The Loudest Quiet Girl: Messages of Hope in a Dark World

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.– Saint Paul

It is a wonderful mystery that God has not only created us dependent on Him, but also dependent on each other.  We need each other not only for our physical well being, but for our spiritual growth.   All of us are tasked by God to drag each other over the finish line to Heaven.   Out of love for us, God will often place in our path those who can help ease our pain.  When we are open to the love of God and the love of our neighbors, tragedy can transform and heal.

Every year my brothers Pete and Patrick and I spend a “Brother’s Weekend” together as a way to remember our brother Davy who died of ALS in November of 2013.   This year we spent it in Foxboro Massachusetts and on Sunday we went to Mass at Our Lady of La Salette Shrine in Attleboro.  See National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette

Walking into the Shrine conference center before mass,  a poster featuring a portrait of a beautiful young woman caught my eye.  As I started to read it, a man quietly came up and invited me to join a presentation on his daughter, Erin Rodriques.  Erin’s parents, Abel  and Kathy Rodriques, have just published a collection of their daughter’s journal writings from her teenage years.

Erin is their only child and she died at the age of 23 on December 9th, 2013,  just months before her marriage.  I cannot imagine the pain and sorrow of Abel and Kathy.  Yet, out of our brokenness, God can craft something beautiful.  For Abel and Kathy Rodriques, that beauty was a long forgotten collection of Erin’s journal writings.

All who read Erin’s writings were stunned by the depth of her love for Jesus and compassion for others.  Erin’s style of writing was unusual: she seemed to be addressing a future reader rather than herself.  She expressed a simple, trusting love of Jesus.  Her prayer life with God was conversational, friend to friend:

“I really need to work on my relationship with God.  I am still totally religious and spread the word but I think that I have been trying too much to help others with their relationship with God that I have been barely been paying attention to mine.   I think tonight, instead of saying the Rosary, I’m going to just talk to Jesus and pray for peace, strength and help.  I know he will not abandon me.  Lord, I know you can read this and you know me better then I know myself, please know that I love you more than anything in this world and my desire for you is so strong that when I feel like I haven’t talked to you for even just one day, I feel dead. I need to remember to place all my stresses and worries into your hands and have you help me and guide me along my life’s path. I love you Lord and I need you. Please always be at my side and help me even when I do not think to ask. I can never thank you enough for all that you have done for me. ”                                                                             Erin Rodriques December 20, 2005

On March 4th 2017, Erin’s mother Kathy found a previously unknown journal  that Erin started on March 14th 2014.   Inside were  letters by Erin to her Mom and Dad, written nine years before she died.  Below are some excepts from those letters.  Keep in mind these letters to her parents were written nine years before she died.  Her parents only saw them two and a half years after the accident that took Erin’s life.

For Mom:

…I love you so much! I’m so sorry for all the times I made fun of you and said you were stupid, crazy and uncool. You were really as cool as cool could be! I would ever trade you in for all the riches in the world. You are the best mom ever and I will miss you so much until we see each other again! All the times I spent with you were the best times of my life! I’ll be missing you and praying for you! Anytime the sun shines on a spring day, know that it’s me smiling and laughing.  Love you!! Love from your daughter, Erin Kate Rodricques”                               Erin Rodriques, 2004

For Dad:

Dear Dad, First I want you to know how sorry i am that I have yelled at you and treated you badly alot. It’s hard to say but, it was like the more I did, the more I loved you… I’ll always remember the great times we had together.  I can’t wait for the day that we see each other together again and all  the wonderful times we’ll have together again. I’ll be missing you alot and will always be thinking of you…                    Erin Rodriques, 2004

There’s much more to these letters and to the book as a whole.  I cannot do it justice and it’s not my place to re-tell Erin’s story.  That belongs to her parents.  I will say that Erin’s story and her journals have been a blessing to me as I deal with the loss of my brother and my father.  It certainly was not a coincidence that I had a “chance” meeting with Abel and Kathy Rodriques at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro.

So, who needs to hear Erin’s story?  All of us, but most of all our young people.  Like Erin, they are constantly bombarded with messages about how faith is “uncool” or “backward.”  This is the book for the young person in your life and it should be read together, one copy for them and one for you.  And please, talk about it and above all else, give that young person that extra hug… today.

Eventually after waiting and holding on to what little hope I did have, things worked out. My prayer life began to get stronger and I started noticing God quietly working in my life. In fact I noticed he had been working in my life the whole time but I just wasn’t opening my eyes to it.                                                                                                                                                        Erin Rodriques, late 2010 (twenty years old)

 

Abel, Erin and Kathy Rodriques

You can order the book thru Amazon in color, hardcover or kindle format: The Loudest Quiet Girl Book by Kathy Rodriques

http://www.kathyRodriques.com

Brother Donald: A letter to a grieving parent

We are on earth to earn heaven and all else really does not matter if we achieve this aim.  Brother Donald Savoie, Brother of the Sacred Heart

Brother Donald (George) Savoie with two of his sisters, Florence Savoie and Rita Savoie

On November 1st 2019, All Saints Day, I unexpectedly received a letter from saint.  It came via a cousin on the Meunier side of my grandfather Roland Savoie’s family.  The letter was from my grandfather’s older brother , Brother Donald (George) Savoie who passed away back in 1961 at the young age of 48.

