Monday, September 26, 2016

A few more wedding reflections

Just a few more random wedding reflections from this weekend:

First, I did not realize that Shane's best man would have described him as the quiet kid with the loud dad.  I can imagine the latter, knowing my uncle.  I did not know Shane well enough to comment on the former.  From the several chances I have had to interact with him, I think we'd get along well if we were in the same place at the same time more often.

Second, I consider Shane to be the first in the "second group" of cousins in my generation to get married.  My generation on my mom's side of the family spans from me to a child who's younger than 18.  The first four of us are married.  I'm not sure where the fifth one to get married is in the order of the dozen cousins.  But Shane is six and begins to represent the start of the rest.  Fun to see that.

Third, if a person had told me 15+ years ago when my sister got married if some day we'd be standing at a wedding reception with alcohol in hand and discussing lapel pins and how to take eggs out of cartons in the proper order I would have told that person that he or she was nuts.  Nevertheless, that is what the discussion was about, in part.  Guys talking accessories and thinking about whether to take the eggs from front to back in whatever order or in a specific order to balance them.  Apparently, I have more in common with my brother-in-law than I realized.

Fourth, older adults (20+ years on us) who can take a bus back to the hotel after a wedding reception can get just as tipsy and silly as young adults who drink too much at a wedding--if not more.  One of those older adults gave a flattering comment telling me and Sherry that we didn't look old enough to have a 20 year old.  I hear that a lot.  I had gotten another complimentary age comment recently.  It was a morning running on the promenade downtown.  There happened to be multiple pairs of runners in which one was male and one female.  My training partner and I passed another pair (who had been passed by a third) and the male commented, "It's couples running morning."  My training partner was quick to point out, "More like father and daughter," but she then added just to me that I should take that as a compliment that they thought I looked that young.

Fifth, every wedding reception seems to have a song where you just say, "Does that belong here?"  At Sherry's and my wedding it was "I've Got Friends in Low Places."  At Shane's, I just wasn't sure that "Run Around Sue," while being fun to dance to, was appropriate for a wedding.

Finally, the number of other weddings or discussions of weddings I reflected on was amazing.  Shane's parents.  Mine.  My sister's.  Jackie's.  My other cousin Brian.  And a discussion I had with Lauren about a year ago.

All good.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wedding Reflections

My cousin Shane got married to a young woman named Emily yesterday.  The two of them have quite a story to tell so far.  I'm sure the two of them will have many years ahead to continue to live out their story, have it told and retold, and set an example of love for the rest of us to watch, the cherish, and to mimic.

I have missed numerous family weddings over the years.  My boys are 20, 17, and 11 and have many activities that we go to that limit our ability to get to family events 90 or more miles away.  But for this one we were able to arrange our schedules around it and were happy to have a chance to return to where I grew up to see family.

For me, it was my first wedding in a while (although I know my friends in their 20's seem to have weddings all the time) and the first Catholic wedding that I can recall attending in 4 years.

I won't give as much of a play-by-play as I did with the last Catholic wedding I attended.  That was a wedding involving one of my MPH advisees and fellow runner I had come to know incredibly well.  I also know her husband well, and the list of attendees included several people from the running organization we are both a part of.  But I do have a number of observations that are worth noting.

First, while I am at a much different point in life than I was when Shane's parents (my aunt by birth and my uncle by marriage) got married both were on days when I ran and when sports played a role in determining how I got there.  I ran just a 5K back in 1984.  It was the Delaware County cross country championships and I was running my first year and didn't want to miss it.  One of my parents was willing to come out to Rose Tree to pick me up.  This time around, my youngest had an ice hockey game on the day of and the day after.  So we sandwiched the drive up to Philly and back between a game that ended at 10:45 AM on Saturday and another game that started at 8:30 AM on Sunday.  And for running--I did just over 10 miles as part of marathon training some 32 years after the 5K in the county championship meet.

Second, walking into the actual worship area of St. Monica's couch, there was a great sign that said something like the following: "Choose a seat and not a side--we are all family once the knot is tied." At my own wedding more than 24 years ago, we went with traditional seating separating the guests of the bride and groom.  But my life has been all about bringing people or ideas together.  Mixing and matching.  So, the idea of having guests intermix struck me as a wonderful way to bring people together and reflect the lives Shane and Emily lead together.

Third, Before the mass there was a boy with a sign with what looked like thick Sharpie on wood saying "Here they come." (There were numerous decorations that looked like Sharpie on wood throughout the wedding and reception.)  That was very cute.  During the procession (with Canon in D being played in the background) the boy was walking down the aisle with the flower girl.  He was talking to her the whole way down.  I wonder what he was saying to her.  Not that it matters.  Just fun to ponder.

