Posted by: Peadar Ban | August 24, 2009

Simply Yes

I began writing this about a week or so ago as the day began to slide away. The shadows from the big maple tree next door spread slowly across my lawn and drive. It’s been very quiet, here, and very hot. After lunch Mariellen and I sat on the deck. I stretched out and leaned back looking at the sky while she read to me. We’ve been re-reading all of the Harry Potter books together; a long detective story as well as a story about love and hate, which has more power and what happens to you when you say yes to either one. I watched the clouds building up and felt a cool breeze move along the ground, among the trees, and thought of the Holy Ghost, another story about love, hate and power.

Not the Holy Spirit? Nope, the Holy Ghost. That was the name Marge used the day before, Friday, when I brought Communion to her and her husband and we prayed. Marge must be in her 80’s. I know her husband, Larry, is 99. His fastball is gone, but he still has the slider and the change-up. He can still play, and, he emphasized when he heard me use the neo-logism for the Third Person, it’s still the Holy Ghost around him. They’ve been doing it, now, for 63 years together. Some game.

Larry got a couple of days off to fly out to LA from New York City and marry her back in 1946, shortly after he got out of the Service. He’d met her a while before after a drive out there with a priest friend of his, no small thing back then. And, as he said, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. She was a Catholic girl from Minnesota doing something in the movies. She tore all of that up to marry this guy from the city, and never look back. They went back to New York after a one night Honeymoon in the apartment Marge shared with her friend.

I saw the picture they took that day. She, a cute redhead, and him with curly black hair, smiling. “It’s been a sixty three year long yes, I will,” he said. He still calls her “My Doll”, and sounds like an old Bogart film when he does it. She sits quietly, smiling, listening once more to the story he’s told me three times, now, and how many thousands of times over the years.

Well, why not?

I thought of the Holy Ghost, as I said, and August’s great feast, the Assumption, and about what took place at Mass in the morning that day. There was a new priest on the altar, a fellow I had seen once or twice before, filling in here and there. He looked very distinguished with his neat white beard and neat white hair and neat white vestments. He strode out, not processing, in a commanding and significant way.

Anyway, the Mass went on and we got to the homily. I’m not too good on details but I remember the fellow starting off by telling us he’d read Maria Shriver’s eulogy for her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. He said what struck him most, after telling us that Shriver said her mother liked to play tackle football and smoke Cuban cigars, was that her heroes were, in this order, her brother Jack, Mother Teresa and the Blessed Mother.

I suppose she knew her brother, the President, better than most of us did, and admired him for things only she would know about. And I waited for the link to come between Eunice Shriver, Mother Teresa, Cuban cigars, John Kennedy and the Blessed Mother. For the life of me I cannot remember if Father made any real connection. He did make a little joke about Our Lady probably not smoking cigars, but there was not much more to what he had to say.

I kind of thought he had missed the point of it all. Pictures I see of Mrs. Shriver show me a lady with a big smile. Little old Mother Teresa had a lovely smile, too. I thought about both of them, and what seemed to give them so much pleasure. It certainly wasn’t Cubans…or cigars. What wasn’t the fellow mentioning? Their smiles reminded me of Marge and Larry; her sitting to one side quietly smiling at him while he tells “The Story” another time.

So, I did the thing I often find myself doing while the homilist is doing his best. I gave my own homily to me. I’ll share it with you, now. You are, of course, permitted to hit the delete button. Or, better yet react in the form of a comment:

I have to say that until today I didn’t ever give much thought to the fact that Mary, that woman who is the mother of Jesus, lives now with Christ unchanged from the way she was on earth. Her body has not decayed, and, as it is with the rest of us, she does not “wait in joyful hope” for the Second Coming of the Lord, and the Triumph of Light.

I begin to think that in some sense she had already begun to know what that would be while she was alive here on earth, and I wonder, as I think about Mary, unchanged and unchanging, now, perfect as her Father is perfect, why. How is it that Mary is as she is?

What was, is, so special about her?

I can only come to some conclusions about this by thinking of what sometimes happens to me. A recent story will illustrate this, I hope. A couple of days ago we had invited someone to the house. We wanted to make this visit, our guest’s first visit to our home, a special one. So, the day before we spent some time fixing up the place and preparing several dishes to serve. We looked forward to welcoming him sometime around 9:00am, and staying with him through an early lunch.

