Category Archives: Faith

Silence and the Last Temptation of Father Rodrigues

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  

Luke 22:31 Jesus’ warning to Simon Peter

Warning Spoilers!

Martin Scorsese’s epic Silence, based on the 1966 novel by Shūsaku Endō is a stunning but challenging work of cinematic achievement.  Like all truly beautiful art, Silence requires demands our full attention to even begin to process it subtlety and symbolism.

Silence starts as a Heart of Darkness search for a brilliant Jesuit priest Father Cristóvão Ferreira (played by Liam Neeson) who may have apotheosized his Catholic Faith during the Christian persecutions in 17th Century Japan. Horrified at the slander to their mentor and spiritual father, two younger Portuguese Jesuits, Father Sebastião Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver) volunteer to search Japan for him.  At best they hope to clear his name, or if the worse be true, to save his soul for God.

Their guide to the hidden Christian communities in Japan is the drunken outcast Kichijiro who has apostatized his Catholic faith.  Of course apostatizing is very simple: all one needs to do is to step on a carved icon called a “fumie.”  Kichijiro has survivor’s guilt after watching his entire family martyred for their Christian faith.  He begs Father Rodrigues to hear his confession and laments that he is a weak man who should have been born in a more peaceful time.

Fr Rodrigues and Father Garupe find the faith still alive in small, isolated villages. The Japanese Catholics they find there have been without a priest and the Sacraments for years. Christ’s lambs are starving and eagerly embrace the priest who in turn feed them with the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Confession. For a short time the priests minister their flock but with the Inquisitor, Inoue Masashige, closing in Father Rodrigues and Father Garupe decide to split up.

Kichijiro, the weak man that he is, betrays Father Rodrigues to the Inquisitor and is placed with other captured Christians. Defiant, Father Rodrigues says that persecution only makes him stronger and says he wants a “real challenge” to his faith. That severe challenge arrives in the person of Father Ferreira, who has indeed apostatized.

Liam Neeson’s Ferreira is a broken, joyless man, who nervously glances back to his Japanese handlers under the shocked accusations from Rodrigues.  Not only is Ferreira a defeated man but he is also an evil man in the sense of St. Thomas Aquinas. He’s evil not because of what he does but by what he lacks. He is a man deprived of almost every good: his faith, his culture, his courage, his vocation as a priest, even his very identity.  Ferreira’s inward damnation is effectively symbolized by the Japanese name of an executed criminal that is now forced upon him as his own. Very little of Ferreira is left in the shell of a man that sits across from Rodrigues. As Ferreira himself states, “I am he is no longer the man that you once knew”.

That night, Father Rodrigues is forced to watch five Japanese Christian tortured by anazuri (a method that involves being hung upside down over a pit and slowly bled).  In the shadowy darkness of the Father Rodrigues’s prison cell, Ferreira’s eyes shine black. He taunts Rodrigues, saying that the tortured screams he is hearing is his own fault, if he would just but lightly touch the fumie with his foot it the prisoners would be released. With the fumie just a step away, Ferreira administers the coup de gras, telling Rodrigues if Christ was here right now He would step on the Fumie to save the tortured people and that it would be Rodrigues greatest act of love if he would just step.  At this moment, Christ apparently breaks His silence to Rodrigues: “Come ahead now. It’s all right. Step on Me. I understand your pain. I was born into this world to share men’s pain. I carried this cross for your pain. Step.”

As Rodrigues steps, a cock crows three times …

Was the voice of Christ real? Was it just the delusion of a sleep deprived, tortured brain? Or was the voice something else entirely? One hint seems to emerge as the voice continues after Rodrigues steps: “Your life is now with Me.”  Jesus said that the greatest love is for a man to lay down for the sake of others but only the Devil would ask a man to lay down his very soul to save himself from pain.

So what about us? Rodrigues fumie undid him because he fell victim to two lies: The belief that the innocent can be made responsible for the evil actions of others, in this case the torture of the Japanese Christians, and that doing evil to counter a greater evil will bring about a good. For Rodrigues the results were tragic, he lost everything and at best he may have only one a temporary reprieve for the Japanese Christians who will likely still face death at a later time.

We are faced with Fumies whenever we believe that doing a “small” evil in the hope of preventing an even greater evil add up to a good. It is only with faith, trust and above all else humility that can give us the strength not to step when we should not.

 

Faith and Doubt

Moderator introduction: I’m please to introduce guest blogger Thomas Savoie. Like his name sake and and 20th great uncle Thomas Aquinas, he reminds us that reason and a searching intellect go hand in hand with us on our journey of faith.

 

The Nature of Faith and Doubt

Intellectual pain is an underrated cost of following Christ.   If I didn’t care about following Christ, I wouldn’t care so much about being honest, seeking truth, facing reality.   I would be more tempted to simply go with the flow, take the easy way, and maybe anesthetize my intellectual pain instead of persevering through it toward the truth.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    —Brian Mc Laren

Introduction

Among the more troubling aspects of my Catholic faith have been my misunderstandings and confusion concerning the nature of Faith and Doubt.  I believed that my doubts weakened my soul, displeased God, and hindered my quest for salvation.  Others around me didn’t seem to experience the number of doubts, disbelief and turmoil in their faith life that I did.  As a child I believed everything I thought Catholicism told me to believe.  How and why did my faith get so far off track?  I began to believe that my lack of faith put my soul in jeopardy.

About two years ago I resolved to carefully examine my beliefs on faith and doubt through a structured reading plan.  I’ve read much of the Catholic Catechism; Catholic Doctrine; Catholic Dogma; and the writings of theologians, early Church Fathers, and contemporary authors.  I learned that many of my assumptions about Faith and Doubt were just flat wrong.  My troubled attitude towards my faith began to lift.

This blog article is a humble attempt to summarize what I’ve taken away from my reading program.  I offer no assurances that the Church would agree with all my findings.  Nor do I recommend you accept my conclusions without doing your own “due diligence”.  If this blog article causes you to prayerfully reflect on your own Catholic beliefs, then publishing this article in Joe’s blog will have been worth my effort.

This article uses a Question and Answer format.  I wanted the article to be an easy but thought-provoking read.  I hope I’ve succeeded.   Your questions and comments are always appreciated.

Q  What conclusions did you find most surprising in your study of faith and doubt?

