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One Reader Less

One Reader Less

    In days of yore when teaching a confirmation class, coming to that place in the Gospel where Jesus celebrates God's great mercy, claiming that the Almighty numbers the hairs on our head, so intimately does God care for us, I have explained to thirteen year olds that that task, counting hairs, gets easier for God as we grow older.  Let my companions in baldness say "Amen." 

    Maintaining a website is no divine endeavor, but it encourages the blogger (me) to cherish each reader, especially when they are a lot easier to number than the hairs on a seventy year old's head.  In fact, the company which supplies me with internet access also provides a program which numbers (but without identifying who) the people who have visited my site, how deeply they have delved into its pages, and how many bytes they have in aggregate digested.  Needless to say, dear reader, considering Critical Christian's less than overwhelming hits, you are a dear reader. 

    And it hurts to lose one.

    Especially one who arrived without solicitation or previous pastoral connection.  Alice O'Brien, grandmother to twin Henry and Robert's twin friends, Dan and Mike Conway, died recently and somewhat suddenly in Savannah GA after a two year battle with cancer.  She was 70 years young.  And I write that "young" intentionally: her online address "Grangoes" accurately describes her spirit, a grandmother ready to go hither and yon in pursuit of the love and joy to be found everywhere in God's creation, but nowhere more surely than in West Hartford, where one of her children and three of her grandchildren welcomed her at least twice yearly.

    Which is where I first met Alice, at a Little League game at, appropriately, considering the inclusiveness of her love of neighbor, the West Hartford Solomon Schecter School playing field.  Either I gave her one of my business cards or her daughter, Carroll Conway, showed her where to find me on the Internet.  However it came to be, she was one of my most enthusiastic readers and responders.  Here is one such response, an Emailed message from September 2004:

Was just delighted to find your review of St. Peter Claver and to find that perhaps the Papists arenít quite as different from The Wesley bunch as we used to think.  Iíve been to St. Peter with Carroll for the music, which is undeniably good.  I understand, maybe, wrongly, that they have some professionals among their parishioners.  My Conway youngíuns go to St. Tim's and I think Carroll is one of those hootenanny people.  (I donít ask too many questions of adult children). Seriously, she sings with a folk group.  Iíve been thru several stages on the music bit.  Back 25 years ago the St. Louis Jesuits did a lot of folk style music, which at the time seemed so new and innovative and affected a whole generation of young RC's.  Since I have attained my majority Ė donít you think 70 is major? - I find myself admiring the traditional and classical music of our churches - yours and mine.  I have a number of choices as to where I go to church and I refer to myself sometimes as a roamíní Catholic.  I live in the shadow of the Cathedral of St. John, the Baptist.  My husband grew up there, I was baptized there, we were married there, and we have a long family history there. Often, this is where I go, but unfortunately the sermons are often not great and the acoustics are lousy.  So Iíll go down the road apiece to Sacred Heart where the priest speaks Spanish as well as English, both with an Irish brogue, and the music is not consistently anything - maybe Spanish, maybe folk, maybe the remnants of the Savannah Symphony.  I find the diversity so interesting and I truly believe that God hears us all. Best to Barbara, Betsy, the boys and my favorite Methodist minister next to Bishop Pierce and my great-grandfather.    Alice O'Brien

    As you can infer, Alice's ancestral roots may have been Methodist, but her denominational loyalty throughout her growing years and her maturity was Roman Catholic, not the easiest of spiritual routes to travel in Georgia.  Being something of an outsider, she warmed to my essays about reaching out beyond the borders of our religious and racial identities.  My review, a positive one, of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in West Hartford, elicited from her the generously approving Email quoted above.

    I shall miss "Grangoes" cheering from the Southern sidelines.  But I shall take comfort in the thought that Dan and Mike's (Elizabeth and the other grands too!) guardian angel now always interceding for them before the throne of God may find a minute or two now and then to squeeze in a good word for me. 




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