Yesterday we had our final farewell to Jim Cornett. The context of my homily was a quote that I saw in his notes. It was his handwriting and it was ticked behind another sheet of paper in an album. It said, “No one can take away what the heart once owned.” I was pretty moved and motivated by those words and will not soon forget them. In Jim’s case, it was true. He had lost a lot of memory because of Alzheimer’s disease, yet even that could not take away what the heart once owned – that is who is was, the core of his being. Jim was (in no particular order) a storyteller, a writer, a singer, performer, husband, grandfather, friend, father, proud Windsorite, servant of God. All of that remained even though Jim could not recall all of it. The joy in his eyes and the love in his heart were evidence to the fact that “no one could take away what the heart once owned.” In Jim dying, we were also reminded that “no one could take away what the heart once owned.” Hettie and Dave and Jane and Tim have been saying goodbye to Jim for a while. Yesterday we had an opportunity to offer him a proper goodbye. We cried, and we laughed. We sang and we prayed. We told stories. We lived. We bore witness to all that Jim was to us, and in that we proved again those simple words scrawled on a piece of ripped paper in Jim’s Album – “No one can take away what the heart once owned.”
I was also conscious of the fact that yesterday was the anniversary of Catherinanne’s Grandmother’s death. It was our first year in St. Clair Beach, 1998. She was a tremendous woman and her dying was really hard for Catherinanne and her family. It was especially hard for Grandpa Foltz who had to say farewell to his sweetheart and his soul mate. I remember when Catherinanne and I were first dating and we made our first trip to Petoskey, MI to visit them. I was so impressed with the fact that they got up early together and went to daily Mass. They really did pray together. They in fact did a whole lot together and I found in them both loving caring Grandparents who I was and am happy to have in my life. We all miss Grandma a lot especially on weekends like this one. Grandpa’s birthday is actually January 2nd. On his birthday in 1998 he had to say goodbye to his wife Louise. Today we celebrated Grandpa Foltz’s 90th birthday. Clarence Foltz will be 90 come the second day of 2007! Today it was not lost on him or any of us there that Grandma is missed. Yet as we celebrated today, Jim Cornett’s words echoed in my ears. “No one can take away what the heart once owned.” While she has gone from us, her influence was with us today. Many of her family (The Beyer) came to give their best wishes. The influence that she had on her son Clarence Michael (my Father-in-law), and her daughters Regina, Meribeth, and Suzanne was evidenced today in the way they cared so tenderly for their father. Today’s events too will be added to the moments that our hearts now own. And no one can ever take that away.Happy Birthday Grandpa! You are a great man and you and Grandma have brought a lot of love to your family, your friends and to the world. You are a great witness to faith and I wish to have the faith that you own. May God Bless you with many more years of loving and laughing. You are a treasure to all of us.
Where ever you are tonight, what ever your plans, as you ready yourself for 2007, remember the words tat Jim placed on that note. We may all miss someone like Jim, or like Grandma Foltz. We may well be struggling with losing someone special. We may even be fighting a difficult battle. No matter – remember – “No one can take away what the heart once owned.”
Hans Christian Anderson said, “A human life is a story told by God.” That saying comes to my mind today as my day comes to a close. Today I have helped to make ready to take time to reflect on the story of Jim Cornett. Jim was known to many in the Windsor Community as a storyteller himself. Jim shared many stories as a writer for Windsor Star. He is father to Jane Cornett who is Director of Youth Ministry at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. Jane and her brother’s Tim and David and their families and their Mom Hettie have all been doing the hard work of getting set for a funeral. They remain in my prayers at this most difficult time. (I just wrote on December 23 about the harsh reality of grieving through the holidays and now we are in the midst of it again. Please pray for this family over the days and weeks ahead)
In each human life there is a piece of God’s love unfurled. Each person is indeed a story. In the next two days I know I will come to know more of the story that God told in Jim Cornett. I have only known Jim for a short time. That said, Jim had Alzheimer’s disease and much of his own story Jim had forgotten. So I had not the opportunity to experience the fullness of Jim’s story in his telling. But the beauty of a story is that it is shared by many. The wonder of the story that God’s tells in our lives, is that the story is different depending on who the storyteller is. At a time like this I do love hearing people recount the story of a human life. I love it because it is an important part of God’s story. I know that in the next two days I will come to know a little more of God’s story and the role that Jim Cornett played in it. If you know Jane or her family you may wish to also come to hear party of that story… or perhaps to tell some of that story. Jim will be waked at the Marcotte Funeral Home and Chapel in Tecumseh from 2-5 PM and 7-9 PM on Thursday December 28, 2006. And again from 10 AM till the time of the Funeral Requiem at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake at 11:00 AM. Please join on the story! Nothing will take away the pain of a family in grief. Yet, we all want to be able to do something for those who grieve. Edmund Burke insists that, “The true way to mourn the dead is to take care of the living who belong to them.” And I say that the best thing we can do to take care of the grieving is to be present for them.