Fourth, hearing the homily was really fun.  The priest brought up a couple of things that stand out in my mind.  First, that the two had met in Latin class in their junior year in high school.  Second, that they had used the reading from 1 Corinthians about "Love is...".  It begins, however, with a statement about comprehending mysteries.  The priest linked this to the idea of revealing what is as yet unknown.  It was a cool description.  Then, the priest also talked about Shane and Emily having a purpose in life and that they were made for each other.  He said that coincidence is God's way of remaining anonymous.  That was a cool thought.

Fifth, I liked the way that family was involved in the ceremony and reception.  At the last Catholic wedding I attended the bride and groom helped as extraordinary Eucharistic ministers.  At this wedding, the groom's father (who is an EM anyway) distributed Eucharist.  He felt the need to point out that "it counted" at the reception when he led the grace.  The grace was concluded by the groom's father's mother who was the only one of eight grandparents of the two who was there.  It is amazing to think of how lucky Sherry and I were to have numerous grandparents still alive when we got married.  And everyone recited "Bless us O Lord in these thy gifts.." with the grandmother.  Shane and Emily also found ways to honor Emily's mother who had passed away.  That was a nice touch.

Sixth, at the close of mass the priest commented on how much the congregation had participated in the praying and singing during the mass.  The priest commented that this was a great sign that they had surrounded themselves with people who cared about their faith and that it also reflected where they came from.  I found it easy to sing along as the response was "This is the Day" and the Eucharistic song was "One Bread, One Body," and the song during the preparation of the gifts was "You are Mine."  All three were a "St Pius X Best of..." types of song.  They chose good songs to make it easy to sing along with.  It was very nice.

Seventh, the priest commented on the congregation praying and singing and how it reflected on those with whom they surround themselves and from where they came

Finally, I liked the nice mix of songs during the party and Sherry and I danced a good bit.  They also had some of the most creative toasts, including four adaptations of songs' lyrics to fit Shane and Emily.  That was a lot of fun to see what people did.

In my family, no one knows who will be the next one married.  Who knows whether or when my sons will get married.  The only thing that I did realize is that by having three sons, I will never be "father of the bride" but I look forward to welcoming partners for my sons into the family who will be as close as my own children some day.

And as a brief aside--the gift bags at the hotel included Tastycake Krimpets.  Having butterscotch Krimpets really made my day.

Thanks to all who helped to make this day such a good one for me.  

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Reflection, Commitment, and Lenses to See the World

Today was the first mass at which I had the chance to hear Fr. Sam give a homily in a long time.  And the opportunity to hear him did not disappoint.

He noted that as we approach the end of the liturgical year, we are called upon to reflect on our commitment to what we are called on to do through our faith.  The reading today was one way of telling the story of how challenging faith can be.  The reflection on commitment is a part of our faith.  And our faith transforms how we look at the world, so Fr. Sam related his talk to the song Open the Eyes of My Heart on numerous occasions. 

And, as a life-long practicing Catholic, all of this makes sense to me.  There is a lot to consider about my faith, to ask myself about commitment, and to then think about different lenses through which I can look at my own life, the people in my life, and the events in my life to consider how they all relate and how I relate to the commitment I have been called upon to make.

But I think that anyone can think about issues like this.  Not just Catholics.  Not just Christians.

Each of us approaches the end of things.  The end of a calendar year.  The end of a school year.  The completion of a major project. 

When we reach a time or event like that, there is a chance to think about how we got there and where we are going. 

We can think about the commitment we exhibited and the commitment we must continue to exhibit.

And when we have something that leads us or drives us to the goal and helps to enhance the commitment, we can think about how whatever leads us or drives us affects our view of the world. Are there lenses that it provides us with that gives us new insights on life—our own and those around us. 

Not surprisingly, in addition to my faith, I think about my running.  My commitment—to myself and to those with whom I run.  My commitment not only to fitness, but also my commitment to sharing.  My commitment to being a good friend.  My commitment to giving and mentoring through my running.  My commitment to all the things I talked about in “Running is…”  My commitment to making running into something that spans my life and gives me what I need to take on any challenge. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Returning to My Undergraduate Worship Community

Yesterday, for the first time in about 25 years, I attended a mass on Penn State's campus.  I'm actually not sure whether I have attended a single mass on campus since the day I finished my undergraduate studies at Penn State.  If I have attended any the number has been small.

The first thing that is different about worshipping on Penn State's campus now is that they no longer use either the Forum (a classroom building) or the Eisenhower Auditorium for masses.  Instead, they use a spiritual center that has been built onto the building that included the original student chapel and the the building that different religious organizations used for office space.

The next thing that was different was the small size of the musical group and the centrality of piano to the music.  I missed having a flute playing along--that was standard back in the 1987-91 time period that I was there as a student.