It all stated that morning, November 1st;  my Meunier family cousin Nancy Conlon reached out to me on the death of her grandmother:

“I believe I met you at Charlie Meunier ‘s funereal. I misplaced your contact info. I am interested in working on my ancestry tree. Is there anyway I can link what you’ve found to my tree. Mary Lou (Bing’s wife) my grandmother passed away recently and my mother was telling me about Brother Donald Savoie writing a letter to her after Bernie her oldest child died. Which started some research on the family.”

by 11:47 PM that night I had the scan of that letter in my inbox.  The experience to be honest, was perhaps a bit unsettling.  Why? Because on all Saints Day, I received a letter from a long dead uncle,  a member of a religious order, who many consider a saint, a letter that was written as a missive of hope on the one thing we must all face: our death and the deaths of those we love.  Oh and by the way, the Savoie family had a reunion the next day November 2nd and I was able to share the letter personally with my great-uncle’s nephews and nieces.

It is too much of a coincidence.  I believe that my great-uncle Brother Donald wanted this  letter to be read by his family and others for their spiritual benefit.  The fact that it came to light on All Saints Day was intentional in order to remind us that we are part of a family known as the Communion of Saints and that our family members in Heaven still care about us and look after us.

Brother Donald in his letter makes direct and clear points:

  • Jesus grieves with us when we loose a love one
  • Heaven is our ultimate goal and nothing else will matter if we don’t attain it
  • God’s will is paramount and the ultimate good of heaven is God’s will for us
  • Sometimes an early death is a mercy in the sense that God will take us home to heaven early when staying longer on earth would only put us at risk us of failing to attain heaven later in life
  • God heals all wounds and in Heaven we will be reunited with our family members who have gone before us

THE LETTER FROM BROTHER DONALD

Sacred Heart Academy 918 Broad Street Central Falls (Rhode Island)

June 11, 1959

Dear Bing,

I had heard from Jeanette, and now from your mother, of the accident which caused such sadness in your family.   As I did not at the time (neither have I yet) your address, I prayed for the repose of his soul but without writing a letter.

Our Lord was once saddened at the sight of a widow who had lost her only son.  Our Lord cried, says the Gospel, at the tomb of his friend Lazarus.  He understands our sadness and he is sad with us.  But He gives us the reasons to hope, to be consoled.  The lives of pure and good ones, He promised us, are only changed to better ones, they are not lost forever but saved forever when death strikes them.  They now see Him face to face, without any danger of evil things or of sufferings.

We are on earth to earn heaven and all else really does not matter if we achieve this aim.  Our Lord alone judges when we have earned heaven, which we can do very early.  At times, as at the moments you are passing through, we may forget that “only important thing”, which, if successful, makes all else a success.  There is a saying which reads: “He has lived a long career in a few short years”.  Sometimes, in His mercy, God calls us before we had time to lose Him, or He calls us before certain sufferings and trials, where we would fail Him, have happened to us.

Some years ago, up in Canada, I knew a 15-year old boy very well.  He was a fine chap, only a bit hasty at times.  The Lord called him to religious life.  Soon, the parents insisted that the boy abandon his vocation.  Against God’s will, and the boy’s, they almost forced him to quit, promising him all kinds of favors if he left.   The parents substituted their will for God’s will, without realizing what they were doing.  A week later, Johnnie was riding on his new bike when a truck hit him and killed him instantly.  After quite some time, the parents realized that God’s will is always done.  God, as is His right, takes what is His and what we try at times to refuse Him.  But He graciously accepts and rewards what we offer Him, He rewards our acceptance of His will as He wants it.  And He knows better than we do what is for our good, since He loves us.

Your mother speaks about your sadness at your son’s not receiving the Last Rites.   A Saint, John Bosco, gives an answer to this. One day, as he was visiting the boys at play in his orphanage, he met a youngster to whom he asked this question: “What would you do, if you were to die in an hour?” The boy thought over the question a few seconds and said: “I would continue to play.”  And why would he change occupation since he was prepared to die well at any time.  The Lord takes when He pleases, and how He pleases.

A poor beggar women who sees her son be taken for a wonderful vacation trip by a good rich person is sad to see her son leave but happy to know that he will enjoy himself.  That is, God willing, what happened to your son.  He is happy, he has no more worries  and would like to see us happy and no longer grieving since he is happier where he is.

I am not writing you a sermon, that is not my intention.  But since religion teaches us all the above things, it is time when in suffering to remember these things.  What the Lord takes, He is entitled to and He will take good care of.  What we give Him, or accept from Him, he rewards in us and in those we have lost temporally.  What He takes he can return in one way or in another.  And he does not fail to do that.  Your son has gone to his true Home, the true Home of us all.  It is there that he awaits you.  The reunion is temporarily put off but be sure that it will come.

Hoping that it will then be a general reunion of us all, I remain

Sincerely yours in the Sacred Heart,

Bro. Donald, S.C.

Brother Donald Savoie

 

Brother Donald Letter

POSTSCRIPT and notes:

See also: Brother Donald and the Mystery of the Eucharist

Young Brother Donald recovering from Typhoid Fever
Brother Donald with his nephews and nieces. Top row from left to right, Sr Florence Savoie, sister Jeannette Savoie,  Sr Rita Savoie Sister-in- Law Claire Savoie (St Goddard), brother Roland Savoie (my grandfather) Brother Donald (George) Savoie. Siting in the center is Phileas Savoie, the father of Brother Donald and his siblings. Savoie kids, L to R: Paul Savoie, Jean Savoie, Phyllis Savoie, David Savoie, Tommy Savoie, Marian Savoie, Frankie Savoie, siting Jean Savoie

My Uncle Dave Savoie (the boy almost center in the photo above) remembers how Brother Donald would give his undivided attention to his nephews and nieces.   He would listen to what they would have to say and respect what they wanted to say.   Brother Donald was never patronizing and always loving.

