of bed so early, if she doesn't get to Mass , she says she is "miserable for the rest of the day. " And what about those 20 or 30 same worshipers who unfailingly come here every weekday morning ? " They want to get Jesus," she says matter-of-factly.
            At the very back of the church in a pew seat that's been his for years ,  is Jim, one of the very early worshippers. He is  holding Rosary beads and praying silently .  Jim is 89 , the  father of one of the St. James' five deacons.     
            Jim: "I can't think of a better way to be with the Lord. I go to Mass as a member of  Christ's body…Life is short , death is certain , and the world-to-come is everlasting."
            A minute or two later, Duke takes a pew seat across the aisle from Jim.  Like several of the regular weekday worshippers
,  he has lost a  spouse and comes  for comfort he gets  from the church's  silence and its  sacramentals on the walls and altar.  Duke is a 75-year-old retiree from the Federal Aviation Commission. He pulls out his Rosary, one which was uniquely fabricated from petals of roses which a year ago lay here on top his wife's casket.  A nun made the beads,  having learned the  technique in Rome. Duke had 22 more of the costly Rosaries  made for family, friends, and three priests, one  of whom blessed the Rosaries.  Duke is a member of the church's grief support group.
Duke: " I come here to deal with my grief and have been coming ever since. " 
Jim is often in his pew before 7 a.m. 
The silence is broken  for a couple of minutes by  Tom's entrance with his friend  through the rear door. He is a self-appointed goodwill ambassador  and doesn't settle into his pew  with Rosemary until he has walked over to Jim and two others with a cheerful greeting  or with  one of his typical good-humored  wisecracks.   
            Tom:   "I like the people here. They       make me feel good."  
            Rosemary: " I've always gone to  Mass even when I had my eight children…I'm grateful being here with my Lord, praying with Him in the peacefulness here. "
On  summer mornings the church   turns golden when  the sun rises and sends its rays through the eight-foot diameter  rose window set  high above the altar. Colors of blue-violet, red-violet, green and white radiate from the 48 glass segments that make up the window's  three  concentric circles. They are the colors of the church's  religious seasons ; the red also represents the  blood of Christian  martyrs.
The Rosary Team Gets to Work
   At 7:10, Tom looks around for the presence of those  who have been assigned a role in reciting one  of the five Rosary mysteries to  be said this morning . He then  makes the sign of the cross and speaks so all can hear  :  "In the name of  the Father, Son and Holy Spirit."  Another worshipper  continues with the Apostles' Creed: "I believe in God, the Father Almighty…"  
            During the 15-minute  Rosary recitation, several more "regulars"   enter  the pews. The parish has more than  13,000 members, including babies and children.  ( It's  quite an increase from the 18 families who, in 1904, were  worshipping about a mile away in the original St. James church. ) The 50 oak wood pews tightly hold 550 people and are regularly  filled  at  Masses  on  Sunday  and on  Saturday evening ,  Easter , Christmas,  and Holy Days of Obligation.   
Two happy members of the Body of Christ
    Ed comes in. If summer, he would have  has just picked a red rose from his garden and placed it in a vase  below the plaster statues  of the Holy Mother and Saint Joseph. Following advice of a priest, Ed sits in the front pew so he can focus better on the Mass.
            Ed: " If I don't go to Mass, I really feel bad and get a guilty conscience…I don't use an alarm clock . God wakes me up. I have so many things to pray for. "
            Nearly all of the regulars are in their pews  when the last Rosary mystery ends.