The third thing that was different was the relatively small number of students involved in the Eucharistic ministry.  But I did go to a student Eucharistic minister.  I remember the days of being one.

The fact that I was at a campus ministry mass in a space dedicated to worship on a college campus brought back a lot of strong feelings to me about my involvement in the Newman Student Association at Penn State.  Strong memories of the music.  Strong memories of the ministries.  When they talked about the first the start of the year picnic that was upcoming, I thought of my fist exposure to Newman, following a suggestion that my mother had given, and quickly getting drawn into volunteer work with older adults.

It was powerful because my experience at Penn State was a true deepening of my faith experience.  I had grown up in a church without music at the masses.  What I had at Penn State was amazing.  I still remember the sung Our Father and that is one part of mass that I miss quite a bit today.

When we sang Psalm 42 (starting with As the Deer Longs...).  And I don't recall if that was one we sang 30 years ago, but I do remember the power of numerous psalms that were used week after week at campus ministry masses.  I remember briefly being involved with one of the singing groups.  They were welcoming as well.

Finally, the reading yesterday is one of the tougher ones in the cycle of Catholic readings.  The Gospel comes from Luke, Chapter 14 verses 25-33.  The reading talks about having to hate things to follow Jesus.  The priest described this as the "cost" of discipleship.  If the homily had been given by Father Hank Hilton at St. Pius X years ago, he might have called it the opportunity cost of discipleship.  (He is an economist by training, after all.)

What I thought about was the opportunity cost of taking anything seriously.  Why?  Because Father David did not start out just talking about the cost of discipleship.  He led up to it.  He started by talking about a young student from Korea with whom he had been speaking.  He went on about all the things that the student was fascinated with.  He ended with politics.  At that point, he transitioned to the readings.

What was the link?  The link was that the Korean student had commented on the effort that goes into politics in the United States.  The question the priest raised was what Jesus's apostles would have advised him if they were political advisers.  The words about the cost of discipleship are words that the crowd probably did not want to hear.

I think that many people don't want to hear how tough a lot of things in life are.  Of course it is tough to be a disciple.  But there are a lot of things that are tough.

Exercise in general and training for long distance running races in particular is tough.  But I have that taken care of--for myself.  And I join with a lot of others.  And numerous friendships are built around the same passion.

Fitting meditation--time out to think for myself--it tough.  That one I have not mastered yet.  And I have not found a way to make it work.

Being a good parent takes work.  I'm not perfect.  But I work at it.

Being a good spouse takes work.  I like to think I am good at it.

Being a good employer and leader is work.

The key for me is whether I can find a way to take the passion that I show for one thing and carry it over to many others.  To have all the things in my life that I focus on and make them all as alive as my running.  Recognizing how hard each and every one can be.  Recognizing the effort that each takes.  And making sure that anyone who wants to join me in pursuing any of those understands the time and effort required as well.  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

10 Miles in State College

I don't know that I've run 10 miles outdoors in State College more than once in my life.  And while it was tempting just to hang around the hotel this morning, I think that my running friends back in Baltimore would not have forgiven me for passing up an opportunity to run 10 miles on a morning that started out at 54 degrees.

The miles I ran started with a big uphill leaving our hotel on College Ave and running up Porter toward Beaver Stadium.  I had forgotten about the fields on the side of Porter and the smell of manure was not overwhelming but was interesting during the initial part of the run.  First mile at 9:05.

Then, things were level for a while as I went along the north side of campus.  Past my old residence halls, North Halls where two of my closest friends from the Newman Catholic Student Association had lived. Second mile at 8:36.  Feeling pretty good.

For the third and fourth miles, I was running through the golf course area.  I'd never followed Park Ave past Atherton before.  It was fun exploring the edge of the golf course.  Those were at 8:23 and 8:22.

Moving right along, I sped up in mile 5.  I got to a point at which I was on a trail and another person got to an intersection of two trails just before I did.  I always worry when I am immediately behind a female runner going about the same pace.  So, partly to avoid creeping out a fellow runner and partly because of an inherently competitive spirit I have, I decided to pass.  Then ran until my watch beeped for mile 5 and then turned around.  Mile 5 was at 8:02 with some uphill.

Mile 6 was more down than up and back over an area with which I was not somewhat familiar--8:04. I was a little surprised that it was slower.

Mile 7 was more up than down and over a different area (labeled "west campus") that I don't know that I'd ever been on--8:10.

The last three miles didn't feel hard at all and I just carried on with 7:56, 7:50, and 7:31.  All felt good.  Running around the cars parked to get into Beaver Stadium parking very early for a 3:30 PM game.

A great start to fall running.  And reassurance that for 26.2 on October 15 I should be fine.