If you need more information please send me an email.
The Attached Photos were taken on Christmas Day and were provided by Jane Cornett.
Merry Christmas. Merry, Merry Christmas!
“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” ~Dr. Seuss
I love the wisdom of Dr, Seuss. Today (well yesterday by the time I post this) is a reminder that Christmas does “mean a little bit more” In the past weeks we may have all gotten our puzzlers sore as we moved from store to store, from the office Christmas party, to the social club’s Christmas party, to the Board Parties etc, to the many trips to see Santa, to the various movies and ads and all that goes with it. Our puzzlers are almost certain to be sore as we sort out the confusion when Christmas finally arrives. You see, we have for the past eight weeks now been sold a message that Christmas is about boxes and bags, about ribbons and tags, about consumption and about stuff. Yet December 25 comes and we are all like children again. No matter our age. Christmas comes, and even though year after year we feel the same stress and anxiety about getting ready we spend our Christmas in giddiness. This is a great day as it causes all of us to stop and take pause to celebrate family and friends and the goodness of humanity. We come to know on the day itself that “Christmas does not come from a store.” Christmas does indeed mean “a little bit more.”
I find this time hard to be so far away from my family. I managed it for quite a while. You get a little more accustomed to being separated from your family after some years pass. A few years ago we decided to get back to Newfoundland for a Christmas. That was followed by a second one. And then last year a trip not long after Christmas. That has made it hard to be away, all over again. I know that tomorrow (well today now really), Boxing Day all of my Family will be together and we will miss them sorely. This year we will not get to Newfoundland over the blessed season. There is no explaining with simple words how much you miss being somewhere when you really want to be there.
Grinch came to realize that there was an intangible; there was an inexpressible and undefined gift in Christmas that surpassed the simplistic message of the commercial reality that so many of us focus on. That intangible is what makes it hard to be away from those you love. In reality it is as hard to be separated from family on November 25 as it is on December 25. In reality it is true that we miss our loved ones when we do not see them on an ongoing basis, no matter the time of year. But in function Christmas makes it just a little tougher to be apart from the family at this time of year. That is the intangible of this time of year. It is not easily explained or defines.
“Christmas – that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance. It may weave a spell of nostalgia. Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance – a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.” Those are the words of Augusta E. Rundel. I think of everything and everyone I have loved at this time of year and it in some way explains the “little bit more” of Christmas. It is true that it puts us into a spell. The fact that we take time to mark the life and light of Jesus the Child is not lost in all of this. The incarnation, the manifestation of God’s love in human form is a part of all of that nostalgic love. We come to know God first in those that we love and in those that love us. It is only natural then that we should feel that sense so sorrow if we are not together and that sense of great jubilation if we are together.
Tonight I am relived that so many people love us. The pain we feel at being separated in tempered by the knowledge that it is that same love that makes it painful. If we were not loved and could not love we would not feel this pain of separation. It is also tempered by the love we feel in a parish family that is remarkable. We have seen the love of the Christ Child expressed over and over in the good people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake.
It has been a long coupled of days – and I have loved every minute. Yesterday I celebrated four Masses for 540 souls. Today another Mass and another 55 people. All those people seeking to put language to the intangible. We all love to know God, we all love to know that God is with us, we all wish we could puts words to all experiences – our shopping, our gift giving, our ribbons and bows, they are all attempts to express that which “means a little bit more!”
Catherinanne and I wish you a holy and Happy Christmas and a Blessed New Year. Give someone you love a little extra attention today and be sure to tell them what they mean to you. They are a part of God’s incarnation – they are expressions of God with us Emmanuel
I’m Pooped ….I’m going to Bed now!