 Everyone appears to be praying. There is a man whose spouse has  severe  rheumatoid arthritis ; behind him are three nuns from a nearby convent; across the aisle from them with folded hands sits  a retired dentist ; there is a CPA who is an Opus Dei member,   church deacon ,  wife of another deacon,  retired newspaper editor ,     "homeless" man ,  seminary student, and a woman who ,  a few minutes ago was outside kneeling  before the Blessed  Mary statue . ( She once hitchhiked to Mexico to help repair a rundown church and later traveled to Nova Scotia to knock on doors with the Good News. )
As they   pray, some worshippers  are likely meditating on one of the many  sacaramentals that surround them , those scared signs which bear a certain resemblance to the seven Catholic sacraments , and by means of which spiritual effects are signified and obtained through the prayers of the Church ( Catholic  catechism #1667). Some are focusing on the five-foot-six-inch  Jesus crucifix  behind  the altar ,  below the rose window. For others, it's the 52-inch tall statues of Saint James  or Mary and Joseph; or perhaps one of the eight stain glass windows that beautifully dominate the walls; each is 20 feet high ,  and when light streams through each of  windows'  108 multi-colored panes and  illuminates the  birth, life,  death, and resurrection of Jesus—the effect can be transcendental even to the casual worshipper.   
Few of the younger  regulars know that the marble  stone construction of the altar, ambo, , tabernacle pillars, candle holders , and   crucifix stand  were fashioned from the communion railing that once bordered the altar.
A Few Facts about the Church's Artwork     
Yet no matter  where these worshippers' attention lie this morning,   it is framed by the  architecture designed by Charles Randig , a Benedictine monk and renowned artist in Europe who was invited  here  decades ago by his brother John, a St. James member on the church's planning  committee.   During his six-month stay  in Arlington Heights  with his brother's family , Charles managed the installation of the widows which, according to Pat Farrell,   director of spiritual formation for the St. James K-8 students , are  "irreplaceable" and likely valued  at "hundreds of thousands of dollars ."
Ionic-styled pillars in early morning light, a  hint of Ephesus 
One of 8 stain-glass windows
             designed by Benedictine monk
Charles Randig
Looking at these windows with a little imagination, the worshipper can be transported back to a Gothic  cathedral in the Middle Ages , say , in France  at Amiens, Chartres, or Notre Dame . And there is the  rounded Romanesque arch that loops above the altar and those  pointed arches that pretend to crown the windows. The arches are non-functional , of course, as is the ribbed vaulting that  crisscrosses the ceiling's center  or  the 48 Ionic, floor-to-ceiling  columns that speak of places like ancient Ephesus or Athens. Worshippers this morning are also enjoying the  spiritual ambience of the thoughtful  color scheme of muted brown walls  with white paneling below them  and by the brown oak of the pews with white sideboards.
It's 7:20 . Outside, Pastor Matt crosses Arlington Heights Road, enters the church, and strides down an outer aisle towards the sacristy as the Rosary ends with a voice proclaiming the oldest Marian prayer, Sub Tuum Praesidium  (" Under Your Protection")  : " We fly to thy protection, O holy Mother of God, despise not…"
Why They Come Every Morning
Why do  these same people  come every morning  when no church rubric or tradition requires it?
Joan—she's uses a walker: "It's a good way to start the day…It's not crowded.  "  
Bob: " I get up at five-thirty and like to walk …It might be my last day."
Tracey—there with her three children whom she homeschools;  she and her four-year-old Abigail sometimes carry the gifts up to the altar: " It's a tradition.  We do it to keep centered in God. "
Grant—Tracey's  12-year-old: " Sometimes it's hard getting up in the morning, but once I get there it's really worth it, that sense of peace you get for the rest of the day."
Dorothy—"I've been doing it all my life…It is my life now. "
Peter—the  seminarian : " It's the opportunity to hear the Word of God and to receive the graces which I need for every-day life."
Regina—a young woman from Indonesia: " I need to see Him [Jesus ] and receive Him every day ."
Luis—he  often kneels on the floor behind the last pew: "I thank God for the day and ask Him for guidance."
Stan—he's there with his wife and is a liturgy reader with a voice like a radio newsman: " We get a jump start on the day."
Marilee: " I just love it ! "
Madeline—a Eucharistic minister who's been a weekday mass regular for 29 years: " To be with the community. It's the best way to start the day."
