Father Manny: A Day In The Life (of an #Episcopal priest)

A Day in the Life...
Busse Woods November 2009
Wednesday morning, 6:05am, it is still quite dark out. A thick fog had settled upon the northwest suburbs muting the autumn colors and muffling the sounds of nature. All was still; the trees were motionless. Even the birds were nowhere to be seen. Traffic was heavy headed eastbound. Not much to do but endure the bumper to bumper situation, remain patient and, well, pray. I do quite a bit of praying while I drive. It's not a testament to my driving skills, but rather a practice in which I've engaged for as long as I've been driving. Praying brings a palpable peace upon me that is far too pleasurable to ignore or do without. So, I pray. More heavy traffic. More prayer. St. Alexius Hospital is just off to the left. I park at the farthest spot from the front door. I like to walk and quite frankly, my car is safer parked farthest away. I ask the front desk receptionist how to get to the ICU. She points to the elevator and says get off on the 3rd floor and turn left. I find and opt for the stairs and walk the 3 flights, turn left and locate room 364. I see Erlene in the hallway, talking to the doctor. She and I embrace and talk about how Vernon is doing and how she's coping. After donning a blue cover-all and gloves, I go in to see Vernon. He's not too responsive: he has tubes here, there, seemingly everywhere. I hold his hand and gently stroke his head with my other hand. He tries to talk, but his breathing tube prevents any audibility. No problem, I share with him that the community is praying for him and for Erlene, that we all miss him and wish him to return to us happy and healthy. Despite the tubes, his smile can not be denied nor missed. It is contagious. Erlene smiles, I smile and I have to think that even God is smiling with us at that very moment. And why not? We are His children and God loves us with such intensity. I say my goodbyes to Vernon and Erlene and begin the drive to Elk Grove.
Vernon and Erlene
(Little did I know that this would be my last visit with Vernon. I will treasure the time spent with him and always remember his most infectious smile. Rest in Eternal Peace, my dear friend.) Barrington Road is clearing up by now. After all, it's after 10am and the morning rush has pretty much ended. I turn left on Schaumburg Road, past a series of strip malls, schools and churches. A quick right on Meachem to Biesterfield Road, over and across Rt. 53, past Alexian Brothers Medical Center, the Village City Hall and Police Station, veer left to Jewel and pull up behind the store. I ring the buzzer once, twice and three times. Finally, an employee opens up and announces he has "some stuff" for us this week. 8 full boxes of canned goods and staples I carefully load into my car. The cans and bottles rattle up against one another and I fear something will break and spill onto my fresh and neat car seats. Fear not. All went well and nothing broke, spilled or was the cause of all my earlier prayers going out the window with any utterance of disappointment or anger. Went in through the back door of the church, unlocked the sacristy and greeted Jim who was unpacking all the bread and pastry he had picked up earlier that morning at Panera's. I took the large cart, down the ramp out the back door and carefully sidled up next to my car. Unloaded all the cases and heaved the cart into the church, up the ramp and into the Pantry Room. We unloaded the boxes and began to stock the shelves with the bounty made gift to us. The bare shelves had life again and the pantry guests would have some selections from which to choose. How wonderful.
Back into the church, I prepare for the weekend Services by getting the chalices ready, cutting the altar bread into halves, one set into the freezer again and the other set into the fridge for use this weekend. Printed the Stewardship inserts that will go into the Worship Programs once they are ready. Music books are straightened out, the chairs in the church are lined up in order and the funereal candles we used for All Saints Day were lugged back into the storage room. Checked the Book of the Gospels to be sure the proper passage is readied. The phone rang three times, solicitors, a neighboring church inquiring where we purchase our altar wine and some one asking about our food pantry requirements. Haven't had any breakfast but I'm not hungry. I could, however, use a cup of coffee. I brew a fresh pot, pour myself a cup and take it outside with me as I walk around the church. All looks so nice, so clean and well kept. I smile and again I consider the chances that God is smiling along with me. And why not? It's just after 3pm and already several pantry guests have gathered. In fact, they've been at the church since 1pm. They are invited in where coffee and pastry await. They have been huddled at the table in the Gathering Space, talking, laughing, sharing recipes and stories. It is a community; a gathering of friends who meet up every 1st and 3rd Wednesday, compliments of the Holy Innocents Food Pantry at St. Nicholas Church. I look at their faces, those happy and grateful faces and my heart is full with joy and peace. I smile. I know that God is smiling with me right then. And why not? Bob Kalicki and Gary Lackey have arrived by now. We share some stories and chit-chat about this and that. I fill Bob in on what's going on, about the food we received from Jewel and that all the bread and pastry Panera's gave us is all ready, packaged and available to whomever desires it. I say my goodbyes to the Pantry Team and to the guests, I grab a couple bottled waters from the fridge, make sure the sacristy is locked up and all is as it should be. I get into my car which is rather hot and stuffy. Here it is, November 4th and it feels like it's mid-September. I love it. How much longer are we to be blessed with these rather late, Indian Summer style days? 'Embrace and savor them while we can,' I say to myself. Next week, we could have snow. What bliss. I drive the 2 miles to Eunice's home where she awaits my arrival. As I walk up the drive, a rather friendly squirrel carefully and cautiously crawls over to me. I keep calling him over and he responds. Darn it, no food to give. He nibbles at my shoe, looks up and scampers off. A little touch of nature right at my feet. I knock and walk in, give Eunice a hug and sit myself down in the wing back chair which is my traditional place. We talk, laugh and laugh some more. It's what Eunice and I do when we get together. I bring her up to speed on what's happening at St. Nicholas. No, not gossip, but actual concerned conversations. We talked about Vernon, about how Nancy Allan is doing, about how beautiful the gardens look again in large thanks to Connie Nicholson, Marilyn Brown and Bob Kalicki, too. We talked like a family would talk about each other...with love and care. And after the conversations, we pause and prepare for Holy Communion. I offer a prayer and share Jesus with Eunice. We are silent for a moment. Then, we pray the words our Lord and Savior taught us..."Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name..." I bid my farewell, give Eunice another big hug and find my way to my car. Fortunately, the two bottles of water are still cool to the touch. I'll need them as I know traffic headed north will be heavy this time of the day.
Fall Leaves It's 5:30 pm, the sun is preparing for its descent and the sky is a brilliant reddish, orange. It's autumn's beauty on display. The birds that were absent earlier this morning are everywhere. My car windows are down and I can hear them overhead. I see a line of geese headed south in their classic "V" formation. It's wonderful. I'm at a red light watching the traffic pass by, watching the birds begin their migratory journey, squinting into that setting sun...and I smile. Yes, God is smiling, too. And why not?

