You're Good. You're Good.
Ashland is a good five hour drive from Portland, and we decided to break the trip up a bit by stopping to see one of our favorite priests, Father Peter, who lives in Grants Pass. He was the Associate Pastor at our parish until several months ago when the Archdiocese transferred him there as part of their usual shuffling of priests. We had contacted him before our trip and he was expecting us.
We were about 20 minutes out of Grants Pass when we stopped at a rest area to take care of some business. After all, arriving at Father's house to say first thing, "Can I use your restroom?" just didn't seem to be in good form. My wife got back into the car and said she had a bit of a dilema. Inside the rest area restroom she found a woman's makeup bag containing a drivers license, garage door opener, a credit card, address book and a few other personal items. There was no one else at the rest area who looked like the bag should belong to, and there were some suspicious looking fellows rifling through the garbage cans so just leaving it where she found it didn't seem like a good idea.
As we inspected the bag we had a choice. My practical words of wisdom were to turn it into the police at Grants Pass and wash our hands of the matter. I was coming from the school of not wanting to get any more involved than we had to. Thankfully, my wife is much more the saint than me. She called information; got the number of the woman; called her and left a message on her answering machine that we had found her bag. She also called the Highway Patrol who told her to turn it into law enforcement which we decided to do after our visit with Father Peter.
Portland is famous for its microbreweries, and Father Peter has a penchant for a particular brew called Hammer Head Ale. Before leaving Portland, I picked up a couple of quarts that the brewery puts in mason jars. When I told him I had some for him, our plans to take him out to dinner changed to him deciding to cook something for us as it would be awkward to bring our own beer to a restaurant. Being quite the grill master, cooking only with wood, he prepared about the best tasting halibut steaks I've ever had.
We picked up our conversation as if he had never left Portland. He told us about his work with meth addicts in the area and about life as a priest in a small town. He told us a story about a particular event regarding a parishoner whose husband had recently passed. He had been called to give last rites to the gentleman, which he gladly did. A few days later, the day he was supposed to leave for his annual vacation in the Wyoming mountains, he received the call that the gentleman had passed. While the family wanted him to stay for the funeral, he was committed to his trip and had another priest assist the family.
While camping by a lake in a rugged area of Wyoming, he was awakened in the early morning to the sound of a snort and the clomping of heavy hooves from an animal. Then he heard a whoosh of water and as he looked out of his tent that was pitched near a mountain lake he saw in the moonlight the silhouette of a very large moose standing in the shallows of the lake, water dripping off its stately antlers.
The next morning, he went to take his bath in the lake, and standing in the water just few feet from his camp was the same moose. For several days the moose visted the camp, which is highly unusual as they typically are not too fond of people. The animal kept his distance, but seemed to tolerate Father Peter's presence.
When he got back home, he went to a restaurant and noticed a woman and her daughter waiving at him from a table. It took a minute, but he soon recognized the woman as the widow of the gentleman who had passed before he left on his trip. She asked him to join her for dinner which he did. She then pulled out of her purse something she said her husband wanted Father Peter to have. It was a Canadian coin. On the front was the image of the queen of England. On the back was the image of a moose, silhouetted against the night sky standing in a lake. Those who have passed have a way of letting us know they're okay, and this was this gentleman's way. He relayed his experience at the Wyoming mountain lake to the woman and it seemed to bring her peace.
Before we left, we had Father bless a very special and unique statue of Mary that my wife had brought with her. She had originally purchased one just like the one she had blessed in Italy, but gave it away to one of the sisters at Our Lady of Peace Retreat. A dear friend of ours found a way to order the statue and surprised my wife with it. Father Peter gave a very warm and heart-felt blessing.
As we were getting ready to get into our car and drive to our hotel, he gave me a bear hug and said "You're good. You're good. You're good. You're good" It was as if Christ was speaking through him at that moment. It was something I needed to hear. I don't consider myself to be good. Oh, I don't think I'm evil, but I do consider myself to be very much a work in progress. I've done some good things in my life, and I've done some bad, and I've done some downright evil. I don't quite have the inclination to call myself "good," though I know it is what I strive to be. I suppose this makes Christ a little sad. I don't think He really wants me to feel down on myself as much as I do, and I think He seized His priest at that moment to encourage me. It was a very moving and somewhat cathartic moment.
As we were driving to our hotel, my wife checked her voicemail and behold the woman who had lost her bag had called. We made arrangements to meet up with her the next morning to return her lost item. We decided to meet at the front a popular restaurant in Medford, which was on our way to Ashland. As luck would have it, she was in Medford visiting family. My wife and I sat at the front of the restaurant for a few minutes enjoying the anticipation of returning this lost item to her. Soon we saw a woman approaching us carrying a bouquet of flowers and wearing a huge smile. She tried to give us $20 for our trouble, but my wife and I refused telling her to give that $20 to someone in need, but we accepted the flowers.
Later that day, we tried to check into our hotel, but it was still a bit early. As we were leaving, we noticed on the sidewalk outside the hotel a $20 bill. There was no one around that we could see that might have dropped it so we took as a gift from Our Lord.
We had a wonderful day in Ashland and saw a fantastic play, Shakespeare's King John.
After the play, we enjoyed a wonderful Italian dinner, and then went back to our hotel room. This was the only bad part of the trip. Our room was near the mechanical room of the hotel; so most of the night we were kept awake by the sound of the air conditioning. What was more, the person who had the room above us, was constantly walking back and forth on the creaky historic hotel floor. At about 4am we cried uncle; packed up our bags; checked out; and made the five hour drive home.
Most of Sunday we napped to catch up on the missed sleep the night before. We went to 5:30pm mass at the Cathedral and were surprised to have Father Chun, who is our spiritual director of Teams of Our Lady, officiating the mass. True to his form, his homily was a series of true or false questions. One that stood out for me was this:
"True or False. The opposite of faith is doubt?"
About half the congregation rasied their hands that it was true. But Father explained that the answer was false; that doubt is a part of faith. It's natural to have doubts from time to time. He said he believed that the opposite of faith was certainty. If one has certainty, one doesn't need faith, but Christ calls us to faith, not certainty.
It was the perfect ending to a busy, and in many ways, awe-inspiring weekend. As we left the Cathedral, we were confronted by a begger. I gave him my spare change, setting aside my certainty that he would use the dollar in change I gave him to feed his addition and having faith that Christ would have him use the money for a better purpose. Later I thought it might have been better to give him the $20 we found on the ground in Ashland, but perhaps that would have been too much.
God only knows. God is good. I try to be.