In Newfoundland today is known as Tibb’s eve. It is a layover of the old Irish Gaelic as best as I can discover.It was an expression meaning a day that would never arrive. Expression’s like "I’ll pay you back on Tibb’s eve," are cited as examples of usage of this phrase. As people waited so long for Christmas I guess that makes some sense. Some feel the origin is ‘Tipsy Eve’ and it was so called as the men in the communities would try each other’s homebrew before Christmas to make sure and certain it was good stuff.. This theory has merit as well. Either way I know the day as Tibb’s Eve.
The day has some significance for me as it is the day on which my dear Maternal Grandmother died in 1992. I think my Nan, Winnie Whyatt was almost 86 when she died. She neither longed for big days and she never got tipsy so I really don’t know if there is any significance to her departing from us on Tibb’s eve or not. I do know what a painful time that was 14 years ago. We were separated from my Grandmother by about 500 kilometers. Mom and Dad and I had been with her for the few days prior to her death which was a result of the trauma of a broken hip. It was an awful winter in Newfoundland that year, and it snowed every day as we drove the road from Springdale where my grandmother was living to Corner Brook where she was in hospital (about 200 km). After a few days of those trips were all tired. It was hard to make the trip, but even harder when we were there as we watched her slip away. I’ll forever know when I am ministering to families who are struggling like this at this time of year what this is like. I have been there.
I still remember the call in the early morning hours of December 23 to my Aunt Willowdeen and Uncle Winston Churchill’s house. She was gone. That day I lost the only Grandmother I knew. I lost a woman who had displayed to me and to all who knew her a tremendous faith. I lost my Nan. A woman of great strength, she lived her faith as a member of the Salvation Army. She became a solider and was dedicated to the fire and blood witness of the SA and its mission. She never missed a meeting and she always lived her faith, not just at the Sunday night meetings. Nan was a strong example of seeking to find good in all people and she lived her life as a ministry. She was tender, compassionate and kind. Life was not always easy for her, but she worked hard through all of it and never lost faith. She was seamstress, a cook and baker (her pastries were the best). I miss her a lot. I have never come upon a Tibb’s eve that she has not been a big part of my day.
Nan’s funeral was on Boxing Day. I was tasked with giving a ‘tribute.’ (I did a funeral a few weeks ago where three grandchildren got up and spoke about their grandmother – my heart melted. I have been there.) The plan was for some of my siblings to make the 500 km trek to be at Nan’s funeral. It was not that easy. When I woke on Christmas day and peered out the window the snow had not let up. I knew that it would be difficult for my brothers and sisters to be there. It was going to be me with Mom and Dad. I still recall the conversation that I had with my sister Helen by telephone that Christmas Morning. Mostly she talked, and I sobbed. I so missed my family. It was the first Christmas we were not together and it was at the worst of circumstances. She confirmed that the weather was probably going to mean that she along with my other sister and my brothers would not get there.
Boxing Day came, and we journeyed to the citadel for the funeral. I was so sick with nerves. How could I speak to this great woman wnd who she was. Words could not express what Nan meant to me. The greatest Christmas miracle came right before the funeral. My two sisters came through the doors of that citadel and I was so overcome with relief I cannot describe it. Helen and Elaine and their husbands Gary and Jack (my Godfathers) left there homes at 5 in the morning and drove through snow to be there. It gave us all a lift. I still remember the look of relief on Mom’s face. They will never know how much what they did that day meant to me. I learned in that very moment how important family can be. We all need family to give us support when we need it. I knew how very much the rest of my family were with us all in spirit and I knew how much they all wanted to be there was well. When Helen and Elaine arrived that day it was as if all of my siblings arrived. They brought all of the love and prayers from home to us. Today I pray for all who face death and dying during the Christmas holiday. I pray for all who are facing their first Christmas without a loved one.
Nan will be with me today as she is on so many days. I will go to houses today offering home communion to those who will not be able to get out for Christmas services. Nan will be in communion with me as I offer the sacrament. I will use her Bible to read the Christmas story to the shut-ins today. I lost my Nan in 1992, but she has been with in so many ways me since she departed this life. This very moment is an example. Hear this –
I sat down to write this blog and was reading about Tibb’s eve when Catherinanne called and asked a question. “Is this now the 23rd of December?” Upon my response “yes,” she said “I have something to give you and I cannot wait till morning.” It is probably the sweetest thing she has ever done for me. It is a statue/doll of a Salvation Army Solder in her uniform with the Christmas Kettle. I cannot say enough how much this means to me. Firstly because I know that Nan was with us in that moment. It was as if Catherinanne knew what I was doing, knew that I was sitting here about to offer a little piece of my Grandmother to the worldwide web. Secondly, this little gift which I am told is from my dear mother as well, will remind me every time I look at it of a person who shaped in no small way much of my faith.
