Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Come Down From Your Tree

“Things were in God's plan which I had not planned at all. I am coming to the living faith and conviction that - from God's point of view - there is no chance and that the whole of my life, down to every detail, has been mapped out in God's divine providence and makes complete and perfect sense in God's all-seeing eyes.”
~St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Grief and Worry

When God reached down from heaven and chose my friend and spiritual director, Fr. Don Hying, to be the next auxiliary Bishop for Milwaukee, my heart grieved. Although I was ecstatic with joy for him and for the Church, I was despairing for myself and what I was sure would be a terrible loss in my life. I envisioned a bleak future without monthly spiritual direction visits to share my faith with him,frequent emails to hash out the details of life, occasional dinners at my home to share the joys of family living, and the steady presence of his spiritual leadership for Roses for Our Lady, the lay apostolate which he asked me to lead less than a year ago. I felt lost.

The day after his ordination, when my family and I were greeting him after his Mass of Thanksgiving, my daughter Mary asked him when he would come for dinner again and he joked, "How about tomorrow?" And then asked me to send him a list of dates from which he could choose a time to come visit my family and I. Ever the impatient one, when I didn't quickly hear back from him I was sure that my negative prophecy was already coming true.

Then I found out that he would not be available to lead Roses for Our Lady at our upcoming Mass in honor of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Mass that he had been instrumental in helping to plan, because he would be in Rome learning the ropes of episcopacy. I was crushed and let him know my disappointment and worry with a whining complaint. But he didn't let that faze him at all. He apologized for the scheduling conflict and offered to find another priest to celebrate the Mass. I treated him with disrespect and he returned my moodiness with love. And then he really floored me...


That night my family and I were relaxing at home when the sky turned an eerie shade of yellow and the rain began to fall. Everyone was rushing about to close the windows in the house and tempers were flaring among the teens. The boys were shouting, the television was blaring, the fans were running and into the chaos walked my son Jack with the phone in his hand. "Mom," he whispered, "It's Bishop Hying." Slowly, I took the phone from Jack's hand and heard "Hi Anne, it's Fr. Don and I'm wondering if tomorrow might be a good time for me to come for dinner." I thought he was joking. He wasn't.

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19:6

I immediately thought of Zacchaeus in his tree and noted how my life is a lot like his had been, in other words, I sin and God loves me anyway and then leaves me wanting to follow his example, to cast my sins to yesterday and embrace the life of Christ.

There I sat in my tree of pride and fear but he did not rebuke me or judge me. Instead he spoke words to me that were both loving and gentle. He said, "Everything will be OK. I want to come to your house for dinner." I forever resort to sin and he forever returns my wickedness with nothing but love.

The following evening Bishop Hying joined my family and I for a simple dinner of the boy's choosing, pizza (of course,) and Mary's effort to class the meal up with her own Caprese Salad on a Stick (it is State Fair time, after all.) Dinner was followed by Bishop Hying's favorite childhood dessert which was often lovingly prepared by his mother, Ice Cream Sundae Pie, which we have now renamed Bishop's Pie. (Recipe at the end of this post.) Bishop Hying lingered long over a game of Monopoly and included a little teasing about stories I should write for this blog, much to the delight of my husband and children for whom teasing this writer seems to be a favorite pasttime. And all too soon it was time for him to leave. It was a beautiful evening followed by a beautiful dream...

The Dream

"When night comes, and retrospect shows that everything was patchwork and much that one had planned left undone, when so many things rouse shame and regret, then take all as is, lay it in God's hands, and offer it up to Him. In this way we will be able to rest in Him, actually to rest and to begin the new day like a new life." ~St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

I was sitting with a friend in a church basement where Bishop Hying was speaking. My friend was complaining to me that she didn't like Holy Hours and didn't see the point of them. My heart was broken at her words and I wanted to share my heartbreak with Bishop Hying in the hopes that he would offer me some words of comfort, but there were always so many people around him that I didn't get a chance to speak with him. I followed him outside where there was a big pro-life rally taking place and he was leading it.

After the rally, I finally had a chance to speak with him and he hugged me to let me know it would be OK. Then I was walking with him to his car. He was pulling a red wagon with brown paper lunch bags in it. He asked me to pull the wagon for him and then he began walking so fast that I couldn't keep up. People started pulling on the wagon from behind and when I turned around there were many homeless people taking the bags out of the wagon. The bags were filled with food and everyone was eating. When I turned around again Bishop Hying was gone and I never found him again.

I awoke to a feeling of great peace. I am certain that this dream was a message of loving assurance from God with this meaning: Whenever I am sorrowful and need someone to talk to, I might have to be patient and wait a while, but Bishop Hying will always be there for me and will always care about me. But, his real purpose in my life is to teach me to do good for others. And now it's time to let him go so that he can fulfull God's purpose for his life, while I am meant to continue to follow his example of loving service to others.

Bishop's Pie


1/4 c. corn syrup
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3 tbsp. butter
1/4 c. peanut butter
2 1/2 c. Rice Krispies


1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. chocolate syrup
3 tbsp. corn syrup

1 qt. vanilla ice cream

Combine first 3 ingredients in saucepan. Cook over low heat until mix begins to boil. Remove from heat, add 1/4 cup peanut butter and Rice Krispies. Press into 9" pie pan for crust. Stir next 3 ingredients together. Spread 1/2 mix over crust. Freeze until firm. Soften ice cream slightly and spoon over crust. Freeze until firm. Allow to stand 10 minutes before serving. Warm remaining peanut butter mix and drizzle on top.

~Written with gratitude to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross whose feast day is today and who is my companion saint for 2011. St. Teresa Benedicta's example of opening herself to God's will in all things and giving herself entirely to Him is one which Bishop Hying follows expertly and it is this openness to God's will upon which I long to model my own life. May we all be blessed by His deep and abiding love as we come down from our trees of sin to walk on the solid ground of faith.

1 comment:

  1. I cried when I read this because I remember my feelings when my spiritual director was transferred out of state. God gave me the strength to bear it but I was very sad and grieving, really. I thought I would never hear from him or see him again. But it has been 6 years now! And I have survived. I had to let go too.
    We still communicate by email. I have seen him a few times. He is still there for me when I need advice or a friend. He prays for me every day. And that is all a gift.
    One of his last words of wisdom before he moved - Go and do for others what I have done for you.
    I try to do just that.
    Hugs and prayers!