Saturday, September 10, 2016


Approaching Iona of the Heart when the sea is so rough is daunting.  I sometimes feel as though I am drowning.  Since Joe died so suddenly I struggle to stay afloat…drifting.  Sometime drowning seems so much easier than fighting through the storms.  My tears seem to add to the depth of this sea of grief that could easily suck me to the bottom.  Yet, no, I am compelled by Christ!  Float.  Drift. Know that the deep strong current of your life, Cait, will bring you home.

So, I am giving myself to what I am experiencing: the loss, both aloneness and loneliness, deep grief, gratitude for the eternal nature of love, gentle memories, sensations, dreams, commitment, convictions born of Faith, convictions born of experience, of love of Joe and Rose,  lessons from my parents,  the affection of dogs, community, longing, sorrow, weariness, daily fatigue, sleep, communion of saints, personal attacks that rip my heart, tears, questions, hope, passionate love, the power of the Holy Spirit.

Anger does not seem to be my challenge as much as weakness and sorrow as I wait upon God.  A life of melting into and finding the comfort of home in God's arms is far more my reality than anger at God's ways.  My need to be in control seems comforted, satiated by experiencing God's personal love protecting me today and tomorrow beyond my ability to control life.  Life and death are all part of this reality. Peace comes step by step by embracing mortality and eternal life in one passionate embrace that clings in trust, in abandon, in unspeakable love, in union with God.  Peace that takes me past all I am experiencing daily... that passes understanding.

Each day is different.  Some days I am flooded with memories that spill out over and over, the repetition challenging the great Charity of my family and friends who listen.  Other days waves of ideas and creativity crash through into this dark place demanding I remain receptive to the Holy Spirit of God.  Other days deafening silence permeates this house, isolating me inside myself, silence broken only by intermittent sobs.

Most days tomorrow seems irrelevant to me.  All I seem to know is this moment.  I give this moment to God, to Almighty Love and I wait, not abandoned but as a creature trusting my Creator.  I wait.  For death.  For life.  In both I expect Love for I have proof, not faith.  I have experienced unexpected love and the commitment that it is stronger than death, and I know my lover, my friend, my spouse remains near, just beyond sight. And God? All this is my experience of the Living God Who comforts and restores me.

I am committed to Rose our beautiful daughter, to survive and thrive.  She has a right to her mother, for her loss is also great, profound.  I am trying to be faithful to my commitment to my Church family, to be faithful to what has been asked of me by them.  I rely on Grace to breathe most days. For the most part I am able. I suffer my failures keenly. 

Mostly I remain in survival mode even physically.  I have not touched my house in months and it is in disarray as I tend to my inner house.  My physical energy is gone. I am looking for ways to earn a living so as to keep my home, our home.  The grief can be seen in my house, felt, heard, even though laughter breaks the silence now and then. I am very alone and very lonely.  I am not yet dancing in the darkness.  I am waiting for that time.  I know it will come.

Some people cannot fathom such grief and loss.  Yet unless it is experienced and integrated into life how are we to know and honor others with compassion?  As in all life’s lessons, I am meant to learn more about love.  I believe that.  It is all that make sense to me.   Then, amen, I say!  Amen.

+ + + + + + +
My pillow soaked, so much I weep,
I turned over in my sleep
And there you met me with a smile
And joy returned, but for a while.

When I sensed you lying near
Felt your touch, your voice so clear
I knew your death had been a dream,
A nightmare, or so it seemed.

I wept with joy as we lie there
Secure again without a care.
I held you, kissed your face once more
And felt our souls to heaven soar.

“My Joe, I thought that you were dead
An awful dream it was,” I said.
“A nightmare took you suddenly,
But, Oh my God, you’re here with me!”

Grateful for reality
Holding you so close to me
Our love young and ever new
The night passed, the hours flew.

Oh how real your love, your touch!
We never thought we’d have so much
A nun, a monk, so long ago
A future we could never know…

Then you proclaimed your love for me
And that’s the day we were set free.
God’s gift of Love came as a Rose
To bless our lives.  How fast time goes.

So here we lie in our old age
As we prepare to turn the page.
So many years, yet more to come,
The joy of our love ever young.

And as the lark reminded us,
And woodland creatures made a fuss,
Dawn came upon us too soon,
The sun appeared to hide the moon.

You visited me here last night
And once again my world was right.
We laughed and talked till break of dawn
And then I turned and you were gone.

c. 2016 Cait Finnegan-Grenier

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Traveling to Iona With Patrick & Co.