I think I’ll go to bed now. I hope I dream of Nan. I think I’ll read a passage or two from her bible and the cover up in one of her handmaid quilts. These things are not large, but they serve as reminders of a great witness of faith. I now have another reminder in this wonderful figurine – thank you Mom – and Thank You Catherinanne, you have made my Christmas!
An Addendum Sat at 10:10 AM
My Salvation Army solder and Kettle sit on my desk as witness to a part of what instructed my faith. This will giv eme many opportunity over the next day or so to witness about my Nanny. In reading bible last night I found this clipping –
‘If we could see, if we could know’
We often say.
But God in love a veil doth throw
Across our way.
We cannot see what lies before
And so we cling to God the more
God leads us till this life is o’er
Then – endless day.
Thank you Nan Whyatt
Today is the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. Here is the collect for today.
“Almighty and everliving God, who strengthened your apostle Thomas with sure and certain faith in your Son’s resurrection: Grant us so perfectly and without doubt to believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord and our God, that our faith may never be found wanting in your sight; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.”
Thomas got a real bad rap. He became known as doubting Thomas due to his insistence on seeing the Lord’s wound’s first hand. You see, Thomas was not in the room when Jesus appeared and had to take his friends word for it. What I would like to know is why he should not have doubted what they were saying. I mean look at it with fresh eyes.
There is very little said of Thomas in scripture. When we do see him quoted we hear words of great faith and support. When the disciples were not sure about going to Jerusalem because of Danger and fear of death for Jesus, Thomas said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him." (John 11:7,8,16) At the last supper Thomas wants to know all about the way to him. So we are surprised that he should have some doubts about these disciples who were uncertain about the risks and dangers of following Jesus? Should we be surprised that he was skeptical about believing this band of people who fell away from Jesus when he was at his darkest hour? Is it a shock to any of us that Thomas would be pessimistic about the story of a group that we talking about what happened to them while they were “locked in the room in fear” of what the people might do to them if they knew they followed Jesus?
Remember that in this story of Thomas who wanted to see for himself, we hear of a disciple who was not locked up with the others. This was a guy who was out there. I think we all should be so curious about our God. We should all be so insistent on entering into God’s woundedness. There is enough of the woundedness to go around.
I was curious about Thomas Feast Day being right before Christmas. I did not know why it is but for what it is worth here is my reflection –
In Christmas, God comes to us in the Holy Child. God becomes human. God takes on flesh in the form of Jesus. The Lord is with us Emmanuel. In the grand scheme of the story we know that God takes on our woundedness in the most unbelievably dramatic and visceral way. Christmas begins the long journey to Good Friday. God took on our humanity so that God would know our woundedness. God gets to know that too well in a journey from infancy to adulthood. It is fitting then that we are reminded of Thomas before Christmas. Thomas wanted to enter into Christ’s woundedness. He wanted to feel the cracked skin, the broken flesh, and the painful wounds. Thomas wanted to enter into relationship. He wanted to engage in that which the incarnation – Christmas is all about. He wanted oneness with God. In Christmas we celebrate that God sought oneness with us. It is all about relationship.
So as we get ready for Christmas, let us all seek that oneness. Let us all realize that this feast which is coming is really all about God knowing us altogether. It is God’s offering to us. Today’s feast is about Thomas’ desire to be one with God altogether. Let us seek that sense of communion with God as we prepare to celebrate the moment when God sought communion with us.
"The willow which bends to the tempest, often escapes better than the oak which resists it; and so in great calamities, it sometimes happens that light and frivolous spirits recover their elasticity and presence of mind sooner than those of a loftier character."
– Albert Schweitzer
There are days that I am sure that the frivolity of my attitude is to be my downfall. I am after all a priest of the Anglican Church. I am “expected” to behave in a particular manner. Those who know me know that I love to laugh and more than that I love to hear others laugh, even when it is at my own expense (Visit the Blooper page on the Parish Web Page). There is of course the radio trivia show which I was asked to do for my humour. Then there is this blog itself and the sometimes tongue in cheek stuff I write. And of course sunday celebrations that include Hockey Jersey Sunday, and the Blessing of the golf clubs. Is it becoming for a priest to be joking laughing and even laughing at the church. In fact some of my best material comes from hanging out in the Anglican Church. “The church” can be a very funny place sometimes. I mean you only need visit a clericus (local clergy) meeting or spend a day at a diocesan synod for a laugh or two at how the church survives. Sometimes, I get the impression that there are those around me who seek for a “loftier character” for me. But for me there is not another natural way of being. I am a “frivolous spirit.” I guess I had just better accept it.