  1. First, both experts and lay people offer widely differing views concerning the nature of faith and doubt. Some theologians, clergy and religious authors appear to draw opposite conclusions concerning the nature of Faith and Doubt.  Catholic laity seems to largely rely on grade school religious education to support their adult beliefs.
  2. Second, some Christians, particularly Christian Fundamentalists, consider doubt to be the work of the devil and a hallmark of a troubled or weak faith. Some preach that doubt is something to be cast out if one wants to attain salvation.  Through my studies I now believe every man or woman has experienced doubt as a part of their faith journey.  Popes, saints, even Jesus Christ, struggled with doubt.  St. Teresa of Calcutta suffered spiritual torment and feelings of abandonment by God for nearly 50 years.   During Christ’s anguished night before His death He prayed “Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” Later, He cried out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Surely we must consider doubt as a benign part of our faith.
  3. Third, doubt can often be a doorway to spiritual growth, but not always. Author Brian McLaren reminds us that all Christians are committed to lifelong spiritual growth. That means five years from now, your set of beliefs will likely be different from today’s set of beliefs. Hopefully your beliefs will be more judiciously considered, more mature, and more balanced. What causes us to examine a belief and test it?  Perhaps it’s that something inside us isn’t at rest about a particular belief … something in you doubts that belief.
  4. Lastly, many Christians (myself included) who professed a strong faith in God, could not list what they consider the most important or essential beliefs of their faith. This begs a question in my mind. Have I carefully considered which specific beliefs of my faith I am totally committed to believe, and those I disbelieve or doubt?

Q  Is faith an emotion?  Is it the same as belief?

Feelings are of no account.  Faith is not a feeling, but an act of will.  God reveals the truth of his love to us and empowers us to believe and trust.  Though love and faith can sometimes spring from the emotions, they are nourished and sustained in the will.  As one author put it “I am not moved by what I see. I am not moved by what I feel. I am moved only by what I believe.”

Faith is a gift of enlightenment given to us by God.  It’s not the same as belief.   Once enlightened, we then choose to believe truths and make them a part of our faith.

Q  Is doubt the “work of the devil”?

Fundamentalists have little tolerance for any doubt and a strict literal interpretation of the Bible. Some Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian authors warn “Christians with doubts are on a sure path to wickedness because doubt is a device of the Devil.  Satan wants to rob us of our faith in the Word of God because it leads us straight into sin. Satan is the source of all doubt.”  Fundamentalist preach a literal translation of the bible.  “Interpreting the Bible is the bane of Fundamentalism and a primary cause of wicked doubts.”

On the other hand, a Second Vatican Council document on Divine Revelation points to the importance of considering history, culture, literary forms and the intentions of the sacred writers when interpreting Scripture.

Most mainstream Christian denominations acknowledge that doubt and imperfect faith are part and parcel of every person’s faith journey, saints included.  And it’s more than just possible, even probable, to have a weak faith and to achieve salvation.

Author Madeline L’engle wroteThose who believe they believe in God but without passion in the heart, without anguish of the mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God Himself.”

My conclusion is that doubts do not necessarily endanger your chance for salvation.  As St Augustine wrote, “Doubt is but another element of faith.”

When Thomas the Apostle required forensic proof of Jesus’s resurrection before he’d believe, Jesus showed immense patience and love toward his doubting Thomas.  I am greatly comforted by that, and firmly believe Jesus accepts our doubts with patient love.  I continue to pray that Jesus will gift me with a deeper faith that will reveal over time other beliefs critical to my faith life.

Q  Isn’t doubt a sign of a weak or flawed faith that could cause you the loss of heaven?

As I mentioned earlier, at one time I was plagued by this fear, and I brooded over my many doubts.  Interestingly, most of my serious doubts had little or nothing to do with Catholic dogma.  The majority of my doubts were focused on elements of Church doctrine, i.e. teachings, traditions, papal pronouncements, church rules, and seemingly endless explanations and embellishments of Jesus’ words and actions.

It may be useful at this point to review the differences between doctrine and dogma.   In general, doctrine is comprised of all Church teaching in matters of faith and morals. Dogma is more narrowly defined as that part of doctrine which has been divinely revealed and which the Church has formally defined and declared to be believed as revealed.  An example may illustrate the differences:  Some Catholics have lobbied Rome to elevate Mary’s status beyond Virgin Mother of Jesus.  Some wish Mary to be referred to as the Mother of Salvation, the Co-Redeemer, and the Mediatrix of all Graces.  These titles for Mary are considered by some in the Church to already be a part of Church doctrine.  But the changes haven’t been elevated to Church Dogma.  Supporters say they will not rest until they are successful in their efforts to raise Mary to Co-Redeemer with Jesus.

  1. What are the sources of Catholic Dogma and Catholic Doctrine?

As a result of my study of Faith and Doubt, I’ve tried to narrow what I consider the essential beliefs of Catholicism.  Interestingly, in my opinion, nearly all the essential beliefs are sourced from Church Dogma, the revealed word of God, rather than from Church Doctrine.

The full body of beliefs that define our faith would fill hundreds, if not thousands of volumes.  There is a huge array of sources that have become important for the practicing Catholic to heed.  Sources include Church Dogma and Church Doctrine, with Doctrine being the far more detailed set of the two.  Doctrine includes Church Teachings, Catholic rules, traditions, Pastoral Letters, papal Encyclicals, Papal Bulls, etc.  Conversely, Dogma is the set of beliefs that have been Divinely revealed.  In my opinion, Catholic Dogma comprises most, if not all Catholicism’s most essential core beliefs.

If Catholics simply claim full faith in everything contained in Doctrine and Dogma, without really knowing which specific truths they claim to believe, do they not feel the need for a rational basis for what they claim to believe.   I wonder how many Catholics shrug their shoulders, say that they believe everything a Catholic should believe, and then walk away comforted that they have near perfect faith.   I have come to find it preferable to focus my faith on Catholicism’s most essential core beliefs rather than simply claim that I believe everything the Catholic Church says and teaches.

Q  What specifically does the Church consider the essential elements of Catholic Dogma

The essentials of Church Dogma are, for the most part, clearly laid out for us in clear, concise, terminology.  These are elements of Catholicism that we either fully accept as true and believe, or that we make an explicit act of will to believe.  Further, beyond believing, remember that we are called to live in full accordance with those beliefs.

I’ve made a partial list of dogmatic sources that include essential statements of belief of the Catholic faith.  There are other sources of Dogmatic truths I have not included.  This is just my current list and is enough to fill my plate for the time being.