Father Manny: The Generosity Of Being St Nicholas

What does one do when it’s 2:05 in the morning, you can’t sleep, you’ve already read for an hour and are still pretty much wide awake? You watch television in the hopes it will make you sleepy enough to get the rest you desire and need.

So, I ventured downstairs, quietly and carefully descending the stairs in the darkness and silence of the early, morning stillness. Wrapping myself in a blanket, switched on the television and selected one of the PBS stations. A telecast on the Egyptian art of mummification of animals had just started. Immediately, I was captured. Rather than my eyelids getting heavy, I was drawn into the program, fascinated and intrigued. I had read some about this ancient art, this ritual, but this particular program enlightened me to facts both new and wondrous.

Ancient Egypt had many gods. The people prayed to the gods and goddesses for particular favors they desired. To Ma’at, the goddess of moral and physical law they would pray for guidance and direction regarding disputes and disagreements. To Ra, the god of the sun, they’d pray for light, guidance direction and to dispel the darkness. To Horas, the king of the gods, the people would pray for their pharaoh’s protection and success. There were other gods and goddesses who represented virtually all aspect of human life. The people wanted more; they desired to have a more “direct connection” with their deities. In order to provide such desired intimacy between god and humankind, the concept of offerings to the gods was created. The “farming” of animals, namely dogs and cats by the millions was established. These animals would be offered to the gods and mummified. Within the layers of cloth wrappings, coins, jewelry and other such trinkets were placed as offerings and tithing to the gods, so the gods would grant special favors and blessings to those who prayed to them.

