FROM THE PRESIDENT'S KITCHEN TABLE
This issue of the newsletter is late, but I can’t apologize. Our summer was filled with children and grandchildren, the measure of our treasure “pressed down, shaken together, running over…pour[ed] into the folds of our garments.” We had weeks of full laps and fuller hearts. For the month of July our daughter from Houston visited with her husband and five daughters and the house rang with happy laughter from the constant parade of little princesses dressed up in finery from my costume chest. They left in early August and our son from Austin moved in with his wife and four children for another week of cookie baking, swimming, reading stories, and outings. When they left I attended a five-day silent Ignatian retreat where amidst all the spiritual work I catnapped between meditations to make up for the weeks of exhausting activity and also enjoyed long soul-rejuvenating prayer walks with the Lord. I returned home to four of our local grandkids who stayed for a week while Mom and Dan went off on a holiday and the round of adventures continued with hikes, a campfire, visits with cousins, and a trip to the county fair.
When you have five children and eighteen grandchildren there is no such thing as an empty nest. The kids christened our home Camp Kreitzer this summer and we confirmed it by hanging a sign. We are always open and ready for the next batch of eager little campers. Each day began with morning prayers and hugs and ended with lit candles on the porch in front of Mary’s statue, a decade of the rosary, and night prayers. Our goal is to help our children keep the little ones on track for the Lord knowing that their true home is heaven. Larry and I are Catholics because our ancestors passed on the faith. How can we do any less? It is our first priority, the duty of our state in life as Catholic parents and grandparents. And we rejoice in it! “Better to do great good among few,” St. Augustine says, “than little good among many.”
Gramma is my favorite title. I missed out on grandparents because my mother’s parents died when I was an infant and my dad’s visited infrequently. I never really knew them, although I remember grandpa was a storyteller and usually had a big bag of orange circus peanuts to share. Larry was more fortunate and I loved our visits to Wheeling when I often asked Grandma Trischler, his mom’s mother, to tell about the days when the lamplighters lit the gaslights on Main Street and the horse and buggies had yet to be replaced by the horseless carriages. She was an amazing woman. Widowed early she raised her family without welfare cleaning office buildings until she was about 93 when a bleeding ulcer ended her living alone. She moved in with the Kreitzers, a beloved presence for all our visits until her death a few years later. What a blessing to have four generations loving and being loved by each other.
From the littlest great grandchild to the oldest patriarch or matriarch, it is the family that most resembles the kingdom of God. If the nuclear family is the living icon of the Trinity, the extended family is the icon of the Church.
I don’t know if, when he wrote The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein intended the Shire to be a metaphor for the Catholic Church, but he surely could have. Remember Bilbo’s birthday party at the opening of the story. Almost every member of the Shire is there for the festivities and all of them related in some way to Bilbo: Tooks, Bagginses, Brandybucks, Boffins, Grubbs, Chubbs, Goodbodies, Hornblowers, Proudfoots: they join in the feast and celebrate a birth, a bit like Christmas. And Frodo shares Bilbo’s birthday; it is his 33rd. He comes of age and begins his own public ministry to save Middle Earth.
In many ways today we live in the shadow of Mordor. The culture of death grows bolder and the betrayers more numerous. The smoke of Satan, as Pope Paul VI said, has entered the sanctuary. But God does not sleep and cannot be overcome by Sauron and his minions. The domestic church of the family and the larger Church founded on the rock of Peter will overcome the world. Prayer and penance, family and faithfulness endure. Hope remains! Great generosity in doing God’s will is the prescription for salvation, the only thing that matters. Let us say with St. Ignatius, “Neither the kingdoms of this world nor the bounds of the universe have any use for me. I would rather die for Jesus Christ than rule the last reaches of the earth.”