Some Essential Sources of Dogma:

  1. The New Testament
  2. The Lord’s Prayer
  3. The Nicene Creed
  4. The Apostles Creed
  5. Statement of Faith from the Rite of Catholic Baptism

Celebrant:    Do you reject Satan?

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:    And all his works?

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:    And all his empty promises?

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:    Do you believe in God the Father, almighty, creator of heaven and earth?                                                                   

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:    Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?               

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:   Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?

Parents & Godparents:  I do.

Celebrant:   This is our faith.  This is the faith of the Church.  We are proud to profess it, in Christ Jesus our Lord.                                                      All:  Amen

Summary

The New Testament is at the top of my list of sources of Catholic Dogma.  I suggest you reread the four gospels.  They are a treasure trove of dogmatic faith essentials.   As you may know, some New Testament texts are printed with Jesus’ words in a red font.  When you read those words, you are reading our Catholic Dogma.  There are no more essential truths than Jesus’ own words.

I fully embrace the Divinely Revealed Truths of Catholic Dogma as the bedrock of my Catholic faith.  I humbly acknowledge there are parts of Church Doctrine I doubt and that remain as yet unresolved in my heart.  I fully trust that Jesus will have gentle patience with me if I prayerfully remain open to discern other important faith elements that may be gifted to me by Him.

 

Brother Donald and the Mystery of the Eucharist

When I was in college I asked my grandfather Roland Savoie, what was the strangest unexplained experience he ever had.  He thought for a moment and  shared a mysterious story from when he was about seven years old.  At that time he and his older brother Buster shared a bedroom with their two single beds arranged in parallel. One night he was awakened by Buster talking to someone. Young Roland looked up to see Jesus standing at the foot of their beds and he let out a cry of surprise.  Buster tried to comfort Roland by telling him “don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid”. Nevertheless, Roland was still overwhelmed and retreated under the blankets.  He was adamant it to me that the experience was no dream and that he was awake.

Thirty years later I had largely forgotten my grandfather’s mysterious recollection until my uncle dug up an old photo of my grandfather and his siblings as children .

Savoie Children L to R, Jeanette, Rita, Florence, Roland, George
The Savoie children. Buster is on the far right, Roland the small boy in the middle

Since then I have been reflecting on how could this usual story be an accurate recollection of a real event.  I have spent enough time with my grandfather to know he wasn’t lying to me.  He was a well-grounded, practical man who wasn’t given to hallucinations and grand delusions.  It also seemed unlikely this was a vivid dream that  that he would erroneously believe was a real experience. Yet, as my one of my aunts reminded me, Jesus just doesn’t appear to someone without them becoming a well-known saint.

Buster, who was later known as Brother Donald as a Brother of the Sacred Heart, taught mathematics at Sacred Heart Academy in Central Falls Rhode Island.

Brother Donald teaching Mathematics (January 1954)
Brother Donald teaching Mathematics (January 1954)

He was a quiet, thoughtful man with a brilliant mind and although he was devout, he was not known as a famous saint.

cropped George Savoie (AKA Brother Donald) (2)
My grandfather’s older brother George “Buster” Savoie as a Brother of the Sacred Heart

I was stumped.  I believed that my grandfather told me what he believed was the truth but it was so far out of the normal rational experience that it was hard to accept.

When I stepped into church this morning for Mass and glanced over to the Tabernacle it dawned on me why I was puzzled.  I was getting the wrong answer because I asking the wrong question.  Roland and Brother Donald’s experience only seemed unexplainable because I was too focused the “vision” and not on the underlying reality on the presence of Jesus himself.  The truth is, we all have experienced the full presence of Jesus, body and blood, soul and divinity every time we participate in the Mass or sit in church for Eucharistic Adoration.

In front of the Tabernacle, our experience of the physical presence of Jesus is just as real, just as miraculous and just as blessed as those of the Saints. To see Jesus with our eyes may only be for saints but personally experiencing the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is for all of us, saints and sinners all.

What I believe what my grandfather saw that night was a glimpse of a deep relationship of love between his brother and Jesus.  What Jesus personally told a young Brother Donald is a mystery and ultimately it wasn’t for us anyway.  What we do know is that not long after Buster left home to join the Brothers of the Sacred Heart.

Young Brother Donald (on the left) joins the Brothers of the Sacred Heart (Roland is on the right)
Young Brother Donald (on the left) joins the Brothers of the Sacred Heart (Roland is on the right)

My grandfather Roland also received  what he needed too:  A startling glimpse of the great love between his brother and Jesus and a mysterious recollection to bring him comfort as he got older.

As for me, I realized that for thirty years I have been a time capsule carrying this story with me, almost forgotten only to be unlocked by an old photo. Now that I am older and have had the time to reflect on it, I realize that this mystery was not some new revelation but  an invitation to come to a deeper understanding of what I have known along:  That Jesus, in His great love for us, has not left us orphans. Rather then leaving us,  He awaits for us in the Tabernacle of every church.

Post Script: There was a transcending connection between my brother Davy who died of ALS and Brother Donald.  Davy was the spitting image of Brother Donald.  They both suffered terribly from illness and they both died at the age of 48.

Brother Donald recovering from Typhiod Fever
Brother Donald recovering from a near fatal struggle with Typhoid Fever

My mother observed that when Davy was bedridden with ALS that after he had his breakfast and the aide cleaned him he would always ask our mother to close his door.  She would often ask him why.  His answer was always the same:  “I want to pray”.  She often wondered why he needed the door closed.

For more on my brother  Davy and ALS see: https://augustinesalley.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/als-and-a-rosary-miracle/

 

The Duchy of Savoy and the inheritance of our faith

Some of our most treasured, earliest memories are of cuddling up on the couch with our parents, grandparents, great aunts and great uncles as they recounted stories from the “old” days. We loved to hear about their parents, their great-grandparents, and, if we were lucky, snippets of stories and legends that went back even farther.  Way father!  We especially wanted to know their names, what they did, and what were they like.   Being youngsters, we eagerly seek connections and an orientation of where we are in our family and how our family fits within the wider world.

My grandfather Roland Savoie and his sisters Rita and Florence took great interest in passing on what they knew of Savoie family history to every new addition to the family.

There were many great legends and stories.  Three of the most tantalizing, mysterious and persistent stories were:

  • We have a Spanish Princess as an ancestor
  • One of our Savoie ancestors was a Catholic Priest
  • The very first Savoie who came to Canada did so because he was forced to leave

Old family stories that get handed down from generation to generation are nothing new.  Sally Hemming’s descendants claimed that Thomas Jefferson fathered her children.  Alex Haley based his “Roots” saga on a story of his distant ancestor Kunta Kinta making a drum for his younger brother on the day he was kidnapped by salve traders.  Both stories persisted over centuries, handed down by word of mouth from parent to child.  Although the stories had their detractors, they both turned out to be true.