Am I glad that we Christians never adopted such behavior and practice, you know, providing offerings to our God. Oh wait, I think we did and we still do. Sure, we don’t place our offerings, our gifts, our pledges inside a mummified pet nor do we burn our offerings as an oblation to our God and Creator. When we use incense, it is meant to be pleasing to God as it rises upwards to the heavens. We have become a much more sophisticated society, thank you very much. First of all, we are monotheistic: we believe in One True and Eternal God, Three Beings in One…Father, Son and Holy Spirit. As such, we worship our God with our participation and reception of the Sacraments, in the Holy Eucharist on weekends, feasts, holy days and special Church Seasons and occasions. We glorify the Lord our God with acts of mercy and kindness, with our visits to the home-bound and hospitalized, with active involvement in our community of faith. As 21st Century Christians and members of this Episcopal community of faith, we share our time, our talent and our treasure for God’s greater glory and the continued establishment, growth and spreading of the Good News of Christ.

Rummage Sale Volunteers

Rummage Sale Volunteers Generously Donated Time And Elbow Grease

At St. Nicholas, we are blessed with a wealth of generosity: so many who give in so many ways. A few weeks back as I was walked toward the church and there was Connie Nicholson hard at work in the gardens, planting mums and arranging things just so. This is a marvelous way of giving back to the Church and it finds favor by all who pass our way and take in the beauty of our gardens. The Williams Family, LeWayne, Earl and Eason were hard at work on Halloween day, scrubbing the bathrooms till they sparkled and vacuuming the carpets cleaner than clean. Bob Kalicki, Jeff Westerheide and Gary Lackey (who is not a member of this community) continue to make sure the Food Pantry is ready and waiting for our guests. The choir rehearses on Wednesday nights with Mary Fletcher-Gomez leading and directing. Cyndi DeBock makes sure the worship programs are set for our use on the weekend with Pat Kalicki and Tameica Williams contributing their wisdom and insight to the cause. The Order of St. Luke provides us healing and anointing on a monthly basis and now shares this sacred gift with the good people of Asbury Court. Jennifer Brundige, Tess Setchell, Ray Malecek and Bob Kalicki oversee our finances. Hank Mandziara tends to the building and grounds, checking things over and making sure all is as it should be. Douglas VanHouten, with watchful and skillful eye gets News From Nick set to mail out each week without fail.

There are those who share their faith with Varied Voices once a month. Tony Begonja and Hal Stratton share their musical gifts with us on various Saturdays at our 4:30 Liturgy. Val Gruenwald leads our young people and children in Formation. Connie Nicholas leads us in Bible Study and Steve Gruenwald shares his special gifts in our Contemporary Conversations and Issues once a month. So many others are lectors at our weekend Liturgies, proclaiming Sacred Scripture as the Living Word of God that it truly is. The Support Groups contribute their fair share in helping to sustain our church financially as well as mowing the lawns and taking care of the snow on weekends, too. The Bishop’s Committee, Building Committee, Outreach Committee, Liturgy Team and Altar Guild are all hard at work doing what is needed to ensure our future be bright and enduring. And there are others who pledge, contribute, tithe and provide as they can, when they can and as they can. All of us, each and every one of us is a blessing to this church and in turn, we are a blessing to one another. Forgive me if I have overlooked anyone. Truly, my desire and intent is to mention all of us, whether directly or indirectly, because we are all part of the body of Christ, that which makes this church alive, breathing and growing. My immense thanks to each and every one of us who contributes so much, so often and so lovingly.