When I read this quote of Schweitzer (another of my favorites) I thought to myself, “Self, there may be hope for you.” It is heartening to think that I may have a good ability to recover my elasticity. One always loves to have hi/her ego stroked to the point of at least thinking that he/she has stability on his/her side rather than on the side of the opposite personality types.
Ah-a at last…it is not that simple. You see there is more to Kevin than just frivolity.
I have my own moments of being very austere or reflective. It may come as a shock but there are even times when I feel down and lack the drive to get excited or humoured by anything. I suspect that is as true for me, as it is true for the “loftier character” that there are moments of silliness, frivolity or humour. It is not always easy to pigeon hole us human beings. We are sometimes frivolous and we are at times lofty. We live happiness and sadness, joy and sorrow.
The words of Albert Schweitzer serve to remind us that sometimes we need to laugh at ourselves. Sometimes we need to play. Sometimes we need to giggle and play and realize that the world can be an alarmingly funny place. Bouncing back from difficulty sometimes means being a little less serious and a little more playful. It is a great way to maintain our mental health.
So perhaps it’s no mistake that we greet each other in the days ahead with the words Merry Christmas. We need to give ourselves permission at this time of year to make time to be facetious. Take some time to just play and be silly. It brings great results. Laughter and happiness do lend us flexibility and resilience. So yes! I am glad to be the frivolous one, I am glad that in humour and merrymaking, I feel a great sense of recovery from the sometimes arduousness of day to day life. Let us all take the greeting seriously and have a MERRY Christmas.
I was sizing up Santa the other day and I was reminded of the folk song by Arlo Guthrie called "The Pause of Mr. Claus" In it he kind of derides the FBI. The song is from 68-69 and is a reflection on the paranoia the FBI had with Communist and with people in the peace movement. I think we can safely assume Mr. Guthrie was a part of that Peace Movement. In any event the little song with the huge preamble is questioning, “Why do police guys beat on peace guys?” Guthrie uses Santa as an illustration of the paranoid nature of it all in that age. The meat of the song goes like this. (The music you hear on the page is this song but it is not from Arlo Guthrie)
“Santa Claus wears a Red Suit,
He must be a communist.
And a beard and long hair,
Must be a pacifist.
What’s in that pipe that he’s smoking?”
I don’t know why I was reminded of that but It was a happy moment. Music makes me smile even the folksy weird stuff like Arlo Guthrie.
I was thinking of the song because it pokes fun of the establishment using Santa as the object. I have an ongoing issue with Santa. I’m sure it is because of the fact that he has become such a huge commercial symbol of everything that this season should NOT be. So I got to thinking about my own paranoia about the chimney diving dude! The truth of the matter is, however, that I truly love the big red guy. I love the fact that we can believe in the idea that there is a responsibility to offer to the other. That gifts can be given without the knowledge of where they come from is more than an idea, it s an ideal! I love idea that a gift from Santa is a gift from someone we will never get to know, personally. I think as the great night approached I am really warming to Santa.
I think that I am getting excited because I know that all of this talk of Santa’s near arrival heralds for me the coming of the Infant Child, the Holy One, Emmanuel. That Child is a gift, a joy and a great harbinger of hope to the world, a light that dispels all darkness. Santa is good, but Jesus is even better. I suspect that even Santa is getting set for Christmas Eve Masses.
[AN UPDATE ON PAULA (The woman who waited in line for a Nintendo Wii for me) – there are strong indications that Marty Gervais’ column in Tomorrow’s Windsor Star is going to all about what she did for me, for my brother, but as she would say, for the Lord, and for the kids. Also today I received calls from The Telegram (Newfoundland’s Provincial Paper), and the Shoreline a regional paper in Conception Bay Center in Newfoundland. Paula’s story is making its way across the Island and is lifting the spirits of so many people. If you need to be convinced about how one person can make a difference – go have a talk to Paul and you will learn that we all have the ability to make a difference. As far as I can tell that makes both Santa and Jesus happy].