As the years went by I pushed the Savoie family stories to the side as I commenced with the business of adult life.  Besides, I had no idea what to do with these ancient Savoie tales or how to begin validating them.

The last time I saw Aunt Rita alive was while she was in hospice, in the final stages of cancer.  While I was there we talked about her childhood as I tried to catalog every memory I could before she left us. However, what she really wanted to talk about were the three family stories:  the Spanish Princess, the Catholic Priest, and the Savoie runaway.  I made the mistake of expressing some skepticism that one of our Savoie ancestors was a Catholic priest.  Aunt Rita was indignant, “it’s true!” she insisted.  The poignancy of the moment was not lost on either of us.  She was soon to meet her maker, and she was the last living person of her generation.  Her insistence and the circumstances caused me to listen very carefully so that I could remember the stories and later pass them on to others in the family.

Ten years later, on a whim I signed up for a genealogy research website.  Progress was slow at first as I worked my way backwards from my great-great Grandfather Joseph Savoie.  I eventually discovered that his father was Narcisse Savoie and his father and grandfather were both in turn named Pierre Savoie.  So far, all of them were born in Quebec.  Continuing to slog my way backward in time, I discovered Pierre’s father, Jean Baptiste Savoie, who was born in Nova Scotia. I was surprised but that was only the beginning: three generations from there I was introduced to Prince Francis Savoie, the first Savoie to emigrate to North America in 1642

After he arrived in Nova Scotia, Prince Francis Savoie married Catherine F. LeJeune of the Mi’kmaq Nation.  Catherine’s great-grandfather was Henri Membertou.

Henri Membertou on Canadian stamp
Henri Membertou on Canadian stamp

Yet another surprise.  Henri Membertou, was the grand chief of the Mi’kmaq tribe in Arcadia in Nova Scotia!  Interestingly, Henri and his entire family were baptized by the Jesuit Father Jesse Fleche.  From that point forward Henri became an enthusiastic Catholic.  He asked the missionaries to learn the Algonquian Mi’kmaq language so that his family and tribe could be educated in the Catholic faith.

My ancestors were beginning to emerge from the fog of time, not just as names and dates but as real people with personalities and histories.

I followed Prince Francis Savoie back across the sea, to his home in Turin, Italy and we found ourselves at the door of the House of Savoy in the Duchy of Savoy. I carefully pushed the door open and discovered yet more remarkable members of our family:  these were of men and women of adventure, leadership, and deep Catholic piety.  The first person I meet is Prince Francis’s father, Thomas Francis of Savoy, or as he would have been known in Italian, Tommaso Francesco di Savoia.

Thomasco Fransisco Savoie
Thomasco Fransisco Savoie

Thomas Francis’s parents were Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and Princess Catherine Michelle of Spain, the daughter of King Philip II of Spain. At last I found Aunt Rita’s Spanish Princess!

Princess Catherine
Princess Catherine

As more ancestors come out from the shadows, the Savoys manifested themselves as a deeply woven thread in the tapestry of European royalty.

Duke Charles Emmanuel’s Savoy ancestors bore colorful names like Humbert I The White Handed Count of Savoy, Amadeus VI, The Green Count of Savoy, Humbert II The Fat, Count of Savoy.  Still earlier, I meet Amadeus The Crusader Savoy, who died in the Crusades and his son Blessed Humbert III, who was beatified by the Catholic Church.

Other Savoy saints step forward: The Blessed Amadeus IX The Happy, was the Duke of Savoy from 1465 to 1472.  Blessed Amadeus IX was known for his charity and concern for the poor and was beatified in 1677.  His daughter The Blessed Louise of Savoy (Our great ++ aunt), gave up a life of privilege and comfort to become a Poor Clare nun. She used her vast wealth to meet the needs of the poor and entered the monastery of the Poor Clare nuns in Orbe, now part of modern Switzerland. She was beatified by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839.

Joining the religious life or the clergy after the death of a spouse was common for Savoys.  It’s at this moment that I am introduced to  Amadeus VIII, the Duke of Savoy, who became a Catholic priest after the death of his wife, Mary, Princess of Burgundy.  So now we have confirmed another of Aunt Rita’s stories: the Catholic priest who was our direct ancestor. Amadeus VIII of Savoy was no ordinary priest though: in February of 1451 he was elected by the schismatic council of Basle as (anti) Pope Felix V (Savoy). Anti-Pope Felix was no rebel and for the good of the Church he resigned and quietly spent the rest of his life a cardinal.

As I move to speak to Pope Felix I am joined by  Anne, Princess of Cyprus di Lusignan, who was the daughter of King Janus of Cyprus and Charlotte of Bourbon; and a member of the celebrated Lusignan crusader dynasty.  With her marriage to Louis, Duke of Savoy, Ann became the Duchess of Savoy.  In 1452, Anne bought the Shroud of Turin from Jeanne de Charny in exchange for the castle of Varambon.  It remains in the Savoy family today although in the custody of the Church.

Anne of Cyprus
Anne of Cyprus

Farther back, I discovered my 20th great-grandmother: Saint Elizabeth of Portugal.

Saint Elizabeth of Portugal 

As I contemplate my ancestors, Kings, Queens, Dukes and Princesses, Popes, saints and sinners all, I have to ask what’s different now? There are no titles to inherit, no cold coins, art or castles. I feel there is a message here, they are trying to tell me… us, something… I sit patiently and listen.

Then one ancestor speaks up for all of them.  Fittingly, it’s Henri Membertou, whose efforts to have the Mass said in the Mi’kmaq language helped to preserve it to this day.   He died in 1611 and in his final words to his children he charged them to remain devout Christians.  Henri didn’t see his new faith to be just personal but transformational and transcending.  His Catholic faith was a treasure, an inheritance that must be passed on to his children and to their children.  Aunt Rita passed on the stories of Savoie family history that were told from generation to generation.  In like manner, Henri in turn passed on the most important treasure he had, his Catholic faith.  His daughter Marie passed that faith to her daughter who then passed it on to her daughter, Catherine Lejune, the wife of the very first Savoie in North America, Prince Francis.  From Francis and Catherine, they in turned passed on the faith to their son Germain Savoie, who along with his wife Genevieve Babineau, passed it on to their son Francois Xavier Savoie.

