Beauty Ever Ancient, Ever New

I am preparing for some changes. Fr. Peter Pacini, C.S.C. will be taking the helm of St. Adalbert and St. Casimir Parishes in July. I am also preparing to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, departing July 1 and returning August 10. It is a time of taking stock and passing on. It is a time of preparation, spiritual and physical, for the rigors of the pilgrimage. It is a time of remembering and looking ahead.

I have been taking some long walks through the neighborhood. I walked past one street to see a crew doing a home demolition. The home has rested on the West Side for probably one hundred years, but I have known something of it since 2001. In 2001, I came to St. Stephen and St. Casimir as associate pastor. Early in my time at St. Stephen, a woman would call the parish office and speak to me anonymously. She was in a violent marriage, raising three children. In a series of calls, I learned that she had previously been hospitalized for a beating that she had taken. I suggested a safe house here in South Bend. I suggested what she should do to prepare to leave, the kinds of documents she would need for herself and her children. She was close, but she never quite wanted to take the step. She was frightened. . . of life with her husband as well as frightened of life without him.

At the same time, I had been taking training with a local organization that would attend to victims of sexual and domestic violence. I was invited to serve as a Spanish-speaking translator for the organization. After completing the training, it so happened that I was called to the hospital one night to translate for one of their volunteers. A woman had come to ER with wounds from domestic violence. As I began to translate for the volunteer and the victim, it was clear that she was addressing her remarks to me rather than the volunteer, and I discovered that she was the woman who had been calling me. Rather than continue translating, I intervened to act as her priest. I told her that, while this was frightening, she was lucky. This was her second hospitalization, and she may not get a third chance. Eventually, she agreed to go to the battered women's shelter with her children. It was rough on them. Eventually, she managed to move to Albuquerque to begin a new life with her children. From time to time she would call me to update on how they were doing.

The home that was coming down had been her's. The walls in that home, hopefully, had seen many years of love, but in their last decade they had known plenty of violence. Perhaps it is fitting that this now abandoned house comes down so that something new can begin, just as something new began in this woman's life.

I attach, then, for your meditation this image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I took it last night at our parish's grotto. I love the way that Mary is reflected on the polished granite of the altar. Mary, queen of families, pray for us. Mary, Mother of Him who makes all things new, pray for us.