This month the Church, and indeed much of the world celebrated St. Patrick, the Apostle to Ireland.  His feast is kept in many ways by people, young and old.  Many begin the day with Mass.  That's how our family always started the holy day together.  We all are aware of the marching and partying celebrating Irish heritage, and for some the Faith of our mothers and fathers.  It can be a wild and crazy day in parts of the USA where Irish immigrants settled and took root.  For our family it was always a holy day.  We celebrated it in much the same way we kept Christmas Day, and with the fun that we kept Halloween.  It was an important day for us, with family.  Mass, music, parade, and feasting filled the entire day.  My own daughter and I were talking this past St. Patrick's Day about our memories of returning, freezing cold, from the NYC parade to Grandma's house to walk into the steaming smells of cabbage and meat cooking, and the atmosphere of celebration!  I was delighted she had that memory firmly implanted.  All so very traditional.

Now as I approach 63 years of age, and all my family of origin is gone the day is bitter sweet for me.  I miss them all terribly on the Feast of St. Patrick, yet I sense them ever close to me, and to their children and grandchildren.  Yes, I have all the wonderful memories, and the remarkable foundation in the Faith my parents and grandparents were careful to give me.  I surely have the music!  My heart is filled to overflowing with a love of all they passed me, including an awareness more in my aging years than ever of my culture and heritage.  I delight that the next generation carries the family tradition of hospitality too, opening the doors of their hearts and homes to so many friends and relatives, and to strangers!  Great gifts all of that.

This year God gave me a very special and new gift.  He introduced me more intimately to my patron, Patrick!  That seems odd, even to me, that at this late date I should feel I have a new relationship with the saint I chose as my patron for Confirmation 51 years ago!  Oh, that was a story!  My mother wanted me to take the name Mary, as she had for her Confirmation.  We already shared a patron in Catherine of Siena, which we took very seriously!  Taking Mary would have made me a true "Jr" and made my mother very happy.  But I was 12 years old and very headstrong.  I'd recently read an old biography of St. Patrick by Quentin Reynolds, and given our strong ethnic ties, I decided I wanted Patrick as my friend and patron.  My first experience in standing my ground for my faith!  Or at least that's how I felt then, and saw it for years.  When, many years later, my daughter Rose Catherine took Patricia for her own Confirmation name, I was so pleased, but immediately realized how happy I could have made my own mother by taking her name back then...  Oh we learn and process life's lessons slowly, and often learn from our children.

Well, I took Patricia, and felt close to Patrick, but as the years passed I never deepened the friendship.  Our relationship never matured past the 12 year old's sentimental choice to claim her Irish patron.  Until this year!  This year, only by chance timing in my personal studies, did I come across the writing of Rev. Thomas O'Loughlin, as I read two of his books:  JOURNEYS ON THE EDGE, and CELTIC THEOLOGY.  Both of them, by the way, are excellent studies in both Celtic theology and spirituality.  He has affected me with his words, and very personally.  I felt I learned more about the Patrick tradition than I ever did before in my life, and it seemed to kindle a real fire in my heart to want to know this person, Patrick, and not just leave celebrating him to one day a year in some superficial way.  I now want to know him.

So, I returned to Patrick's own writing, his CONFESSIONS, and to his LETTER TO CORATICUS, and went on then to make a personal retreat with himself using a tiny book by Timothy Joyce, O.S.B. called A RETREAT WITH PATRICK, DISCOVERING GOD IN ALL.  It is really a very simple book intended not as a study but for reflection, mediation, and for prayer.  Some of it touched me deeply and personally, especially the reality of a 15 year old boy being gagged and taken captive, and held in slavery for 6 years!  It hit me like a ton of bricks how this saint, this ancient saint really could relate to human suffering, both personal and social suffering.  He knew what it was not to have freedom, to suffer loneliness and grief over the loss of his family, whom he missed terribly.  He knew deprivation as he lived in the outdoor guarding sheep night and day.  I found myself feeling suddenly aware that Patrick, my patron for so many years, truly did know me, understand me and the various stages and certainly the major struggles of my life, both painful and confusing, and those later times when I sensed God leading me very clearly in a direction away from what I ever expected, particularly from the expected roles the Church had for me and for women.  He had walked that walk too, when his ecclesiastical peers were opposed to his decision to minister to the barbarians on the edge of the world, rather than remain in a comfortable episcopal see and use his power in other more traditional ways.  He heard the call of those in need spiritually, and the call of the Holy Spirit to respond.  I knew instantly that Patrick "got me" and what makes me tick!  And I was finally "getting him."