Now, much of what we had to do involved a lot of standing in the kitchen, and much of that had to be done after I’d been standing at work for a few hours. On the best days I hurt, and standing hurts more, so I wasn’t too keen to begin the work. But, I did. I put aside, sort of, my own feelings about what would be good and thought of this person we would host; what would be good for him. Funnily enough, as the work continued I forgot about my pain and began to enjoy myself.

We finished preparing the several dishes and put them away for the next day, thinking that a good beginning to a nice day had been made. We had a plan. We went to bed expectant and happy.

How nice, you might say. And your point, Peter?

The next day, after Mass, our guest approached us and said he couldn’t come; an unexpected appointment, a scheduling foul-up had occurred. Not to worry, Dear Reader, because instead of arriving at 9:00am, we were able to welcome him for a real lunch at 11:30am, and a leisurely visit until nearly 1:00pm.

I hear your question repeated.

My point is simply this. I find nothing of coincidence or luck in things like this when they happen. No, I find God in these details. That is I find Him when I think about it, and when, but not only when, things have a “happy ending” as they did here. That is something relatively new with me, but, I suspect, it wasn’t so with Her.

I am close to the end. I mentioned “happy endings” above. During the last nine months of our marriage, Sheila and I spent almost every hour of every day in each other’s company. She was slowly dying, and I was doing my best to take care of her. Mostly what I was was a witness to her slow dying and a servant of her needs. As much as I could, as well as I could, I simply said yes to what the moment required.

A few years later I visited Knock in Ireland with my wife, Mariellen. I was struck by the representation of the vision on the wall of the church where it had taken place; the vision John Paul II had called the most perfect representation of Mary. Nothing was said during that time, you know. She simply stood together with St. John and St. Joseph, two other witnesses, two other servants, and watched; her presence giving assent.

The point is, I suppose to simply say yes. It was her way; in good times and bad, the lowly handmaid doing what the moment required.


  1. peter:i was surpised you did not emphasize”patience.”the bvm had it in the usa ,we want what and we want NOW.the lord’s sense of time is beyond us.we must take what we can when it is given.and then,we must look for the good in of my favorite people at fairfield had a mass said today at noon.i did not go.i had cried my tears 10 days ago when her death at 51 was 1st announced.i have prayed for her patiently for that period.i feared i would bawl like a child had i gone.i am content in believing the holy ghost watches over her.i prayed i will see her again-but i must wait,patiently,jfm

    • Jim,

      How to answer. First, I must apologize for not saying a word about patience, or, perhaps, patient endurance. But, the case can be made that patience, along with a lot of other things, is understood by the simple “Yes.” This I believe. In a recent book, Raniero Cantalamessa, “Mary Mirror of the Church”, writes about two titles of Mary. here in the West she is called the Immaculate, meaning there is no stain at all to be found in her. She is pure. The Orthodox, he writes, know her as the Panaghia..the All Holy. He explains that this “emphasizes the presence of all virtue in her”. Well, why not?

      It was part of what I was trying to say in my little piece. When we get out of God’s way, we do, indeed, become more virtuous. Being more united in live with Him, then, we would, of necessity, see everything, no matter what, as a good; even the loss of a beloved friend at the tender age of fifty one, or a wife after fouteen years fightinga disease, or a guest who had to come at a different time.

  2. Loved it Peter. What is a wonder, is how many opportunities God gives us to just say Yes. Infinite from our puny human perspective.

    • Hello Mike,

      Spot on about “how many opportunities God gives us to just say Yes.” I suppose Purgatory is, in part, remembering and regretting all those almost infinite number of times we chose not to say, simply, yes, and thought that, instead, our own answer to the situation was the better one.

      In his novel “Perelandra” C.S. Lewis gives us a glimpse of what life would be like if we lived the other way, letting go of the good we were holding, or giving up the good we thought we wanted or needed, for the good God had for us.


      PS: nice to hear from you.

  3. Peadar,
    You were fortunate that your bishop was not one of those who had forbidden the holy day of obligation of the Assumption because the people would not come. More likely the bishops wanted to play golf. I confess I look forward to Our Lord putting their feet to the fire for disrespecting His Mother.

    I got into the habit of carrying the new thick Catechism to Mass. That way I could read it when the sermon was boring also during the bad hymns.

    I have not given up the Holy Ghost.

    • Actually, Gabriel, our bishop had joined most of the others. Our pastor chose to keep holy the day…


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