Banana Fanna Fo Filliam

It’s been a few years since my son was confirmed, but I remember being just a little envious of his experience. He studied the lives of various saints, came to a solid conclusion on his Confirmation name and can still tell you exactly why he chose it. He decided on, “John”—the apostle who didn’t abandon Jesus, stood by Mary at the cross and took her into his care.

I don’t remember receiving a lot of coaching on name selection back in the day (confirmed 6th grade, c. 1971). We focused a lot more on a folded piece of 8.5 x 11 cardstock with four panels of questions the archbishop would be selecting from in order to judge our sacramental worthiness.

Ah, memories! I can still remember walking into Sister Emmanuel’s office to ask for a replacement card after losing my original copy. In those pre-computer days of offset printing it seemed like such an outlandish request, I was petrified. But Sister, a tough girl to be sure, treated me quite nicely. “Don’t be so nervous. You’re a good boy.” she said, or words to that effect.

And I was good. One of those nauseatingly good boys you may have not-so-fond memories of. The thought of ever getting into trouble…brrr…I still get a chill thinking about it. So, of course, I learned my folded card forwards and backwards, especially after being granted the plenary indulgence of a second copy.

It never occurred to any of us—Sister Emmanuel, included—that Archbishop had no intention of leaving the church without oiling up the lot of us, so we drilled those Confirmation questions as if we were preparing for the particular judgment. Picking a name was more of a box to be checked. Fortunately, I was ahead on the “name game.”

Those of a certain age out there are singing a little song to yourselves. Aren’t you?

Anyway, I had that box checked years ahead of time; my Confirmation name was going to be, “William.” It was my father’s name. He died when I was five. I missed him. I wanted his name. Interestingly, I only got pushback from one person—my godfather of all people, my father’s brother. He loved my dad but (being in a good position to know he wasn’t a saint, probably) he wanted me to go with “Aloysius.”

What’s with Irish Americans and “Aloysius” anyway? Ever since Terence Aloysius Mahoney in The Bowery Boys, I’ve never understood it. If anybody out there can shed some light on that for me, I’d appreciate it.

Over the years, I’ve done a cursory check or two, to prove that there are “St. Williams” out there and convince myself that my father isn’t constantly having to assure St. Aloysius, “No, Al. I do not think that makes me canonized. He’s my son, for Pete’s sake! Oh. Sorry, St. Peter.” I got serious about it recently and decided to click through the W section of catholic.org’s saints directory to see if I could finally designate a worthy William after all these years. I found eighteen but just couldn’t connect with any of them:

St. William: Died 1070. Not much to go on.

St. William, Abbot: Maybe if he had been Abbot of Costello.

St. William of Bourges: Hair shirt, no meat, not much in common.

St. William Firmatus: Patron of people who get headaches; had he been patron of people who give headaches, that may have worked out.

I was discouraged but, fortunately, I was conducting this research seated beside my well-read catechist wife. She was surprised at the small pool I had to draw from, since plenty of Williams must have been martyred in Reformation England.

“Wait a minute,” said I, “Do blesseds count for Confirmation names?”

“Sure,” said she, “You could take a blessed.”

I had been skipping the blesseds on the list, figuring I needed someone who had been called up to the majors; that opened up twenty-six more possibilities.

Friends, let me introduce you to Blessed William Carter who, were he alive today, may very well have been a Catholic blogger.

Blessed Bill was a regular married guy, just like me, but there the comparison ends. A printer by trade, he risked his life setting up a secret Catholic press in Elizabeth I’s England. He was found out, imprisoned and tortured in an attempt to get information on illegal Catholic activity. Bill refused to crack and was eventually executed.

I don’t mean to sound anti-English. I’m a Third Doctor man all the way and I drink P.G. Tips every evening. But I do believe I’ve found my William. Not a bad patron for a guy who likes to mess around with words and scatter them about the interwebs.

Now my father and St. Aloysius can be buddies.

Until next time—fee fy mo milliam.

William.

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Daddy’s Home. Every. Single. Day.

Toward the middle of last year, our cable company finally figured out the problem with the connection in my mother-in-law’s room; she no longer needs me to come upstairs and tinker with the system. Then my son got his driver’s license; he no longer needs to be driven to the various activities that require his presence. A few months after that, the company I’d been with since 2000 informed me that it was reorganizing and had no position for me in the new organization.