I felt stunned by the sudden awareness that this saint, whom I'd asked to protect and guide me 51 years ago had indeed done so, with no acknowledgement or thanks from me.  He'd been a faithful friend, while I was rather indifferent and forgetful of him.  I felt sad and a bit ashamed of myself, and simply said, as Augustine had long ago, "Late have I loved thee."  Yet I really sensed a love of this good mad stirring up, a fire starting--that bit of flame one feels when recognizing a deep friendship.  So, these few weeks I've delved more deeply into learning more about him, reading and studying more from learned scholars, and I can't seem to get enough.  I am recognizing that Patrick has been, and, now obviously to me, is traveling with me, guiding me on my approach to Iona of the heart, to my place of resurrection, to my home with God. 

Patrick and Co. are for me a group of several saints to whom and with whom I pray daily for my own spiritual walk, and for all those I love, particularly my husband and our daughter, and for our family, for the members of my religious community, the OMC, our Celtic Christian Church, and for our two popes, Benedict and this new wonderful Francis.

Late have I loved thee, Patrick.  Thank you for waiting for me, quietly, like a guardian angel by my side all along.  I expect good times ahead for us, and for the saints with whom I am graced to travel in my own spiritual life. The bitter in the bitter-sweet experience of St. Patrick's Day has lessened tremendously for me, now as I age and near Iona of the heart, closer and closer each day.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Long Twisting Journey to Iona of the Heart / Danny Boy

Today, here in the United States of America we are celebrating Memorial Day, remembering all those who died in service of our country, in wars foreign and domestic.  It is a sad day, even while we are proud of those men and women.

When I was growing up, we all were marched off to Church by my father on Memorial Day, as if it were a holy day of obligation for us. It was, morally. The rest of the day was celebrated in our Queens, NY neighborhood much as the other civic holidays were, with BBQs in Sunnyside park, baseball games, races, etc., and surrounded by family and friends, many of whom were also vets. Without some reminder, it is too easy to forget the unique meaning of Memorial Day.  

In a way, every surviving vet has suffered a certain kind of death/loss just by having been through and witnessed war and loss so close and personally, living through and watching horror, friends die, and sadly sometimes having to kill as well, etc. I mourn their loss today too--a kind of death of innocence for our young women and men. My cousin Danny returned alive from the Viet Nam war but suffered until the day he died (prematurely) with the horror of the faces of the men he killed personally.  He suffered more from that than from his own physical wounds.  As he put it to me not long before he died, "I was a good Catholic kid like you, with the same Irish grandmother and family life, a kid like you, taught to love people, but I had to kill them..." It was a kind of death in him too.   He called me one night and talked about only wanting to die, because he could not sleep because of the faces of those he killed haunting him.   "Each of those soldiers was somebody's son or grandson, like me..." he cried.  "I killed them up front and personally, or I called in the bombers to kill them by the hundreds.  I just want to tell them how sorry I am."   He asked me if I knew any priest who'd been in Viet Nam--someone he could talk with, someone who was familiar with the ghosts too.  I did.  One of our deacons in Brooklyn rushed to Danny's side.  Another, a bishop I knew in Virginia was on the phone with Danny daily.   They could relate.  Part of Danny died in Viet Nam.  We all knew his ghost here for the years that followed.  No deacon or bishop, not even those in his family closest to him could vanquish those deadly memories.  Danny's heart gave out years before it should have. 

We are an Irish family.  Danny was our own Danny Boy.  I grew up with him, cousins, who like many NYC Irish-American families, were as close as brothers and sisters in the old neighborhoods.  We come from that race that sometimes prides itself on its fierce Celtic warrior ancestors.  That blood runs through our veins, and we don't deny it, although some of us are happier not to be warriors.  Yet, that trait, redefined and refocused, like dogs learning to refocus their prey instinct into guarding or shepherding animals,  is what can help us be brave enough to face the troubles of life, the pain and challenges, the self-centered preoccupations and give us the courage to go beyond ourselves to love, protect, instruct, guide others.  The early Celtic Christians did just this--they took that warrior spirit and did battle against evil within themselves.  It's a great transformation when possible.  It helps us discover that Iona of the Heart...that place of personal resurrection, our center, our Christ, and gives deeper meaning to our lives.