And so it went on, all the way to Phileas Savoie, my great grandfather, and then to Aunt Rita and Roland Savoie and on to his children and then down to us. The story is told, the treasure of faith is passed on.

Saint Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews reminds us that we have a great cloud of witnesses watching and cheering us on. . We have a very special cheering cloud of witnesses that includes our Savoie ancestors. They are us and we are them, all one family. The question is, does the story of faith that they passed on to us go on?  Let’s hope and pray so.

Meme Saint Elizabeth of Portugal,  Uncle Saint Thomas Aquinas,  Blessed Humbert Savoy and Blessed Amadeus Savoy, pray for your us your descendants 

______________________________________________________________________

PostScript and writer’s notes:

a.  All direct ancestors are in boldface. Poor Claire sister Blessed Louise of Savoy, is italicized because she is a great +++ aunt and not a direct ancestor

b. There’s another direct ancestor saint: Saint Louis the king of France.

Saint Louis King of France
Saint Louis King of France

He is a direct Savoie ancestor through  Elisabeth of Valois, the wife of Philip II and the mother of Princess Catherine Michelle.  Princess Catherine can be considered the grandmother of the North American Savoie line.

Elizabeth, the Mother of Princess Catherine and wife of King Philip II
Elizabeth, the Mother of Princess Catherine and wife of King Philip II

c.  Speaking of  Elisabeth of Valois: while her father’s line included the French Royal family her mother was Catherine de’ Medici of the famous Italian Medici family.

d.  King Philip II has an interesting family history as well.  His great grandparents were King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. Yes, the same ones that commissioned Columbus on his journey to the new world.

King Philip II of Spain
King Philip II of Spain

e.  So that brings up yet another interesting question: What nationality are the Savoies?  Up until Prince Francis Savoie left Europe the Savoies were mostly Italian with a few French and German Princesses as maternal ancestors.  Once in Canada, Prince Francis Savoie and his descendants married into the Norman French settlers (along with a bit of Mi’kmaq Indian ).  Making it even more complicated is that if you go back far enough, the direct male Savoie line goes back to Geneva Switzerland before they moved to Italy.  You also should consider that through King Philip II of Spain the Savoies are Hapsburg (originally from Austria) along with some Spanish and Portuguese. In truth, the ethnicity of the Savoies is  typical for many of Europe’s royal houses.  The simplistic way to look at it is to say that the Savoies were culturally Italian until they went to Canada where they became culturally French.

f.  Speaking of European royal houses the Savoies also have ties to Hungarian Royalty as well as East Roman (Byzantine) emperors such as Michael VIII who was born in what is now Turkey in the 13th century.  So some of our ancestors were of the Greek Orthodox Faith.

g.  Alert readers will note that I confirmed two out of three of Aunt Rita Savoie’s family stories of the Spanish Princess and that the Catholic Priest. What about the first Savoie coming to North America under duress? There is some speculation that Prince Francis Savoie was disinherited after a dynastic dispute between his father and his uncle.  From researching other French Canadian family lines I found that almost all French Canadians originally came from the shores of Normandy France. That would make sense considering that if you are the French Government and you need bodies to load on ships to colonize New France you are not going to bother gathering them up from the interior of the country.  Prince Francis is unique in that he made the Herculean effort to traverse the Alps and the whole country of France to get on a ship to spend the rest of his life in the wilderness of Nova Scotia. We don’t know why he left but it is safe to assume he was highly motivated in doing so.

h. My thanks to Uncle Tom for his support and helpful suggestions and input!

 i. November 16, 2017: By request, please see the following scan from Louis Savoy’s history of the Savoy (Savoie) family and how Prince Francis Savoie first came to Canada

Loius Savoy Book (4)

ALS and a Rosary Miracle

Once in a while, when God looks down on us with love, he drops a soul into the world like a pebble gently tossed into a pond. Like that pebble, the soul makes waves that spread throughout the world before it all too quickly slips from our sight. My brother Davy was just such a soul.

My Brother Davy Bolton at 6 months
My Brother Davy Bolton at 6 months

I could talk at length about Davy’s quiet generosity, his love for his family, for his sons, Michael and Andrew. I could also talk about how  since childhood Davy was a natural leader and how even at a young age the neighborhood children would follow him around.  As an Army officer, his men loved and trusted Davy.  No, my limited time and lack of eloquence cannot do justice to almost 50 years of a life well lived.

LTC Davy Bolton with Dennis Miller about a year before the onset of ALS
LTC Davy Bolton with Dennis Miller about a year before the onset of ALS

 

I do want to take a moment and share with you about how Davy inspired us during the last couple of years as his struggle with ALS  progressed.

Jesus never promised us an easy life when he said that we must pick up our cross and follow Him and it is a paradox of our faith that whom Jesus especially loves, he gives a great cross.  Davy was Jesus’s pebble tossed into our lives and the waves He made through Davy will continue to radiate throughout our world for many years to come.

Davy and brother Pete, March 2013, eight months before he passed away
Davy and brother Pete, March 2013, eight months before he passed away from ALS

Davy’s illness inspired compassion, love and generosity in others.  Davy’s suffering became an opportunity for people think of others instead of themselves.   Neighbors, friends, or even strangers would commit acts of love in the name of Davy.  People would come over to help around the house, bring or cook food and bring comfort to Davy, my parents and Davy’s boys.  Jesus told us that whatever you do to the least of my brothers you do unto me.  Therefore, every act of love and kindness directed to Davy and our family was also an act of love toward Jesus Himself.  Davy’s illness inspired compassion in others and through it Jesus brought His love to us while we in turn became more loving people to our neighbor.

Davy’s illness also inspired a spiritual awaking in those around him. One of Davy’s fellow Army officers to spoke to me about how Davy’s inner beauty brought her back to a deeper love of her Catholic faith that she had lost.  Others began to pray, some for the first time. Some of us began to pray the Rosary daily, others started to attend daily Mass.  At first, these prayers were for Davy and our family but as time went by Jesus used our newly inspired prayer lives to draw us to a deeper relationship of love with Him.

In effect, Jesus was using Davy to bring all of us into a closer with  Him.

My Mother tending to Davy a day after the miracle. The last Photo of Davy alive 8 November 2013.
My Mother tending to Davy a day after the miracle. This is the last photo of Davy while he was  alive, November 8, 2013. Two days before he succumbed to ALS

A week before Davy passed away he was hospitalized for three simultaneous blood infections. What happened in the hospital during that stay was the most profound and mysterious lesson for us all.