My Aunt Jean Savoie,  sitting on the far right above, told me that  an outbreak of Typhoid Fever broke out in the monastery when Brother Donald was young.  His mother Isala Meunier journeyed up from Woonsocket Rhode Island to Quebec to treat him and other members of the monastery during the outbreak.

Isala Meunier, the mother of Brother Donald

Lastly I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my great -uncle is an 8th great grandson of Henri Membertou.  I cannot help feeling when reading Brother Donald’s letter that I am also hearing a distant echo of Henri Membertou, who passed on his faith by oral tradition to his children who in turn passed it on to their children and onward until that wisdom came to rest within the heart of Brother Donald.

My ancestor Henri Membertou on Canadian stamp

Henri Membertou: to love and be loved

The Crucifix worn by Brother Donald in the photos above. My Thanks to my Uncle Dave Savoie for providing the photo

The Truth Points to Itself

“The Truth Points to Itself”

J Michael Straczynski ,  American screen writer quoted from his television show Babylon 5

Savoy Mountain in the Berkshires has become a place of rest, remembrance and reflection.   A couple of posts ago, I wrote a blog inspired by the Mountain’s beauty and the pictures I took of the sunset view from the top of the Mountain.  See: And then, he was Answered

I reflected on the adventures we all had here among the Berkshires with my father, my brother Davy and my grandfather Roland Savoie. The experience not only generated another blog post, but I made a decision to retire and refocus my life on finding a proper balance.   As with the traveler in the Moody Blues song “The Balance,”  I too reflected on my life up until this point and how the change begins within myself before it begins with others.

A few days ago I was again on Savoy Mountain camping with my daughter and I took this picture at sunset:

When I looked at the photograph later I immediately thought: The Truth Points to Itself.  Like the sun in the photograph, Truth is independent of human thought or acknowledgement.  It is self reverential and it’s existence is not conditional upon anything else.  I could turn away from this view and the sun and its reflection would still be there.  Like sunlight illuminating my eyes and warming my body, Truth comes from without, not from within.  It is discovered and then internalized, not created.  Truth is beauty to contemplated.  God is truth and beauty itself.

A Meditation:

Jesus looked over the crowd gathered around Himself and His disciples.

In His Divine Nature He knew them all from the moment He called them into existence so that they could share in His happiness forever.

In His Human Nature Jesus loved each of them as perfectly as one human being could love another human being.  His Heart ached at the thought of leaving them, they were His sheep, His children.  However, His time was growing short but yet He had one final gift to leave them… a way that He could always remain with them and be available to them always, from now until the end of time.

He said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.  For My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink.”

Jesus pointed to Himself for emphasis, trying to help them understand.  “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in me, and I in them.  Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven.  Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

On hearing it, many in the crowd said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”  Many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.

Since He loved each of them perfectly, He felt the pain of their rejection as perfectly as a human being could feel pain.  This pain of being rejected by those He loved was a foreshadowing of His Passion to come.  Jesus felt no anger, He didn’t berate them for leaving, after all, He respected their freedom, but it broke His Heart to see them go.

He turned to the Twelve, there was sadness in His voice, not reproach: “Do you want to leave too?”  The Apostles didn’t know what to say and they didn’t fully understand either.  Some of them looked at the others leaving, they knew many of them, they were friends, family, neighbors.  They also felt a sadness at their abandonment.  The Lord continued to look at them with a mixture of sadness and love, awaiting a response.  Dumbfounded, the Apostles turned to Simon Peter as they always have when they didn’t know how to respond.  Peter looked down as he kicked a small stone in the sand, giving himself time to find the rights words.  Wisdom he didn’t have, at least not yet.  However, when he looked back up, he did have conviction: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Some last thoughts…

I have heard it said from time to time that  “The Eucharist is a pointless Catholic doctrine.  After all, isn’t Jesus present everywhere, what’s so special about the Eucharist?”   Or “There really isn’t a need for me to go to Church since I can worship God anywhere since He is everywhere. ” 

It is true that Jesus, as God, is present everywhere in the universe but that was certainly true when Jesus walked around Palestine 2,000 years ago .  It is also true that 2,000 years ago Jesus could have saved Himself a lot of time and effort if He just waved His hand and cured every ill person in the world and forgave everyone’s sin all at once without having to deal with people one on one.  In his Divine nature Jesus could have done that but He didn’t.   However, the Gospels tell the story of a Jesus that intimately interacted with those around Him in His full  Divinity  AND Humanity.   How many of us, when we read of Jesus visiting Lazarus’s sisters Martha and Mary wish we could have also lived 2,000 years ago and sat at His feet listening to Him as Mary did.  That one on one time with Jesus was so desired by Him and Mary that Jesus would not let anyone or anything take that away from her.

But Jesus wants the same thing for us!  Through the Eucharist we too can visit and sit with Jesus in His full Divinity and Humanity.  The experience is just as real and personal as if we too lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago.