We all watched our Danny try to do this in his own way after Viet Nam.  He tried to refocus.  He was shooting at humans one minute, and being shot at, heard his name called out in the air, grabbed the ladder rope from a helicopter, still shooting as it whisked him away from war, and the next day he was back on Long Island. He tried to refocus as best he could, given that history and exit from war.   He was gifted and highly intelligent.  He tried to overcome his ghosts, and all that haunted him from war, and he was a magnificent cousin and friend.  He just didn't see it in himself.  I trust in that Communion of Saints we cling to as Christians, and that Danny Boy is now at peace with himself and those whose life paths crossed unhappily with his in Viet Nam.

May God grant peace--that peace that passes our understanding to all who have died serving their countries, their neighbors, or total strangers, those who have died either directly in the wars, or from the wounds received in action.   May God give us all the wisdom to put an end to war.  Amen.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Date of Arrival at Iona of the Heart or The Second Coming

Iona of the Heart!  That holy place in each of us, that "place of resurrection", that solitary place St. Columba's rule tells us to find is our place of transformation, and it is not a one-time event, but continuously calls to us to be renewed, reformed so as to live the life of Love we are called to live.

This rapture thing, so filled with fear rather than the "rapture of love," is getting sadder and sicker as it becomes more evident that so many are going to be hurt.  The "second coming" happens every time a life is transformed by the FIRST coming of Jesus and all He taught!  THAT's the lesson--a mystical lesson about inner transformation of our consciousness, our awareness of our spiritual being choosing in freedom to love--but some would rather focus on taking the words literally than do the work of changing their priorities and values.  It's easier to deal with a Boogieman God than a God of Love Who obliges us to live a life of love!

I've done a lot of joking about this May 21st date.  The "predicted" earthquake, the craziness of millions of dead bodies being raised from their physical graves or wherever they ended up at the bottom of the sea or the bellies of fish, being tossed around (those not glorified) and five months of us all stepping over them waiting for our final destruction on October 21st!   I think it's all nuts, but more seriously, I believe it is such an ignorant deception distracting people of good will (mostly) from the meat of Faith, and encouraging them by fear to depend only upon the milk of Faith to sustain themselves.  Depending upon the milk means we remain as children, thinking as children, reasoning as children.  When we put away childish things we reason as mature beings, and it's far easier to see clearly that it is only by Love that we are "saved."

Depending upon "the milk" means we go no deeper than the words of the story.  We look not to the lesson or the intended meaning (personal transformation from being self-centered animals to loving caring creatures), but remain content with the story that feeds our own agenda, anger, fears, and our need to be in control of others and especially those who differ religiously.  We understand God in our image.

Being fed by "the meat" of Faith (the mystical reality) nourishes us spiritually so that we no longer see reality only as through a mirror dimly, but with the clarity that comes from unselfish love.  Life becomes so much more than a "veil of tears" but a promised land of contemplative union with the Creator...and one another.

We can't stop with the words.  We need to progress on toward the Word, the true meaning.  We can study, we can consider and learn from theologians, we can look to the endless world stories telling about the beginning and end of the world, but unless we go within, meet God there, we learn little of the lessons all are intended to teach us.  When we go within, open our minds and hearts to the living God, we will surely be caught up in the rapture of endless Love, with that God Who IS Love.  The rest of life then flows from that...

The picture here is of the remains of two people discovered under the remains of volcanic ash.  They knew the meaning of eternal love, by the looks of them.  I don't believe God's idea is much different, frankly.  Care for one another to the end!

Enjoy May 21st and give God thanks for knocking at the door your heart each day.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Treading Water to Iona

There were times in my journey were my conscious desires seemed to be secondary to my basic instinct for survival.  Survival seemed to be foremost, and even overshadow my focus on my ultimate destination, Iona.  A good bit of the journey was spent treading water, particularly when my curragh was capsized by the horrendous monster lurking in the depths around me.

Out of my safe curragh I swam for years, often fending off sharks.  Being a tiny child, I did not yet know how to swim well.  I floated very still and discovered I did not sink.  Then, at sudden moments the monsters that tossed me from the safety of my curragh, and hid my parents and family from me, would pull me under the water, sometimes very deep into the depths of those dark cold places where I could hardly see the sun above the surface of the water.  I could not breathe.  My mind grew confused so that even survival instincts seemed to be drowning like personal friends who until then were faithful to me, always there to defend and save me and keep me afloat or treading water, even if violently at times.