While my brothers Peter and Patrick and our mother and I sat with Davy his blood pressure took a sudden, drastic drop.  Davy became unresponsive. His doctor ran through all of the checks, poking and pinching Davy, she even yelled in his ear. Nothing.  Even a light shinned in Davy’s eyes brought no pupil response.  Although Davy still had a weak pulse and low blood pressure, he was, for all practical consideration, dead.

At the time, the medical staff had no options to revive Davy.  It was everyone’s belief that this was it and clinical death was imminent.  A few moments later, by sheer coincidence,  Davy’s parish priest arrived.  We all gathered around Davy and began to pray and talk to him. We stood and prayed out loud there for two hours to include 2 full rosaries, the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Daily Office. Slowly and miraculously, with no medical intervention, Davy began to come around, opening and closing his eyes and mouthing some of the prayers with us. Davy eventually came around later long enough to see our sister Charlene and cousin Jim for the last time as well has have some last moments with Michael and Andrew and our parents.

For those of us who were there it was a profoundly moving experience that we will never forget.  As I have thought about what happened three truths became apparent:

  • We didn’t pray alone, but the Guardian Angels of everyone in that hospital room was praying with us.
  • That prayer isn’t about repetition, incantations or even changing God’s mind. Prayer is about us opening up ourselves to the love and generosity of God.
  • Lastly, no one lives without prayer. Prayer is life itself and even if we don’t pray for ourselves others pray for us and sustain us. It could be our parents and friends who pray for us. At the very least our Guardian Angels pray us constantly even if we don’t believe and pray. Like the air around us, pray is life and we don’t appreciate what it would mean to live without it until it’s gone.

Saint Paul in his epistles reminds us that we have a cloud of witnesses watching over us and cheering us on from above.  Davy is now among them and from there he will continue to pray for us and be a part of our family. Like the pebble dropped into a still pond, Davy has now slipped past our sight but the waves he made still radiate outward.  We must continue to be those waves and to go forth and inspire others as Davy inspired us, with acts of love towards our neighbor and with unceasing prayer for others.

Thank you

For David Bolton, LTC, US Army February 12, 1965- November 10th  2013.

 

Davy's final resting place in Arlington VA
Davy’s final resting place in Arlington VA

 

Post Script:  It’s been almost a year since my brother Davy passed away after a two and a half year struggle with ALS.  What I have just shared with you are my words of remembrance I gave at the end of his funeral Mass.

I am amazed at how God perfectly set the stage upon which this miracle occurred.  First, there was an audience:  me, my brothers and my mother.  Second, the doctor just happened to be present when Davy became unresponsive and validated his condition medically. The doctor was not normally in Davy’s room. Third, Davy’s parish priest unexpectedly arrived in the hospital room just after the doctor validated Davy’s condition. Fourth, I had the Rosary shown in the photos with me for all of us to pray with.  It’s too much of a  coincidence for all of this to line up perfectly by shear chance and luck.

It has been a long stretch between posts but I have been in the middle of moving to Massachusetts and starting a new job. Keep checking back for new posts! It shouldn’t be so long next time.

St Augustine and Serendipity

“He’ll ask more of you than that!    Here… it’s ink.  Remember to use it all.”

Bishop Ambrose to Saint Augustine as he hands him a bottle of ink (from Restless Heart)

 

Serendipity… 1,500 years ago a troubled young Roman lawyer and orator named Aurelius Augustine had an epiphany and conversion experience and became  one of the most read and influential theologian  and philosopher of Western Civilization.  Last November, I lost a brother and became inspired to write a blog on science, faith and philosophy and posted a review of a dramatic movie on St Augustine, Restless Heart.  Meanwhile, this past year, one of my West Point classmates was experiencing his own remarkable faith journey. Last month, all those threads came together.

Jeff Methvin found this blog, read the Restless Heart review, watched the movie and was inspired to share his own thoughts on how Saint Augustine touched his life. I am pleased to introduce Jeff Methvin’s Restless Heart review as my first guest blogger.

Good literature and philosophy never gets old and there is always a new angle or fresh viewpoint to ponder.   You may recall that I wrote my own review of Restless Heart here:

St Augustine and the Decline of Civilization

However, when Jeff submitted his review I was pleased to read an enlightening write up with ideas and observations that I hadn’t considered before.   Thanks Jeff!

One more point, in addition to a guest blogger, I have a guest artist, my daughter Lydia who will be starting art school in Boston this fall.

The elderly St. Augustine by Lydia Bolton
The elderly St. Augustine by Lydia Bolton

Jeff Methvin’s review of Restless Heart

“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of Saint Augustine

 

Restless Heart was a gift, given freely, with only one condition – to tell others what I thought about it.  I have never written a movie review, although I have rendered my opinion on countless movies around the water cooler to co-workers on Monday mornings.  Undaunted by this challenge, I reckoned from my past “experience” it would be easy to watch a movie and render an opinion.  I’ve surely spent less time on other, more important, matters and passed judgment just as well.  So I sat down to watch Restless Heart, but instead of passively watching a movie, I experienced it.  The movie was more than a mere movie, much greater than the sum of its production value, directing, editing, costume designing, and acting, all of which were well done.  Be forewarned.  My review will not do the movie justice.  Since I lack the technical expertise to accurately judge how good or bad a director was, or an actor acted, I will instead discuss how the movie affected me.

Restless Heart is foremost the story of a man and his mother.  This bonds the movie to all viewers, as every man or woman has a mother, be she good or bad, as judged by her sons and daughters, or others. So it was with Augustine and Monica, and so it was with my own mother and me.  Good things I know of my own mother, I saw in Monica.  And for others less fortunate than I, Monica Guerritore, in the role of Monica, stands as a wonderful role model.

The greatest compliment I can give to Guerritore is simply that she was Monica, a Christian woman, devoted to her faith in Jesus Christ, to her pagan husband, and to her wandering, narcissistic, son.  She suffered many “arrows and slings of outrageous fortune” with prayer, peace, and faith in the saving Grace of our Lord.  However, even while she calmly endured a cheating husband and Augustine’s scorn, she never lost hope that both would find their own way to Christ.  Her hope was evident at the deathbed of her husband, in her countenance when she first saw Augustine watching Bishop Ambrose preach, and culminated in her ecstasy at Augustine’s baptism.  Monica’s joy in relating her prophetic dream that Augustine would eventually be with her in her Faith, and not she in his Manichaean wandering, was palpable.  I saw my mother’s faith and hope in Monica, a faith unshaken by her son’s sinful ways, and a hope he would find his own way to Jesus Christ.