Everywhere I turn, I’m getting laid off!

Truth be told, I’m thrilled about the cable, since all I was doing was basically rebooting the cable boxes and blowing dust of the coaxial until the signal decided to come back on its own. And I actually kind of like watching my son become an independent young man, since he is also a young man who genuinely enjoys the company of his parents and often chooses us over other options.

But the reorganization thing is testing something I’ve claimed over the years and now have to prove; to quote myself, “I don’t define myself by my job.” That’s a lot easier to say when you’re getting a living wage direct-deposited to your bank account every two weeks than it is when you’re 50-plus, casting resumes into the ether and watching your highly-taxed severance package drop like a mercury thermometer in the Arctic.

I don’t particularly miss the job; I miss the fact of it. God intended us to work. The Bible tells me so. Going to work, in my mind anyway, is an integral part of my end of the marriage covenant. Even though my wife, thank God, has a job that provides us with medical insurance, being a husband and father without a job is truly awful.

This is wholly my problem, being an old-fashioned sort of guy. But from my vantage point, I should be able to tell my wife, “Michael only has another couple of years at home before college. I know you’d rather be around for him than working. Quit and find something else after he graduates high school. We can get by on my salary.”

But I can’t say that—and not just because I can’t do the math regarding our needs (I don’t touch the finances, because I love my family and don’t want to get sent to jail because I forgot to carry a “2”). I can’t say it because, well, I’m at home typing a blog this afternoon instead of at work earning a buck.

Here’s the good thing, though. I’m not miserable. Most days. I’ve been called to trust and, through God’s grace and the intercession of Our Lady, I’m trusting.

God has never let us down and He never will. There’s something He needs me to do or understand and I’m keeping an eye out for it. And He has blessed me with a wonderfully supportive wife and son (and mother-in-law) who have my back through it all.

There’s one big drawback though. What was I thinking when I gave up television for Lent?

Jesus Looked at Me Funny

I was helping out at an RCIA retreat recently, when a young priest—let’s call him Father Young—took those present through a lectio divina experience, applying the five senses to Mark 4: 35-41, where Jesus calms a storm at sea.

Father asked us to feel the storm looming and visualize it rolling in and tossing the boat like Batman slapping around The Joker’s henchmen (my analogy, not Father’s). He asked us to feel the hard wooden floor of the boat as we knelt in supplication asking that the storm would subside. What was the mood on the boat? What was it like to see Jesus asleep on a cushion, gently snoring, while the storm raged all around us.

This was definitley not the prayer experience for me. I got too caught up in the details.

First of all, I assume Father meant “snoring” figuratively. I refuse to believe that Jesus ever snored, gently or otherwise. The Jesus Seminar might say he did, but if they do, they’re wrong. Second, it was pretty obvious that Father Young has never been at sea during a storm. How are you supposed to hear gentle snoring during a storm?

Apostle 1: Do you hear that?

Apostle 2: Hear what? The raging storm? Yeah, I pretty much hear that.

Apostle 1: No. Not the storm. That gentle snoring.

Apostle 2: Hey, you’re right. That IS gentle.

Now, if he had said it were St. Peter snoring, he may have had a case.

Apostle 1: Man, that wind is howling!

Apostle 2: Is it? Who can here the wind over Simon Bar Buzzsaw?

Apostle 1: What’s a buzzsaw?

Anyway, after trying to get us all to accuse Jesus of snoring like St. Peter, Father Young made us wake Jesus up, instead of letting the guys in the actual Gospel account do it. He would have done it himself, I suppose, but he was busy narrating. We were then invited to analyze how we felt as we asked Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Somehow, I don’t think that was the Apostles’s choice of words. It was probably more like the Aramaic version of, “Hello! Lord? Dying here!”

Next, Father Young came to the part where Jesus basically tells the storm, “Shhhh!” We were then invited to say how we were feeling.

I said, “Stupid,” since I felt that Jesus was looking at me funny.

Then, we each got a chance to say something to Jesus after He had calmed the storm, looked at us funny and asked, “Do you not yet have faith?”

There were many appropriately chagrined statements. Personally, I think I said the only thing that really made sense, “Can I get you a dry cushion, so you can lay back down?”

I mean, what else would there be to say after you woke the Son of God out a peaceful nap (one of the joys of His human nature) and basically asked Him to turn off a fan?

And no, I haven’t a clue as to where I might have gotten that dry cushion.