Then something would swim by in the darkness of the deep sea, and I’d feel myself nudged, or at times even slammed into by what seemed to be a creature a thousand times larger and more powerful than the sharks who attacked or the monsters that deliberately tried to frighten me—as if trying to convince me to abandon all hope of being saved, or of ever seeing my beloved family again.

Each nudge or slam from this Giant of the Deep startled me into consciousness so that I again began to fight for my life, even flailing, then deliberately swimming upward back to the surface where I’d catch sight of my family in the curragh or swimming in the water, sometimes worried that they could not see me, sometimes not even aware I had nearly drowned quietly right beside them or with in reach.  Had they only known I could not yet swim well!

This part of the journey went on like this for years with the storms beginning when I was but three years old but gaining such force when I was fifteen that I think part of me actually did die in that sea storm and was consumed by a particularly crafty shark whom I did not see. What gently approached me as a dolphin—those creatures who are known for saving drowning humans—was in fact the most ferocious coy shark of all who, once it had my confidence, proceeded to consume me a piece at a time until it reached my heart and my brain which was taken in one violent bit.

I floated nearly dead beneath the surface slowly sinking toward the floor of the sea.  Vague feelings of remorse, shame and guilt that I had not yet learned to swim or that I’d been so stupid that I could not see the shark disguised as a dolphin.  For ten years I remained under sea with only tides sweeping my nearly dead body toward the distant shore of Iona.  Any thought of arriving long since gone from me.  You may wonder why it was impossible to distinguish this shark disguised as a dolphin.  I wondered that myself for many years.

As it turned out the smaller sharks that attacked in the early years did damage to my ability to see well enough to notice the dolphin costume worn by this killer shark.  There was no way I could prepare myself or protect myself.  It was that simple truth, scars from prior attacks blinded me.

As the years passed my close encounter with the Great Giant Whale became more frequent and each one seemed to leave me feeling stronger in some part of me.  Sometimes my heart—which had been consumed by the dolphin/shark seemed to be beating once again, pumping life through me.  How could that be, it was gone?  Yet gradually as if it were some ghost pain felt in a missing limb, I could feel my heart stir again and each time the fruit of that close encounter was a unique experience of love for this Great Whale, this Gentle Giant who now circled around me everyday and night keeping all sharks and monsters at an extreme distance as if they knew this giant, and had previous experience of its Power.

Quickly this became my Giant Whale—MINE, whom I grew to trust even more than my parents and family still safe in the curragh totally unaware of my years trying to survive the depths of this sea we travelled to Iona.  How far along toward Iona were they, I sometimes wondered.  I sensed my Giant was protecting them in some way, but didn’t know how because it now never left me, even for a minute.

My brain and mind, also attacked by the dolphin/shark, was also healing and I found that I allowed myself to respond when the Giant nudged me, sometimes playing now.   I’d lean into it almost sinking into this Great Creature whose power and size drew me close, comfortably and rocked me to serenity as the buoying effect did its work.
Thoughts were returning, no longer as unfocused as I had been, I could give my full attention—at least for short times to the life and beauty that I finally notice in these deep waters.  I remember a line I’d been taught that we need to be born again of water and the Spirit to be saved.  It was happening.  I knew it.  My giant was saving me on so many levels of my being.

Some look to a calm surface on the water and think of peace.  What my giant showed me was that the real peace was actually that discovered in the dark depths with my Giant.  It was the peace no longer affected by surface storms which can toss one overboard from the security of one’s curragh.   Here no storms affected me.  No monsters dared ever again to launch their foolish attacks against the Giant of the Deep for now they had to go through It to get to me.

Once strong again I played more with my Giant Whale and swam with It, or held It and was pulled for what seemed like ages.  I knew we were heading toward Iona.  Up to the surface, breaking through to jump toward the sun it would take me—back down in a happy splash and we’d swim like children together, always toward our destination.  Finally one day I caught sight of Iona rising from that same sea!  I asked my Giant “will I make it?”  The gentle eyes gazed at me and I knew we’d both make it.

Often now I dream—that we are able to somehow swim beneath that sacred place and Giant brings me right up through the center of Iona to place me on a hill from where I get an entirely different view of the deep dark sea.  From where Giant places me I can see the waters reflecting heaven.

I awake from my dream and Giant and I continue to linger around, floating, playing and splashing in the waters encircling Iona.   This is our life together now!