However, Monica was not passive in her prayers.  She did not hide and whisper her prayers for Augustine and her husband to become Christians; she did not turn the other cheeks at each insult.  Monica challenged Augustine on all his sins, including his disrespect for her and her faith.  Monica was not only a loving and prayerful mother, but also a strong mother, a mother seeking to raise her son with character.  I have read Augustine was one of the first Christians to write about the equality of women as being created in God’s image, not Man’s image.  There is no doubt the strength of his mother, and the ultimate respect he had for her, were essential to him coming to this profound realization.

Augustine was portrayed by several different actors, all of whom did a very good job portraying him as a boisterous, self-absorbed youth, an over-confident, yet troubled, young man, and a secure, peaceful future Saint.  In Augustine’s childhood, I saw my own, unconcerned with anything other than what the now could bring me, and what I could take through my own will, and not with any help from God.  I saw my own conceited self creating problems for my parents through my own sinful ways.  As a youth, Augustine saw no need for God, and neither did I.  Like Augustine, as a young man I struggled with the same temptations as he.  However, Augustine tried to reason away his sins and find peace in the teachings of Mani, and in the logic of the great philosophers.  Like Augustine, I sought absolution in my career, and peace in my hobbies.  Augustine did not believe peace could be found in Jesus Christ, and neither did I.

Augustine’s conversion is gradual, taking almost half his life to occur.  It is the product of his own intellect searching for Truth, the mentoring of Ambrose, and his Mother’s prayers and parenting.  His conversion is symbolized in the movie as the panels of a Church mosaic come together, slowly, to complete a beautiful image.  In this manner, the movie showed me how we can all become beautiful and complete through Faith in Jesus Christ.

Augustine as an old man is finally at peace.  He has found his truth and lived most of his life preaching it and living it.  Ever the good shepherd, when given the chance to leave Hippo and escape the besieging Vandals, he refuses to leave his flock.  Augustine knows Truth lies in Jesus, in serving others and God, and therein he finds peace.  It is in the final stage of his life that Augustine shows all of us the path to Truth, although not easy, can be discovered if we only allow ourselves to listen to our own restless hearts.

Bishop Ambrose plays an important role in Augustine’s development.  He is a perfect role model.  When Ambrose first appears, he interrupts the Roman Emperor’s court to demand Rome repay the debt owed to an indebted, imprisoned soldier.  Ambrose’s selfless desire to help an old soldier who had given most of his life to the service of Rome is timely, as our soldiers now, active and veterans, struggle with long, numerous, tours in far away lands, far away from loved ones, and the current suicide epidemic ravaging our defenders.  Perhaps the movie foretells the saving Grace of our Lord as the answer to such an epidemic?  Ambrose defends his faith against pagans and heretics, while suggesting Augustine allow the Truth he seeks to find him.  This culminates in Ambrose revelation that the Truth Augustine seeks is not an abstract thing, or idea, but is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The movie changed me.  I could not help but examine my own life and own journey of Faith in the light of Augustine’s.  I draw inspiration for my own prayers for the health and safety of my children from Monica.  I will watch it again, and again, and again.  I recommend this movie.

End

Post Script: My next post is slated for the 1st of May and I will address the discovery of irrational numbers. I promise that it will be more fun than it sounds!

It’s my hope that Jeff will be only the first of many guest bloggers. Got something to share on science, faith and philosophy and would like to try a hand as a guest blogger?  Let me know.

As I read the Great Books series I received for my 50th birthday I am amazed on how by reading books we can actually hear the thoughts of great men women from hundreds, if not thousands of years ago. Even more amazing, those long dead thinkers and writers are still influencing people today through their works.  Stunning if you think about it.  Perhaps it’s time to pick up that good book on philosophy, science or history that you have been putting off…

More on Britannica’s Great Books series:

Steve Allen and the Great Minds of History

After two great reviews of Restless Heart are you interested in seeing it for yourself? Let me know.

See you in a few weeks!

Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain, Boston and a return to faith

My childhood was rich in religious symbolism. My mother would lead us in the Rosary during long car trips. My father would read to us from a beautifully illustrated Children’s Bible before bed. My grandparent’s home was adorned with religious art and Crucifixes. My Grandmother “Granny” would spend hours talking with me about God and the Saints.   One of my favorite memories would be going to Easter Sunday Mass at St Raphael’s’ in Williamstown Massachusetts where my grandparents lived.  My parents, brothers and sister, cousins, grandparents and aunts and uncles would all walk across the street to the church. We kids would jostle to sit with our favorite cousins while our family would fill several rows.  After Easter diner we would all take a walk through the town.

My Grandparents standing in front of the Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain, Boston
My Grandparents standing in front of the Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain, Boston

We went on trips to visit Catholic shrines like La Salette Shrine in Attleboro Massachusetts.  At La Salette I was entranced by the statues the candles and the huge Rosary circling around the pond. My Aunt Mary-Teresa would patiently explain to us the meanings of statues and images.  One very cold March, my Grandfather “Pepere” took my brother Davy and I to Montreal to see Norte Dame and Saint Joseph’s Oratory.

There is one place though, above all others, that has been shrouded within the mysterious mists of my memory:  The Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain in Boston.  I first visited there when I was very young, perhaps only 3 years old to visit my Aunt Joan who was a cloistered nun in residence.  The last time I visited as a child was in 1969 when my Aunt Joan left Jamaica Plain for Africa.  In the years since then I always felt I had a special connection there between it and myself that I just always just out of reach of my understanding.

My grandparents with my mother and my ten Aunts and Uncles around 1968 in front of the Poor Clare Monastery
My grandparents with my mother and my ten Aunts and Uncles around 1968 in front of the Poor Clare Monastery
The family visiting Aunt Joan. I'm the little guy on the left. My brother Davy was on the right.
The family visiting Aunt Joan. I’m the little guy on the left. My brother Davy was on the right.