Although everyone in the world during Jesus’s earthly ministry were in the presence of God only those who interacted with Jesus directly were miraculously transformed, forgiven or cured.  Now, in every Catholic Church, we have the same opportunity to experience Jesus as His Apostles did since He is present in the Tabernacle in His full Divinity and Humanity.

It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Mass.

Saint Padre Pio (1887-1968)

Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré: Une histoire de fantôme et d’amour qui transcende le temps

Early evening, Beaupré Quebec, June 1916:

Atsena dit Du Plat, Great Bear Chief of the Huron Wendats stood in the church sanctuary of Saint Anne de Beaupre transfixed with awe and love at his son Adelard.  His son was kneeling beside his wife Eva in front of the Tabernacle.  The red candle flickered and in its quiet light he could see Eva’s eyes closed, lips moving ever so slightly in prayer.  Adelard’s eyes were open and glistening in the dim light. They were kind eyes, patient and perhaps in a better time playful, but now sadness, not mirth shown in them.  It was Adelard’s eyes that reminded Atsena most of his beloved daughter, Ouenta.

Adelard wasn’t Atsena’s son exactly, more like his 6th great-grandson.  But he loved him as a son, because he was a descendant of his daughter Ouenta.  She was gone now of course, living in the Great Father’s Long House along with his wife Annengthon.  But now, kneeling in front of him, was a part of Ouenta still living in this world, and Atsena loved him for it.

Adelard’s toolmaker hands, rugged and callused, fidgeted with a black rosary.  He would in turn glance down at it, twisting and turning a dark rosary bead, then looking up at the ornate gold Tabernacle.  Eva was to his right and he was careful to not to disturb her, only moving his head slightly for an occasional, concerned glance.  Eva’s delicate hands were tightly clenched with her rosary intertwined in her fingers.  She still prayed, or was it pleading…

They’ve been married for over ten years now and although their marriage was happy it was not blessed with children.  Prayers, Novenas, candles nothing brought forth the miracle of a new life into the world.  Adelard resigned himself that he would never be a father and unlike other men of his time he didn’t blame Eva.  He loved her, and he would do anything to heal her pain.  For Eva, growing up in the noise and hustle of a French-Canadian family of nine children, the lack of even one child in her home with Adelard was unbearable.  So now, here they prayed at the church in honor of Saint Anne, the mother of Mary and the grandmother of Jesus.  Eva was devoted to Saint Anne, and so now she wanted to plead, mother to mother, woman to woman… for children of her own.

As Atsena watched his son and his wife he became aware of Elder Brother standing beside him.  Elder Brother, that’s what Atsena called him, was what the Black Robes said was his guardian angel, given to all people by the Great Father. Atsena remembered the first time he saw Elder Brother, after he died at the end of a Mohawk warrior’s club in the Iroquois village of Canajoharie, two hundred and fifty-nine years ago…

 

Early morning, before the dawn, Canajoharie, April 1657

At that point he had been a prisoner of the Mohawks for a full moon, captured in Quebec by a Mohawk raiding party and dragged to the Mohawk River far to the south.  Enduring ritualistic humiliation and slavery, he was mocked especially for his Christian faith.  But the worst suffering was reliving his last memory of Ouenta, not yet a woman, sleeping contently in the arms of Annengthon.  On his last night, a moonless night, Atsena warily snuck out, intending to go north and return to Ouenta and Annengthon.  He wasn’t aware that he was being observed and followed.  Mercifully, he was only briefly aware of the pain and flash of light in his head as the club swung around and hit the right side of his temple.

When Atsena awoke, finding himself face down in the snow, he saw a middle-aged Wendat man of his tribe sitting by a fire.  Atsena knew instinctively that he was now in the realm of the dead and although he didn’t know the man at the fire, his presence felt familiar.  Atsenta moved himself to the fire and sat across from the man.  Staring into the fire, Atsenta felt no heat nor any cold from the snow around him.

“I believe I may know you… may I ask your name?” Atsena asked.

“Don’t you know me Atsena?…  I have always been with you… the Great Father sent me to you while you were still in your mother’s womb.” The man used a stick to move a few logs in the fire.

Atsena lowered his head for a moment, his eyes probing the fire, thinking about what to say next.  Listening, Atsena heard none of the usual sounds of the forest, wind, birds, people moving about.  Nothing but the crackle of fire.

“Are you now going to take me to the Great Father’s Long House?”

‘Yes… but not yet. You are not ready Atsena to have your eyes uncovered so you can see the next world.  Now we must ensemble faire une promenade.”

With that the Wendat man stood up, smiled and with his outstretched hand lifted Atsena up.

“You may call me Elder Brother”

Moving north, it took two hundred and fifty-nine years to finally reach Quebec north of Trois-Rivières.  During their long journey together, Elder Brother shared many things to Atsena about his life, where he helped people and when he failed to follow the way of love toward his fellow human beings.  Atsena saw clearly how he hurt others and how sometimes his actions hurt himself.  But Elder Brother remained with him and by helping him understand his life, he began to let go of all that kept him from clearly seeing the next world and entering the Great Father’s Long House.

 

Early evening, Beaupré Quebec, June 1916:  

So now Atsena and Elder Brother stood together in the Church of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré observing Adelard and Eva.  Moments earlier, when they reached Beaupré, Elder Brother announced that Atsenta was now ready to go the Great Father.  But before they turned to go Atsena had one final question:

“Elder Brother, you told me in our travels together that Ouenta became a woman, took a husband, and had children.”

