Archive for March, 2023

Passing it Down?

Posted: March 21, 2023 in World On The Edge


On my kitchen counter is a stone bowl on a stem–a fruit and vegetable compote that once belonged to my mother, and her mother before her. In it, I keep bananas and tomatoes, same as my mother did.

Some of the tomatoes are still green when I put them in the bowl, but that’s okay because the bananas have a way of ripening them. My mother likened it to friendship and love. “One ripens first and then helps the other along.”


And like her, I cannot waste the uneaten bananas. I simply cannot bring myself to discard a banana only because it’s past its prime for peeling and eating. I have to make something else out of it. Banana nut bread, muffins, cake—something!

Naturally, my children always liked this family quirk, when an aging fruit they might have discarded is changed into something fresh, new–and edible.

A couple of days ago, I noticed three spotted bananas snuggled against my home-grown, reddening tomatoes. I took the bananas and mashed them. I added flour, sugar, milk, egg, baking powder and pecans.

When I took the loaf from the oven, I set it beside the stone compote where the bananas had once influenced the green tomatoes to turn red. It smelled so good. It looked so good. And in half an hour, it would probably be eaten and gone.

There is nothing that’s useless, or past its prime. There is no experience, no matter how painful that we cannot learn from. There is no seemingly spoiled situation that cannot be benefitted from or perhaps even changed. Everything holds the potential of something new and fresh within it. Something we can pass on to those we love.

When she died, my mother’s closets and drawers were filled with “stuff.” ‘Stuff” she saw value in. Value in an old, torn school picture. Value in a hand-drawn birthday card, or a baby shoe, or a high school scrap book. Value in a postcard, and a menu from the old Dixie Sherman Hotel in Panama City, FL where she and my father spent their wedding night before he left for the Pacific in WWII. All those seemingly unimportant things held memory and a story that went with it

But how does all that “stuff” get transformed into something new? 

All those timeworn things are now in my closets and drawers, in my trunks and cabinets, even shoved under my beds. Those old keepsakes now pass memory to me. They create something new in me, not about a past reality, but a fresh way of seeing reality in the present and the future. And so, as a mother and grandmother, I pass it down — in stories, in a touch or a hug, in a word of confidence.

This is in the essence of every human being: that he is capable of passing down intelligence, imagination, and emotion to other human beings. A reminder though—the passing can be for better, or worse. 

Often, we’re unaware of this, but we should give it attention because it’s how we can spur the better parts of our culture and beliefs to our children and their children, and not the worst ones. Hopefully, “the something new” we pass onto them is bound up in love.


file2321234734336Everyone wants to be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day. But did you know Saint Patrick was a slave? Here’s the story from the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Patrick was born around 385 in Scotland, probably Kilpatrick. His parents were Calpurnius and Conchessa, who were Romans living in Britian in charge of the colonies.

As a boy of fourteen or so, he was captured during a raiding party and taken to Ireland as a slave to herd and tend sheep. Ireland at this time was a land of Druids and pagans. He learned the language and practices of the people who held him.

During his captivity, he turned to God in prayer. He wrote

“The love of God and his fear grew in me more and more, as did the faith, and my soul was rosed, so that, in a single day, I have said as many as a hundred prayers and in the night, nearly the same.” “I prayed in the woods and on the mountain, even before dawn. I felt no hurt from the snow or ice or rain.”

Patrick’s captivity lasted until he was twenty, when he escaped after having a dream from God in which he was told to leave Ireland by going to the coast. There he found some sailors who took him back to Britian, where he reunited with his family.

He had another dream in which the people of Ireland were calling out to him “We beg you, holy youth, to come and walk among us once more.”

He began his studies for the priesthood. He was ordained by St. Germanus, the Bishop of Auxerre, whom he had studied under for years.

Later, Patrick was ordained a bishop, and was sent to take the Gospel to Ireland. He arrived in Ireland March 25, 433, at Slane. One legend says that he met a chieftain of one of the tribes, who tried to kill Patrick. Patrick converted Dichu (the chieftain) after he was unable to move his arm until he became friendly to Patrick.

