So Jan and I were invited out to Chicago’s Marytown for the annual New Year’s Young Adult Retreat for the Militia Immaculata. We sort of wound up becoming the Cute Old Couple Den Father and Mother since our son Cow (don’t ask) began working with them lo these many years ago. Time was when Cow went someplace to do youth ministry stuff they’d ask “Are you Mark Shea’s son?” Now I go places and people ask, “Are you Cow Shea’s dad?” He is, as they say, beloved. And so is Claire, the fellow MI member who, with a bunch of other young adults, toodled all over North America doing MI Youth Retreats and, as is only fitting and proper, fell in love with Cow (and he with her) and so they got married:
MI therefore already had a strong pull on my heart, so it was easy to get me to come speak for them at the Washington Summer Camp, particularly since it happens in June at a lake and there are lots of excuses for me to accidently fall off the dock into the lake once the talk is over. Jan also has fond feelings for them, since they are serious about Catholic formation, Marian consecration, and founded by St. Maximilian Kolbe, Martyr of Auschwitz who is, in very truth, the Real Deal. So she goes down and does kitchen duty each summer.
Because of all this, the MI young adults who organize these things concluded that we are Adorable Older People–particularly due to our cuddly and huggable renditions of old tunes like “I Get the Neck of the Chicken”, fetchingly crooned for you by Cab Calloway:
And so, as the Official Huggable Old Folks, MI started asking us to come to their New Year’s Retreat. Given that a) we love Marytown and MI, b) Claire’s family lives in Chicago and this is an excuse to get together with them and c) our two younger kids love watching us fly off and leave them alone for New Years, when they are certainly not up to no good or anything, we have take up the offer for three years running now.
Marytown is like the most uber-Christmassy place on planet earth. It has a gorgeous sanctuary, stuffed to the rafters with gorgeousness normally, and super duper gorgeous at Christmas what with Christmas trees, bright red and green poinsettias, Christmas music, lights, decorations, angels, creches, and a general air of Franciscan merriment. The retreat theme was “Only Love Creates” and included talks on St. Max, Evangelii Gaudium, the Our Father, Incarnational Evangelism and much else. We had Mass every day, plus a relaxed cheery atmosphere of excited yound disciples eager to learn. In addition, there was an Ugly Christmas sweater competition and a Talent Show in which Jan and I busted out our latest tune (here given life by the inimitable vocal stylings of Patrick Stewart, who also is a World Authority on Cow Accents):
It all culminated in a New Year’s Eve Mass when a number of young adults (and a couple of parents) made St. Max’s act of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Beautiful.
When Mass was over the kids romped off to a big New Year’s Dance full of bouncy Tigger energy. Jan and I, being cuddly and old, bid everybody goodnight and went off to cuddle. A good trade if you ask me.Next day we had breakfast, wrapped things up, and then went off to a final Mass. By this time the snow was coming down heavily and the St. Francis statue in the yard out the window was cowled in snow. I felt glee as I watched this (for me) rare White Christmas.
Claire was in town for the holidays, visiting her folks (while Cow stayed in Seattle and hung out with the Brohirrim). She took us to her folks house where we hung out, visited and played cards, with one wary eye on the ongoing storm. It was when I went to check on the weather that I glanced at my FB page and saw that my brother had spent the day in ER with Mom. That got me worried–and more worried when, after we go to the airport (O’Hare) he messaged me to ask if I was home yet (just as we were boarding).
The plane was three hours late taking off, so we didn’t get to our house at 3:30 AM. After a couple of hours sleep we were awakened by a phone call. I couldn’t sleep much anyway so I started plowing through mail and stuff. Then Mike called with the latest update on mom. Basically, the bad news is that she has a large mass in one of her lungs. She quit smoking some 25 years ago, but that was after decades of smoking. So she needs more tests and I’m trying to be hopeful, but we fear the worst. So does the oncologist, who says it’s a 90% chance of some kind of lung cancer that starts with S, according to my brother. So I would very much appreciate your prayers till we know more. She has been briefed on all this and is feeling good and in high spirits and eating well, all of which are good signs. My brothers and I want to know the test results before talking with her further. Anyway, prayers please. She’s home now and comfy, though tires easily. The main complication is that she ‘s running out of money and so her housing situation is ambiguous as is how we will help resolve it.
After that, Jan took off in the van to go help a friend and was gone about a half hour when she called to say the car blowed up with steam and stuff. I was having visions of a blown head gasket and having to buy a new car. Jan got the thing towed to the shop courtesy of AAA and they looked it over. Turns out it was just a radiator hose, so thanks be to God for that. However, the major question of my Mom’s care is still very much in the air till we know what’s wrong. My brothers and us are sort of in limbo till the doc sees her. We will head down to Olympia in the next day or so to see Mom.
Meanwhile, I’m helping write a book and have a bunch of articles to scribble in fairly short order in order to keep the wolf from the door.
Which reminds me: a number of you guys, hearing about our sudden onslaught of troubles, responded with astonishing and swift generosity of both money and, most importantly, prayer. We are deeply moved by your goodness here at Chez Shea, more than words can say. Thank you so much and God bless you through our Lord Jesus.
That’s all the news for now. When we find out more about Mom, I’ll let you know. Till then, prayer is our support. God love you guys.