“Yes… she had children and even now they live scattered about this land.”

“But in our travels, and of all the people we have seen together, it was never revealed to me which ones were my children.  On my last day, may I see at least one of them?”

With that, Elder Brother guided Atsena into Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Church and pointed to Adelard and Eva, kneeling in front of the Tabernacle.

Elder Brother also looked upon Adelard and Eva with love but then turned to Atsena and placing a hand gently on his shoulder said: “It is a time of joy my brother, Ouenta and Annengthon await you at the door.”

Atsena started to turn to go but: “Wait Elder Brother… my son’s wife, Eva, her tears burrow into my heart.  What do they pray for?”

“Children… they have no children…  now come, see Ouenta and Annengthon awaiting by the door.”

At that moment, the doors of the church swung slowly open, reveling an unearthly light, impossibly bright.  Atsena could make out the silhouette of two women just outside.

Still, Atsena could not move: “Will their prayer be answered?”

Elder Brother shook his head, “No Atsena, a child for them will only bring suffering.”

At that, Atsena finally began to sadly turn and go when Adelard’s right hand slowly moved to cover Eva’s hands. The Gordian knot that made up Eva’s rosary unwound and it fell to the floor as Eva now entwined her fingers into Adelard’s.

The rosary on the floor distracted Eva and she didn’t know what to do next but Adelard reached down, picked it up and wrapped both their hands within the black wooden beads.

“Elder Brother…” Atsena, didn’t know what to say but the tenderness between his son and Eva transfixed him and again he could not move to the door.  Atsena then moved closer and stood in front of Eva.  At that moment Adelard looked up as the red candle suddenly flickered.

Atsena reached out and gently wiped a tear from Eva’s cheek.  Eva only felt a gentle breeze. “Elder Brother see the love within her, so much love, its bursting through her tears.  She suffers because she loves.”

Atsena finally understood, he suffered these many years with the loss of his child Ouenta.  He suffered because he loved.  But… he would rather have known his daughter for just a few short years and suffer centuries without her than never to have loved her at all.

Atsena became resolute: “Elder Brother, you say she will suffer, yes, but in this life, Love and Suffering are brothers, traveling together. I have seen it over these years wandering the Earth, there is no true love, without sacrifice, without suffering.  It is a poor miserable human being, who has never suffered for love. I stand with them; I join my prayers with my son and his wife.  My heart stands with them.”

Elder Brother turned around to face to Atsena: “Do you know what you are asking brother?  Are you wiling to suffer with them? Are you willing to stay with them?”

Atsena again turned to Adelard and Eva, “Yes Elder Brother, I will stay with them and watch over them, I will experience their joys, their sufferings, theirs and their children’s.”

The door at the end of the church closed, and darkness returned.

Elder Brother reached out and drew Atsena into his arms: “I can’t stay with you my brother, this journey you must do alone.  Even I don’t know how long you must remain but you cannot follow me to the Great Father’s Long House until one of your children remember you in their prayers.” And with that Atsena stood alone, unseen, with Adelard and Eva in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré Church.

 

Epilogue:  Early Sunday Morning, Our Lady of the Lake Church, Leominster, Massachusetts May 2019:

Atsena dit Du Plat, Great Bear Chief of the Huron Wendats stood in the church of Our Lady of the Lake transfixed with awe and love at his son Joseph, the great grandson of Adelard and Eva.  Today, he was to be honored by name in the Holy Mass.  His son Joseph, remembered Atsena, and knew that he was his son and, in his memory, asked that this Mass on this day be said for Atsena, Ouenta and Annengthon.

A great light burst into the Church at the words of the consecration of the bread and wine: “Take this, all of you, and eat of it: for this is My body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of My blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant.”

A few moments later, the Priest continued: Remember also those who have died in the peace of Christ and all the dead, whose faith you alone have known.  Especially for Atsena dit Du Plat, Ouenta and Annengthon, for whom this Mass is offered. To all of us, your children, grant, O merciful Father, that we may enter into a heavenly inheritance with the blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God…”

At those words, Atsena felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Ouenta and Annengthon standing by his side.  Then looking beyond them he could see Elder Brother, Adelard and Eva and countless other of his children who have passed on to the Great Father’s Long House.  Atsena looked at his family, some still in this world, some who have passed on.  But they were here together as one family.  Atsena looked at them with deep love because they were his children.  With that, Atsena finally stepped through the doorway.

Postscript:

My mother’s maternal grandparents:  Adelard and Eva St Goddard really did go to to Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré to pray for a child.   As my mother’s sister Aunt Jean explains:

“The basic story is one I know well – that of Eva and Adelard and their journey to St. Anne de Beaupre.  And we know (according to Memere Eva), that she was pregnant on the return trip.   And, then of course, intense suffering with the death of Vivian (January 1936) at the age of 18; and five years and three months later (April 1, 1941) with the death of Adelard.
From there, one year later (April 11, 1942), her sadness was eased and her life renewed, by the birth of your mother . . . followed of course, by ten more grandchildren.  In 1963, your Mom and Dad married, and you were born 9 months later.  And so on and so on . . .
BUT, after so many years of praying and pleading by Eva and Adelard, what made the difference at St. Anne de Beaupre?  It is true that St. Anne and her husband St. Joachim, were barren for many years, and they prayed and pleaded for a child. And, late in life, Anne became pregnant with Mary, who was in God’s plan to be the Mother of Jesus Christ.  So, St. Anne is the patron saint of “barren” women and troubled pregnancies.”
__________________________________________________________________
Atsena Dit Du Plat is  what I call a “Super Ancestor” .  I have found five different paths from his daughter Ouenta  (later baptized Catherine) to my mother and her siblings.  In fact three out of four of my mother and her sibling’s grandparents are descendants of Ouenta.  That includes: Phileas Savoie, his wife Isala Meuiner and Adelard St Goddard.  Only Eva is not a descendant of Ouenta .
___________________________________________________________________
The original St. Anne de Beaupre burned to the ground in 1922. The exterior and interior pictures of St. Anne de Beaupre within the blog are from the original Shrine and show how the Shrine would have looked like to Adelard and Eva.  The cover photo is how St. Anne de Beaupre looks today.  Here are some current photos of St. Anne de Beaupre:

Frankenstein Cliff: A Father’s Love from Strength

“I will guide you in the way of wisdom and I will lead you in upright paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered, and when you run, you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12

In August of 1969, in the days long before cell phones and GPS, a young, athletic, twenty nine year old man stood at bottom of the trail to Frankenstein Cliff in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.  With him were two of his sons, ages five and four.  The man had grown to love the White Mountains while an engineering student at Northeastern University in Boston and for many years, he would treasure  black and white pictures of him and his college buddies climbing Mount Washington.

The young father loved his boys and wanted to share the adventure of the mountains with them. The older one, who was named Joey after his father, was inquisitive and curious.  Intuitive, he could grasp scientific and mathematical concepts that simultaneously astonished and intimidated adults around him.  Joey though, was forgetful, hated details, couldn’t tie his shoes, and would struggle with the mundane.  The same adults around him, at those times, would find Joey exasperating.  The younger boy Davy,  nicknamed “Muggsy” by his father, loved to throw rocks.  Muggsy also had an uncanny sense of direction in the woods.  Naturally fearless, he always wanted to be the trailblazer on any expedition.  His jet black hair, ruddy cheeks and and dark eyes made him irresistible to the adults around him.  Muggsy would also have a tendency to disappear on his own adventures leaving a trail of broken windows (darn rocks) doors taken off hinges and other expensive household disasters.  It was safe to say, that while Muggsy was irresistibly lovable, the adults around him would also find him exasperating,  just like his brother.  But the young father loved those boys, and that is why he now stood at the trail head of Frankenstein Cliff, in August of 1969.

The father with his two young boys camping in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Muggsy on the left, Joey on the right.

The father studied the roughly drawn map in front of him…

and then with Muggsy blazing the trail and Joey at his side asking questions, the father entered the woods.

Passing underneath Frankenstein Trestle promoted questions from Joey; When will a train be coming? Will we be OK under the track? Will it smoke?  Why do trains smoke?  Muggsy looked around for a rock that would fit into his hand.  Leaving the trestle behind, the trail became steep and the boys scrambled up on all fours.  A small rock would  occasionally kick lose and tumble down the mountain.  The boys should have felt scared but didn’t.  Joey and Muggsy trusted their father and felt safe with him. The father’s strength emanated from him, protecting the boys and they always felt invincible within their father’s love.   As they continued to climb, the father would occasionally reach down and pull up the boys to the next ledge along the trail.  Throughout his life, the father always had a soft spot for the underdog and would reach out to lift up the vulnerable around him.

At the top, the little group stopped to rest and enjoy the view of the White Mountains and Crawford Notch spread out below them.  Joey had to know the name of every mountain, wanted to know if there was a trail up it, which mountain was the highest and how high it was.  Muggsy found a nice rock and tossed it over the side of the cliff and listened for the crash below.

After a snack, the father led his boys further on the trail past the cliff. Did they miss the turn off loop to the bottom?  Did the father over estimate the length of the trail ahead?  No one knows but hours later, the father and his boys would find themselves back on the road many miles north of the campground where they were staying.  With cell phones still decades in the future, the father started the trek south along the road.  Surely,  someone would give them a ride back to the campground and the father would turn around and stick his thumb out with every passing car.

No one gave them a ride.  Car after car would ride on by the father and his two very young sons.  They boys were tired by this time and the father would alternate with one boy on his shoulders and the other by his side, hand in hand.  The father never complained, or cursed the drivers, or felt bad for himself.  In fact, for his whole life no one ever heard him say anything negative about anyone.   But the father never forgot walking along that road, with his boys, mile after mile, with no one giving them a ride.  For the rest of his life, as long as he was able, the father would always give a ride to strangers thumbing it on the side of the road.  Some of them were blind, one in New Hampshire was a philosophy graduate student, another was a British man in his twenties touring  the country with just a backpack and a deck of cards.  Some were just people needing a ride.  In any case, the father never passed anyone in need on the road like others had done to him.

It was many years later and the father was awoken from an uneasy sleep by a chime beside his bed.  His worried thoughts would never let him sleep as deep or as long as he wanted to now.  The chime rang again and the father struggled to sit himself up on the side of the bed.  He put his glasses on and looked at the clock: 1:22 AM.  The father carefully swung his feet on to the floor and balanced himself.

