The past few days have been filled with contrast. We are in Eugene, Oregon for a few days, visiting the University of Oregon with our sons Adam (the potential future Duck) and Eric (the current Harvard Junior who’s along for the ride). I must say that I came into this little adventure as a skeptic, unsure about the wisdom of sending our son to such a large public institution. After just a few days enjoying this campus, but especially interacting with its students, faculty and staff, I am won over. Adam’s decision is still months away, but I feel a sense of peace about what the future holds for my “baby”. He’s in God’s hands and our prayers for wise discernment will be answered.
All this being said, at the same time that we are here, I’ve been involved quite a lot mentally with my friend and fellow writer Cassandra Poppe’s tragic situation with her son Fulton. Yesterday, as we were visiting the UO bookstore, my phone rang with an unknown number. When I answered, I was so pleasantly shocked to hear Cassandra on the other end. Believe it or not, this is the first time we’ve spoken in person. As with many of those who write for CatholicMom.com, my relationship with Cassandra has been only online correspondence. And yet, there she was, taking time to simply call and send thanks to so many of you who have reached out and supported their family. I was truly touched that she’d even think to do that at such a critical time, and yet her doing so underscores for me the beauty of the friendships we can build in our online communities.
Tonight, we had the joy of celebrating Mass at the St. Thomas More Newman Center in Eugene. Pastor Fr. Daniel Rolland, O.P. gave an excellent homily based on the gospel from Luke’s third chapter, about Jesus’ baptism. I found myself looking around the congregation assembled and wondering about their stories — this place is so very different from where I live that it feels like a world away. My parish boasts over 5,000 families. This one felt intimate and close-knit. Such different environments and approaches. And yet, the beauty of the Mass and our Universal Church makes you feel at home, no matter where you worship.
It’s likely that unity in the Eucharist that makes me feel so closely connected to Cassandra and Jay Poppe, to their little Fulton, but also to so many of my other online friends. I don’t know that I’ll ever meet the Poppe family in person, but at the moment they are on my mind 24-7. That Body is big, and broad, and filled with all kinds of folks. We are family, because together we belong to the Body of Christ, united by our Baptisms and the faith we profess, challenged (sometimes beyond reason) by the circumstances of the world around us, and loved — unconditionally — by the Father of us all.