Matthew—says  he never would have survived the death of his wife a little over a year ago without this Mass: " For companionship." 
Bill—he loves to bring the gifts up to the altar:  "I've been going to Mass every morning since my wife died. You meet some pretty nice people early in the morning…You get up at six o'clock in the morning and you're showing God that you love him."
Other regulars include  three people who are unable to  kneel, a woman who sometimes  arrives late and  out of breath, at least two persons who have sought employment for more than a year, the pastor's cook and her husband, and  the guy who has asked  all these imposing questions and who wishes this 7:30 a.m. Mass began an hour later.
They Are the Body of Christ
A minute before 7:30 , there are usually 40 to 60—sometimes more—bodies in the pews. Always, there are a few  latecomers scampering in .
No doubt some of these   worshippers during  their  30 minutes of singing, praying , and hearing the Word of God  sense  they are indeed a member of what church doctrine  calls the " Body of Christ."  Though they have heard  these words proclaimed  hundreds of times,  questions naturally  remain:  What exactly is this  body ? What does it look like ?   What part am I ?
Hands together during the Lord's Prayer
The Catholic catechism says this about The Body of Christ:  In the unity of this  Body, there is a diversity of members and functions. All members are linked to one another (#806 )….The church is this Body of which Christ is the head (#807 ) And speaking  Jan. 1, 2014 from his studio window overlooking St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis  said:   " We are all children of one heavenly father. We belong to the same human family and we share a common destiny. "  Also , the apostle Paul in Romans 12: 4, 5 ,  writes:  For as in one  body we have many parts, and  all the parts do not have the same function, so we, though many,   are one body in Christ . 
The Catholic Encyclopedia ,  in its online page entitled  " The Mystical Body of the Church , " suggests that these St. James worshippers and all others  will  have a clearer vision if they see this mystical body as analogous to the human body and see themselves as all "knit together as though by a system of ligaments and joints. "  Or, as one Catholic theologian   wrote:  that they live in a   "universe of Catholics "  as parts  of an organism where "all the sinews of  our hearts are consecrated by the presence of  Jesus ."    In writing  to bishops ,  Pope Francis stated : "Each member of the [ church ] body reproduces  in himself the whole [ pastoral ] institution in its totality . "  [ Italics added .]
One of these St. James worshippers  might therefore wonder if a case can be made for God orchestrating  the unified functioning of millions of cells in one human body—and  linking this singular  functioning to the millions of people who function as one  Body of Christ.  Would this worshipper  then conclude that , on this January morning in Arlington Heights,  ,  all those sitting in pews around him or her  are  each other's brother and sister in a very true sense ?  Dare we not stay spiritually healthy for each other's sake, he might exhort  ?
Stan, helping all stay in tune 
A parish member  at  one  7:30 a.m.  Mass once  asked :  "How can God really hear all  the Godly  prayers being said at the same time by  millions of Christians throughout the world, in and out of church ?  I  know  He's omnipotent and omnipresent…."
There was an attempt by another worshipper  to answer her  with two analogies : One analogy  was how that master switch in  her basement circuit breaker box—with one tug—can send electricity simultaneously to any number of light bulbs that are "asking" for energy. The other analogy was how a loving touch of a mother upon her young child's body , how that touch—with the actual  speed of light— communicates a message of  joy or comfort  to many parts of her child's body—simultaneously . 
It's 7:30. Stan plays the refrain of a hymn.  A young girl in a white robe appears in the sacristy doorway. She pauses, gets  her cue from Fr. Matt,  then stretches an arm upward  and rings the bell over the sacristy door.  Fr. Matt comes out singing. He is joined by the Body of Christ.
The St. James ' regulars ' at 7:10 a.m.

A thank you to Kathy Borresen, the
St. James artistic director, who patiently
supplied much of the detailed information
about the history and nomenclature of
the architecture and sacramentals.
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