He slept in the basement and his boy’s room was on the second floor and so he readied himself for the climb up the two flights of stairs.  Racked with the illnesses of old age, the man who climbed Mt Washington years ago now struggled to walk across the room, much less two flights of stairs.  But as he did many times over the last few months, the father went up the stairs and made it to the boy’s door.

Cracking the door open he could see Muggsy’s hair by the hall light. His hair was amazingly still thick and jet black for his forty-eight years .  As the door widened, Muggsy’s dark eyes came into view, just barely visible above his full CPAP mask.  Relief was shown in Muggsy’s eyes as he recognized his father.  Muggsy could not throw any rocks anymore, much less walk.  He could barely move his finger to ring the chime to his father’s room.  ALS had taken everything from Muggsy, everything but love, and that love emanated from his father at the door.

Muggsy’s requests  for help would come on all hours and quite often more than once a night.  Tonight, the father had to lift his boy and adjust his position on the bed.  It was tiring but the father never complained and he never failed to answer the chime.  The old father loved his boy, and that is why he sat beside his bed and held his hand, in August of 2013.

Years passed and Joey now stood alone at the foot of the Frankenstein Cliff trail.  As he stood there trying to see the cliff from the parking lot it suddenly occurred to him that he was now old enough to be his father’s father when the three of them stood here fifty years ago.  This thought quickly lead to another one: that he was the last person on this Earth who has any first hand knowledge what happened that day.  Muggsy died from ALS in November of 2013 and his father passed away last January.  The memory of that hike suddenly felt fragile.  Trying to reclaim it, Joey took a few tentative steps into the forest and stood looking up the trail.  He hoped that by standing on the trail and intersecting himself with this place of memory he would also intersect himself with that moment of time fifty years ago…and remember.   Alas, no new memories would come.  Nevertheless, Joey stood there, remembering his father’s love.  The father who loved them enough to drive three hours to the White Mountains to camp and take them on an adventure in the woods.  Joey loved his father and honored him.  And that is why he now stood at the trail head of Frankenstein Cliff, in August of 1969, 2019.

“It is only when you grow up and step back from him- or leave him for your own home- it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it. “ Margret Thruman

Joey, Dad and Muggsy, 1969

For Dad: Thank you for all your love and for passing on to me your love of the mountains. I miss you…

Postscript:

All Things Must Pass
Sunrise doesn’t last all morning
A cloudburst doesn’t last all day
Seems my love is up
And has left you with no warning
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
Sunset doesn’t last all evening
A mind can blow those clouds away
After all this my love is up
And must be leaving
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
None of life’s strings can last
So I must be on my way
And face another day
Now the darkness only stays at night time
In the morning it will fade away
Daylight is good
At arriving at the right time
But it’s not always going
To be this grey
All things must pass
All things must pass away
All things must pass
All things must pass away
Written by George Harrison, released by George Harrison 1970

And then, he was Answered

You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.” Saint Augustine

I was born in 1964 and I had a child’s view of growing up in the 1960’s.   Even though it was a time of change and turmoil, my perspectives of the 1960s are to this day influenced by watching and observing  my mother’s ten teenage siblings.   I was the first grandchild and growing up among them I felt loved and protected.  They imprinted on to me with their actions and attitudes a sense of optimism,  hopefulness and compassion.  The expectation was that a new world of love and kindness was on the horizon and that all people were brothers and sisters.
Me sitting on top of the shoulders of my Uncle Paul. From left to right some of Mom’s siblings, Uncle Dave, Uncle Paul and me, Aunt Marian, Aunt Annie, Aunt Teresa, and my brother Davy. Taken in North Attleboro MA circa 1967

My young aunts and uncles shared their music with me.  I was enraptured by the drama of the Beatles; haunted by the character of Tommy by The Who; puzzled by how Alice Copper could by a guy with a girl’s name; and I was curious of the story behind the gnomes surrounding a bearded George Harrison on the cover of “All things Must Pass”.

And now, at 55, I see that it so true, all things must pass.  With the eyes of middle age, I find myself circling back to a song by popular 60’s rock band The Moody Blues: The Balance.

The song is really a poem… a poem of journey,  introspection, understanding…of questions and of answers.  A reflection of it’s time, The Balance addresses the universal struggle of how we relate to our fellow human beings and how positive change begins within ourselves first.  Like other 60s anthems, it ends on a note of optimism and it acknowledges, if only indirectly, that humans are spiritual creatures living in a mysterious spiritual world.

Metaphorically, we are The Balance’s journeyer in the poem.  We are at times tired, our feet are sore and we need respite and time for reflection.

Sometimes, within the coolness of an orange grove,  we can reflect on the magnificent perfection that is life and the world around us. Tasting it, experiencing it, we see and understand that Creation is Good.  Acknowledging this, we then seek to place ourselves in balance  within Creation.

