Monday, September 30, 2013

The prodigal pope

Have you read the story of the prodigal son recently? I keep thinking of it as I contemplate the Popes new article that was published last week. It is causing quite a stir in the Catholic world, and outside of  it as well. Lots of faithful Catholics are indignant that the Holy Father said we should focus on the gospel message before all else and are apologizing for him everywhere, liberals are certain he has just changed every rule in the church and erased thousands of years of history to conform to their desires.

 If you read the story  of the prodigal son, you might be inclined to think the father had one awful son, and one pretty good son. But if you look a little closer you might find that the father really had two lost sons. One who left his house and made it obvious, and another who got lost within the very walls of his father's house. 

Lost is lost.

Neither of the sons knew who their father really was, and they certainly couldn't get their head around his merciful heart. 

One felt unworthy to be called his son.

 The other felt entitled. 

Both got it wrong. 

But the story is about the father, and his relentless desire to have them both in his home. Try not to get distracted by which brother is better off, remember instead that they are both lost. Watch the father and how he treats them both; first lets take the younger brother: 

"And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion and running to him fell upon his neck and kissed him. " (Luke 15:20)

And now the 'faithful' older brother hears this news and won't even go within his fathers house! But the  father once again  acts:

"His father therefore coming out began to entreat him."
( Luke 15:28)

The story is about the father with two lost sons. Sometimes we can fall in serous sin, intentionally or not, and come marching back home simply because we have no other place to go and  we feel really, really, desperate. That is one kind of lost. 

And sometimes we can sit in church pews for so long praying our rosary and checking off our good deeds, that we are righteous enough to think we know better than the Pope, and demand of him to give us a kid goat for our years of service. That is another kind of lost. 

I'm pretty certain that Pope Francis doesn't care which kind of lost you are, he just wants you to come home. And that is really, really great. Because I am all kinds of lost. And I'm not afraid to admit it.
I'm lost.
I want to go home.
I need a father.
How about you?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Letting go

I'm being asked to let go of  so much right now in my life. First my Mom. Now Greg.  Just after we buried Greg last week, we packed up my Moms house. It is sold already and awaiting a closing date. A lifetime of memories divided into boxes and bags. It all feels hard and strange. Like my siblings and I have suddenly been tossed ashore on a new land where we don't know the language and cant quite get our bearings. 

Greg suffered so long. He was such a complex person, and the five years of his illness took a toll on our whole family. But the last six weeks of his life were filled with a peace that had alluded him in years gone by, and one that gave all of us such comfort to finally see him grasp. When God does things, He does them right, and  there is no mistaking it.I know God had really touched his heart as he was changed  into such a loving, forgiving, patient soul.  The transformation was really striking, especially to his siblings. 

I have been reflecting on this ever since he drew his last breath. I wish I could find words to share with you. Words to touch your own heart and make you feel as confident as I do in the mercy of God I have just encountered. I wish I could take you to his bedside, and let you watch him as he chose to put away old gripes and grudges, and choose instead  to love, and forgive, and ask forgiveness of, the people God had given him in this life.
I wish I could show you how God had calmed the stormy seas of Greg's heart, and then let us walk across those stilled waters to meet him in faith.

I wish I could show you how God took an ordinary and often broken family and used them to pour an extraordinary amount of grace into the world. Each of my siblings working all day, long hours, and then driving over to our childhood home to spend the night with an ailing brother. Most of those night were entirely sleepless ones, and yet each one met with joy and patience, and a smile to ease any of Greg's fears, or help his agonized body feel a bit more comfort. 

I wish I could show you the happiness of my family as we cooked dinner together in the kitchen, and tore through old photo albums, and pretended for Greg's sake that life hadn't taken us twenty years into the future where we had our own families, jobs, children, worries, and cares to contend with, and instead gave that up for those precious few weeks of his life so he could feel home once again in his heart.  Greg's heart needed to be oriented towards home, and love, and a God of mercy, and forgiveness, and tenderness. And in the end,we all know deep inside, that is best of all shown to us through our family.