In 2011, during a business trip to Boston, I finally returned to the Poor Clare’s, hoping for an insight to it’s mysterious connection to my childhood.  I recounted the visit to my Aunt Joan:

After over 40 years I returned to the Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain.  Arriving at 6:00 AM I could hear a mocking bird and robins singing in the early morning twilight as I stood out front. I went into the chapel and spent an hour with Jesus in the Eucharist listening to the Sisters pray and sing the Liturgy of the Hours (Lauds). I spend the time meditating on the family history here, remembering that Pepere, Granny and the whole family including myself sat in the very pews I where I was now sitting. I also reflected how I as a small child here first felt a spiritual awakening and presence of God here in this very Chapel. As all early childhood memories, it was more felt then recalled.

The Chapel inside the Poor Clare Monastery
The Chapel inside the Poor Clare Monastery

 A sister who needed a walker was moving about, preparing the altar for Mass. The Poor Clare sisters were in a room behind the Tabernacle. I could only catch small glimpses of them through the screen. At 7:00 AM they moved to a room off to the left side, behind a gate for Mass. Father said Mass facing them although he would turn to us occasionally.

 After Mass, I went up to the elderly sister who was preparing for the Mass earlier. I introduced myself and said that my aunt was a Sister here back in the 1960s. She asked for a name and when I said Joan Savoie, she just lit right up and smiled. She said that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of her. You were, in her words, her best friend. As the archivist, she still has the letter you wrote to her after your return from Africa.  Sister mentioned that you were part of her “army” of younger sisters who were working to implement the Vatican II changes to the Monastery. By now I am sure who know who I am talking about: Sister David.  I told her that you are doing very well and that you are now a grandmother. She does miss you and I am sure she would love to hear from you. She also said that she is now 86 years old.

My daughter Rachel standing in the same spot as her great grandparents and great aunts and uncles stood over 40 years earler
My daughter Rachel standing in the same spot as her great grandparents and great aunts and uncles stood over 40 years earlier

My return to the Poor Clare’s in Jamaica Plain didn’t satisfy the mystery but only deepened it.  The last couple of years since I was convinced that I was missing something or perhaps more accurately, forgetting something important.  Unexpectedly, while I was at Mass with my Uncle Tom in Colorado, the veil was momentarily lifted.

I had just received the Eucharist and sat down when I saw my relationship with Jesus with the eyes of a four year old boy sitting in the pews of the Poor Clare Monastery. I keenly felt and understood how much I was loved by God and I in turn, reflected back an innocent, trusting love to God. If Jesus had walked into that into the Church that moment I would have run right over to Him and hugged Him like a small child greeting a beloved grandparent.

The mystery I was seeking was not a literal memory but a clear vision of my childhood understanding of God. It was a vision of what once was, what could be now, and what will hopefully be again. The feelings were so powerful I had to actually get up and walk to the back of the church.  Just as quickly as it came though, the curtain closed again and the emotion faded.  I was left, though, with a deeper understanding. I could see that this is the way Jesus loves us and that this is the kind of relationship He wants to have with us.  The curtain I perceived was of my own making.  It’s not God who put it there but rather my own fears, doubts, pride, and weakness.

All these years the Poor Clare Monastery in Jamaica Plain was a time capsule, holding safe a special gift of my childhood memory until I was drawn back to it when I needed it most.  More than that though, it was invitation to return to the roots of our personal faith, to believe as a child again without the burdens we have only imposed on ourselves.

It’s easier to write this than it is to follow through. We all struggle with doubt and unfortunately some of our experiences growing up cloud our vision of what faith can be.  Nevertheless, I do believe it was no accident that I was drawn back to Jamaica Plain after all these years and that it was not just for my benefit but for others too.  As for myself, I am willing to accept the invitation and strive to return to the experience of a childhood faith.

Post Script: Like most families, life was not always easy for my ten aunts and uncles growing up.  I didn’t understand that until I was an adult.  Growing up among them I always felt loved and my childhood was never touched by their struggles and pains. That was their great gift to me.  My memories of the Poor Clare Monastery are so closely intertwined with my recollections of my aunts and uncles that I cannot think of one without the other.  Last November, as I stood looking upon all of them gathered together after my brother Davy’s funeral I could see how special they were to me, how unique it was to have so many and just how much I loved all of them dearly.  So… I want to tell each of them why they mean so much to me. (Spouses in parenthesis)

 

My mother and her siblings, November 2013
My mother and her siblings, November 2013

Aunt Jean: Thank you for being a second mother and for being so wise

(Uncle Jack): Thank you for being a hero and an Army role model and for instilling in us kids a love of history, self-discipline and excellence.

Aunt Joan: Thank you for walking with me outside in the blizzard of 1969 in Williamstown and taking me under your wing me in Washington State during my first adventure on my own after high school. Of course being the reason why I went to the Poor Clares in the first place.

(Uncle John): Thank you for taking me camping with Shaun

Aunt Phyllis: Thank you for being our teacher and for your smile and your sense of humor

(Uncle Dave): Thank you for loving us grandkids unconditionally and for always listening to us

Uncle Frank: Thank you for giving all of us kids the joy of laughter. Kids need uncles who make them laugh

(Aunt Linda): Thank you for inspiring us with your passionate activism

Uncle Tom: Thanks for inspiring this blog, for sharing the Dancing Bull, for deep conversations on the Philosopher Thrones under the watchful eye of the Syntopicon and for being there with me when the large green meteorite flew over Denver so I know I wasn’t imagining it

(Aunt Jacquie): Thank you for making me feel at home in Germany and for being a voice of calm and reason

Uncle Dave: You were the first philosopher I ever knew. Thank you for respecting my intellect when I was young and thank you for taking me to Boulder Colorado to meet the gurus in 1982

(Aunt Harriet): Thank you for hiking with me in the hills of Tennessee

Uncle Paul: Thank you for teaching me to throw snowballs at the neighbor’s garage and for carrying me around in the blanket at Savoy State forest and for camping with me at Pine Mountain. Kids need uncles to horse around with

(Aunt Claudia): Thank you for your warmth and your love and for making us feel like we were always part of your family

Aunt Marion: Thank you for your sharp wit, your mischiefness and for making us feel grown up when we were kids. Remember that you are a beautiful woman, inside and out, even when you’re feeling grumpy

(Uncle Doug): Thank you for walking with us around in Williamstown and taking us up to MT Greylock and Pine Coble

Aunt Teresa: Thank you so much for taking an interest in me when I was young and when I needed it most. I miss you

(Uncle Mike): Thank you for starting the family address list. You kept us all together before the internet and Facebook

Aunt Annie: Thank you for being an aunt, a big sister and a friend. You still owe me an ice cream

(Uncle Gao): Thank for being a great cook and introducing us to new foods and for always making us feel at home with your gentle spirit