Thursday, October 11, 2012

"I'll Be Thinking of You, My Beloved": Day 1 of 31 Days of Falling by Faith

Fifty years ago today, on October 11, 1962, a three-year meeting of leaders, invited guests, and other observers of the Roman Catholic Church commenced at the Vatican. This occasion is recalled by the Church today as it begins a yearlong observance called the Year of Faith. Pope Benedict XVI launched this year of focused attention on evangelization and renewal in a homily that can be read in English here.

I have to admit that the first thing I think of when I hear "Vatican II" is that in the middle year of those meetings, 1963, my dad spent a week in that "Eternal City"—which is what he called it in a letter he wrote to my mother on flimsy blue paper while a passenger on an Alitalia plane high above the Atlantic ocean. "Beloved," he addressed her—a name that caught me quite off guard the first time I read it, because I couldn't recall sensing that he ever felt that way toward her. "It's hard to believe that all this is actually happening," he wrote." He never could have afforded such a journey or such a stay in a foreign country without the financing of the publisher who had hired him to translate, from Italian into English, a biography of Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Council but then died in the middle of it, in June 1963. My dad’s letter ended, "I'll be thinking of you, my beloved"—again, that surprising endearment—“and asking God to watch over you and protect you from loneliness and whatever other stresses and strains my absence may cause you." In addition to being left alone with their three children aged six and under, my mother was also very pregnant with my youngest sister, who was born that August.

A young Starbucks friend named Sarah recently issued a commencement challenge of her own: to make "a fresh blog start." In the past two years I have made two attempts to be a blogger—I mean I've started two blogs. The first one has thirty-seven posts written in several bursts of activity, the last burst ending with a post on July 16, 2012. My second blog—this one—went dormant after only six posts, the last one published last April 30.

I make my (meager) income helping other people write or write better what they want to say. Meanwhile, my own life is in (at the least) its autumn, and I keep thinking about my own "beloved," David, the man who was my husband for ten years and friend for thirty years. Three and (almost) a half years ago I had the last conversation I would have with him on this side of the veil. One of the things he told me during that hour-plus phone call was about the assignment his therapist had given him at their last session (they met once a month). Despite years of on-again, off-again substance abuse, David's brain was an uneraseable database of every person he'd ever met, every word and image and sound he'd ever read or heard, every experience he'd ever lived through, consciously or even half-consciously, and he could pull out an applicable piece of data or a whole story for any occasion. His therapist, it seemed, had convinced him (like his friends and family had tried to for years) to write—something, anything, whatever came out—to give to him at their next session. He sounded excited, hopeful. Less than a week later, he was dead, and erased were all his untold stories (except for the ones he had flash-transferred to those of us who are still here).

So, for the next 31 days, I will be taking Sarah’s challenge and writing here; the first 31 days of the Church's Year of Faith will also be for me 31 days of "falling by faith."

Until tomorrow, then.


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