Patrick began preaching the Gospel throughout Ireland, converting many. He and his disciples preached and converted thousands and began building churches all over the country. Kings, their families, and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity when hearing Patrick’s message.

Patrick by now had many disciples, among them Beningnus, Auxilius, Iserninus, and Fiaac, (all later canonized as well).

Patrick preached and converted all of Ireland for 40 years. He worked many miracles and wrote of his love for God in Confessions. After years of living in poverty, traveling and enduring much suffering he died March 17, 461.

He died at Saul, where he had built the first church.

Why a shamrock on Saint Patrick’s day?

Patrick used the three leaves of the shamrock to explain the Trinity, and has been associated with him and the Irish since that time.

Patrick was a humble, pious, gentle man, whose love and total devotion to and trust in God can be a shining example to each of us. He feared nothing, not even death, so complete was his trust in God, and of the importance of his mission.


“Danny Boy” is a ballad set to an ancient Irish melody. The words were written over a hundred years ago by English songwriter Frederic Weatherly and usually set to the Irish tune of the “Londonderry Air.” It was published in 1913, a year before millions of people were finding themselves having to say goodbye to people who they hoped against hope that they might one day see again due to World War I.

The theme of longing also struck a chord with many Irish emigrants who headed to America to escape the famine back home. Through the decades, the song became woven into the cultural fabric of the U.S. and beyond, often as a final farewell.

Elvis said he thought “Danny Boy” was written by angels and asked for it to be played at his funeral.  At Princess Diana’s church service, the words were different, but the haunting melody of “The Londonderry Aire,” the same.

And after the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, the strains of “Danny Boy” rose from the memorial services of so many Irish-American police and firefighters who were among the victims.–CBS news, 2013

bookcoverIn good Catholic fiction, characters live in a broken world, like ours today, and they are fallible people, as we are. What’s key though is that real Truths shine through the fictional story–Truths about the beauty and mystery of God and His presence.  God is now, and always will be, present to characters in Catholic Fiction, just as He is for us in real life even when we sin.

There are plenty of sinners in my novels, plenty of broken people.  One of my favorites is Sarah Neal Bridgeman , a main character in A Hunger in the Heart. I’d like to talk about her today, and to point out that God never leaves this character alone, even in her sinfulness—just as he never leaves you and I alone.

Sarah Neal Bridgeman is an alcoholic, a vindictive mother and wife. This is a woman who’s lost a lot. And because she’s prideful and somewhat narcissistic, she can’t handle that loss. She’d like to, but she just can’t let go of her own self-importance and prejudices. Yet, she doesn’t let God go either.

Her greatest loss is in the deficiency of the perfect husband she used to have before he was wounded and left with PTSD from World War II.  Sarah Neal wants her husband to be like he was. She prays for it. She surrounds herself with symbols of God. She wears a crucifix around her neck and hangs one in every room of her house. But Sarah Neal is a person, like many of us, who want to blame someone else for her sorrows.

Surprisingly, she doesn’t blame God. She never says, “Why did God do this to me!” Instead, she blames the soldier her husband saved in the war. She even blames her alcoholism on this soldier.

And her drinking affects everyone around her, especially her son, Coleman. Her sin changes her, just as sin changes us. God still loves her, but she can’t love him as she ought to because whiskey has become her primary love. Addictions do that. They take over our lives.

God’s grace is available to Sarah Neal, as it is for all of us. He waits for us to take it. The problem is, until we lose our pride and see ourselves as the sinner—-until we notice we’re the only one in the room responsible for our sins—-we can’t recognize that Grace so we don’t reach for it. And just like Sarah Neal, if we don’t recognize and reach for grace, how can we use it in our lives?

If you’ve read the novel, you know what happens to Sarah Neal, as well as to the man she blames for all her troubles. If you haven’t read it and would like to . . .

In real life, if we take a truthful look at ourselves, we will see our sins and how they affect others. That truthful look at ourselves can cause us to change our behaviors and return to the God who loves us. The God who waits for us with open arms may use the most common places to get our attention. He may speak to us through people we love or even those we’d never expect to care. He is, after all, a God of surprises.