No my friends, there are no mummies here. No burnt offerings to any deity whatsoever. No secret passageways that leads to any hidden chamber or anteroom. Rather, there is a living and breathing entity at 1072 Ridge Avenue that bears witness to the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of David…our God and the Son, Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit, all of whom we worship, give praise and thank for Their presence, Their love and Their gifts which are eternal and ever-lasting.



Father Manny150

Clergy Corner:

This is my favorite time of year. Yes, I'm aware I've said and written this opening line, each October, for the past few years. Forgive my repetition my good friends. However, I really do love this time of year and I merely wish to share my happiness with the people who mean so much to me. This past Sunday was a most joyful time at St. Nicholas. Our guest Courtney Reid assured me she had a grand time with us. Courtney sat in on our Bishop's Committee meeting, offered some sound advice and proved to be a most welcomed presence. She was impressed with our choir and sang loudly, and with Episcopal pride. Courtney found Holy Innocents Hall to be large, inviting and a great gathering place and she absolutely loved our worship space. She said the church was "warm and comfortable, a holy peaceful place, like being home." I couldn't agree more. After worship, there was more joyful noise in the Hall. Then again, a fresh Jarosch cake will always brings smiles and peals of happy noise. People stayed, talked, drank all the coffee, shared conversations and had fun. In the parish office our cracker-jack team was busy counting the offering and checking the books, making sure all is done just right. Next door in the pantry room, the Outreach Team was meeting, planning and setting a successful course for the church and making sure our presence in the Village is clear and well defined. After locking things up, turning off all the lights, making sure all is as it should be, I set out for St. Alexius Hospital in nearby Hoffman Estates to spend some time with Vernon. When I arrived, he was sitting up, half asleep, watching the football game. I gently touched his arm to awaken him. He smiled and took my hand. We prayed, I shared Jesus in the Holy Communion, blessed him, gave him a hug goodbye and set off for home. It was close to 4pm when I finally made it back home. A long day to say the least, but a long day very well spent. Since I hadn't eaten anything all day -- aside from a piece of cake that was given me after worship -- my appetite had been nudged, to say the least. Douglas had prepared a homemade, fresh chicken pot pie, baked the old fashioned way in a large, vintage oven skillet. It was amazing. I could have eaten the whole thing, as my hunger was that vast. I resisted. I did not fall victim to temptation and I made no late night raids to the fridge for another piece. It was dark, the winds had picked up and the night was calling me. So, pulling on my running shoes, I ventured out into that Sunday night and set out for a long and leisurely walk. It was so refreshing. With what little I have atop this 57-year-old head, the winds till managed to sweep my hair this way and that. The trees swayed to and fro and leaves blew up into miniature "dust devils," which is all the more appropriate as Halloween is soon upon us. Nothing to be afraid of. After all, it's just God's handiwork on display. God's mighty hand playing with the very things He created. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. The more I walked, the warmer I felt which helped take the night chill out of the equation. At one point, I could not resist the urge to jump into a large pile of leaves that had blown together. It was joyful. Letting my child-like abandon take hold and direct my action made me feel all the more energized and refreshed. I could have walked the entire night. Yet, that would be a bit much. In fact, it would almost be selfish on my part; to take in so much of a good thing and not leave a little bit for the next day. Like the homemade chicken pot pie that was waiting in the fridge, I'll have more of that later and enjoy it even more so. And I will go out again and take another long walk, let the wind push me on and quite likely jump into another pile of crisp leaves that extends an invitation to me to come on in, enjoy, and be a kid again. Autumn is color and sound, touches of brilliant red and burnt orange, vibrant yellows; and all these colors splashed across an earthly canvas. Winds that still have some warmth to them but slowly and assuredly inching more toward the north and producing a bite that will leave us chilled. And with that chill, we'll think and wish of new life and early spring blossoms just making their way into the world. We'll ponder warmer temps and the longer days of summer, followed closely by autumn again. All of this is God's gift to us, the cycle of the seasons...enjoy and savor all of it. Hey, did I tell you, this is my favorite time of year? Amen.



Father Manny150