Finding our balance, we are inspired to ask… but the answer is not given yet.  Although we don’t have the answer, the very act of asking opens us to an opportunity of introspection:

And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not a evil man,
It’s painful to see ourselves the way we are, how we have been the cause of the unhappiness of others, even if we don’t mean to be cruel.  But now we have an understanding of ourselves and that empowers us to compassion and empathy.  We can see others with the “eye of compassion” and realize to our joy we can be a source of comfort and happiness to others.  Compassion leads us to Love.  It is only within Love that we are finally answered.
Love is God… God is Love
The Balance
After he had journeyed,
And his feet were sore,
And he was tired,
He came upon an orange grove
And he rested.
And he lay in the cool,
And while he rested,
He took to himself an orange
And tasted it,
And it was good.
And he felt the earth to his spine,
And he asked,
And he saw the tree above him,
And the stars,
And the veins in the leaf,
And the light,
And the balance.
And he saw magnificent perfection,
Whereon he thought of himself in balance,
And he knew he was.
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
And he thought of those he angered,
For he was not a violent man,
And he thought of those he hurt
For he was not a cruel man
And he thought of those he frightened
For he was not a evil man,
And he understood.
He understood himself.
Upon this
He saw that when he was of anger
Or knew hurt
Or felt fear,
It was because he was not understanding.
And he learned, compassion.
And with his eye of compassion
He saw his enemies
Like unto himself,
And he learned Love.
Then, he was answered.
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
Just open your eyes, and realize,
The way it’s always been.
Just open your mind and you will find 
The way it’s always been.
Just open your heart and that’s a start
Lyrics by Graeme Edge / Ray Thomas.  Narrated by Mike Pinder
Released by The Moody Blues in 1970

PostScript:

The pictures in the video were taken by myself over the course of one day this past week. The Mountain is Mt Greylock in Massachusetts.  The sunset pictures were taken from the Western Slope of Savoy Mountain overlooking North Adams and Williamstown Massachusetts.  As I sat on the mountain top watching the sunset I thought of my grandfather Roland Savoie, my father Joseph A Bolton and my brother Davy.   All three of them have passed away and but they are closely tied in my mind with the Berkshires.  My father used to take my brother and I camping at Savoy Mountain, my grandfather lived in North Adams and Williamstown.  He loved the Berkshires and would often drive us kids up Mt Greylock.

As I thought of them, and took the pictures of the sunset, I noticed some unusual pictures.  One has a perfect equilateral  black triangle in the sky over the setting sun. The black triangle faded away but came back later only now it was surrounded by a much larger white equilateral triangle.  Although this was a natural but very unusual phenomenon, it made me think of Dad, Pepere and Davy.  The three sided black triangle reminded me that the three of them were in Heaven.  The black triangle surrounded by the much larger white triangle reminded me that not only were they in heaven, but that they are surrounded by the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit, represented by the white triangle surrounding them.  Take a look at the video again and see for yourself!

Henri Membertou: To love and to be loved

As I have grown in my faith and in my knowledge of my ancestors through genealogical research, the concepts of “Community of Saints” and “family” have merged and overlapped with each other.  In turn, as I have sat in front of the Eucharist at the church, I have become aware, through my eyes of faith, that where Jesus is, so are the saints and my family members in heaven.  At this moment, I feel closer to my family members who have passed away like my brother Davy and my father.

My thoughts move on to other members of my family that I have never met but are present also, some of whom died just before I was born like my great uncle Brother Donald and my great-grandparents.  Others are more distant ancestors who lived hundreds of years ago.  All one family, sitting at the table.

June 24th, (Saint John the Baptist Day) has brought to mind my 12h great grandfather, Mi’kmaq Grand Chief Henri Membertou.  Father Jessé Fléché baptized him into the Catholic faith on this day in 1610 in present day Nova Scotia.  Pepere Henri was a remarkable man; he lived to be 104 years old and even at his advanced age had no grey or white hair.  He was a large, vigorous man who kept his health and sharp mind to the end of his life.  It was dysentery, not the ravages of old age, that ended his life on September 18th, 1611.

Pepere Henri loved his family and the Mi’kmaq culture and saw his faith in the context of Mi’kmaq life.  He insisted that the French learn the Algonquian Mi’kmaq language and signed a special relationship with the Catholic Church, the Mi’kmaw Concordat.  He also wrote music and three songs of his are the first transcribed music compositions that originated in the Americas.  His defense of Mi’kmaq culture contributed to the preservation of the Mi’kmaq language today.

Like many of my other ancestors though, Pepere Henri was a times a contrarian.  He kept a beard throughout his life when other Mi’kmaq men removed any facial hair.  In a society where polygamy was the norm, he had only one wife.  His large stature, good health and incredible age when most people only lived to their early fifties must have seemed super human to those around him.

Above all else, though, Pepere Henri was a man who radiated love to those around him.  At his death, Jesuit Father Baird gave the finest eulogy that any person can aspire to: “They loved him, and were loved by him. He was the greatest, most renowned, and most formidable Aboriginal within the memory of man.”

They loved him, and were loved by him. In that simple statement is the summation of what it means to have lived a good life.  It is family in the broadest sense.  All of us, sitting around the table, with Jesus in the center, loving each other and being loved by Him.

Last, I leave you with a recording of a song composed by Pepere Henri Membertou.  Take a moment, remember this great man, and listen the voice of his heart:

 

 

postscript: here is the Our Father in Mi’kmaq

 

Here is a link to Henri Membertou’s transcribed songs

https://www.flutopedia.com/song_Membertou.htm

Henri Membertou’s last words were directed to his children: It was his hope “that they would live Christian lives”.  I believe that wish has been passed down to every member of his family down to my grandfather Roland Savoie, his siblings and my mother and her siblings.

104 years old? Henri claimed to have met recalled meeting French explorer Jacques Cartier in 1534 as well as  Samuel de Champlain .

Because the unexamined life isn't worth living