I wish I could show you the care that family and friends, and sometimes perfect strangers, poured out on us as we struggled to handle the last weeks of his illness.

I wish I could explain to you how my heart felt  when he asked me on Saturday last  "Ellen, am I dying?" and I had to answer him calmly "Yes, Greg, you're very close now." and hold his hand firmly to reassure him he wouldn't do it alone. 

I wish I could show you the final smile left on his face as he breathed his last breath, telling us all he had seen something ahead, that was better than anything he had left behind. 

I wish I could show you the courage it took for my heart-broken brothers to carry him down the aisle of the church to his final resting place, next to my Mom and Dad. Or show you my sisters clinging bravely to one another as they marched him out of our church and lives.

I have wondered what the message of Greg's life was. I believe the message was mercy. These last weeks have shown me so clearly that our existence is not defined by single moments of bad judgment, or sinfulness, or petty disputes, but rather by our ability to ask for, receive, and extend mercy to one another. And even should we do that at a late hour, we have a father in heaven not simply ready, but anxious to greet us in his embrace.


Sunday, September 22, 2013


There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables 
Where my friends will meet no more.

Phantom faces at the windows.
Phantom shadows on the floor.
Empty chairs at empty tables.
Where my friends will meet no more.

There's a grief that can't be spoken.
There's a pain goes on and on...
                                (Les Miserables)

Gregory William Rogan
December 29th, 1967-September 16th, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013


I saw this neat video about jellybeans on one of my friends walls last week. It illustrates our time here on earth pretty succinctly, and helps to show -hopefully-how to treasure the days, things, and people in each day you are given. I'll link it at the end so you can tell me what you think. Anyway, it got me thinking I'd like to spend some of my jellybeans with my family so,  I spent the last five days with Greg and my siblings  in New York. We took advantage of the Labor Day weekend to grab our freshly opened school books and use them on the beach. At least Fred did. I stayed with Greg while he played teacher for a few days. I might as well have asked him to walk across broken glass, as Freddy finds school so hateful. But he loves me, so he did.

And- our washing machine broke right before we left. As it turns out, its not one of those things that heals itself. I knew when I got home I would be facing the same mountain I left behind, only dog tired. We left anyway. I wasn't going to waste any jellybeans.

The time with Greg and the others popping in and out was rewarding. I wont say easy, as tears spilled across too many faces, on too many days, to make it that. But it was rewarding in so many ways. Fred too, seemed to do well with the kiddos on the beach.

And so we came home this afternoon to that dreadful situation with the washing machine. And no sooner did we get through the door than we both sighed at each other, and headed back out to the appliance sales at all the major department stores in hopes we'd find a good deal. And a thousand dollars later-even with the sales- we found what we needed, and put it in our van, and drove back home. We spent more time bringing it into the house, maneuvering it through doors,and hallways, and landing it in the laundry room to replace the old one. Tired  wonderful Fred pulled old faithful out of the wall, only to hear a giant GLURP, and turned giving me a weird contorted face.I wasn't sure what it meant. He had already replaced the motor before we left and it didn't repair the problem, but apparently he loosed something from the drainage hose that might after all that trouble, solve the problem!

We said a quick prayer, held our breath, and clicked our heels together three times before we started the watery,whirling machine. Lo and behold, it worked! Yahoo, and praise God. I cannot tell you how happy Fred was to not need a new washing machine. He would've been happy all night if the kids hadn't done what they did next. When Fred went to pack  back up the new washing machine, he found them using the packing and all the bits and pieces inside the box as an obstacle course in the backyard- (Hey,who could possibly resist a new giant box and all that Styrofoam?)  He kinda  lost it, but just a little.

He'll return the new washer in the morning. It really is true that sometimes losing something is what it takes to make us grateful for it. Remember, that doesn't just count for washing machines.