Monday, 29 September 2014

Thanks to St Raphael, I got an Honours Degree

Giving thanks to St Raphael in California
Some years ago, as a twenty-year-old I was skeptical of praying to the angel St Raphael. I thought he was ‘a made-up saint’, and thought that someone of New Age persuasion had invented him as an imaginary friend. I believed in Guardian Angels, but surely Archangels were stretching the point?! How wrong one can be.

Then another young girl told me that they had received great favours from the Archangel Raphael; that they were owed a large cheque, and that on praying to St Raphael, the money had been paid swiftly. As a student, a saint who could act as a debt collector seemed very attractive! 

I was a university student and a teacher-in-training at the time. It was a heady time of waiting to be assigned the professor that would spend five weeks evaluating my lesson plans and my performance in the classroom and give me that final exam grade that would be with me forever. 

I decided to say this novena to St Raphael and my intention was simple, ‘let me get a fair professor that will give me a decent grade’. 

Sharing a house with other university students at the time, I had just completed the novena, when one of the housemates came home and looked at me with sad eyes. She told me that she had ‘really bad news’. She had been in the doorway of ‘the education office’ (the busy place where the admin staff did the paperwork for student teachers) and had overhead them reading out my name and saying, ‘Mary O’Regan is on Professor X’s list’.  Taking a step into the office, my housemate saw a sheet of official looking paper and saw that my name was down as being the student of Professor X.

Professor X (not his real name, obviously) was quite the bully who failed a lot of students and gave the most diligent students C or D grades for the most whimsical of reasons. A friend of mine who had been assigned him said, ‘always a Pass, never an Honour with Professor X’.    
On hearing that I’d been assigned Professor X, my face fell. Getting Professor X meant that I wouldn’t get an Honours degree. But it popped up in my mind that I’d invested nine days of prayer in beseeching St Raphael for a professor who would judge me justly. 

With renewed enthusiasm, I said to the housemate who had encumbered me with the bad news of Professor X, “I’ve said a novena to St Raphael, he won’t let me get Professor X.”

My housemate was a nice girl and nodded her head sympathetically, before looking at me like I was in denial, and said, ‘Mary, I think you have to face facts, you’ve probably got the worst professor ever.’ 

“We’ll see, something will change. I won’t get Professor X.”

Sure enough, when the official lists went up on the wall, I had a pleasant surprise, and had been given Professor O’Connor, a respectable professor who was sweet-natured and eager to give students good grades. He was the type whose students got all grades, from being failed to being given A grades.

“I’m flabbergasted,” said my housemate."I'm speechless."

Then during my first meeting with Professor O’C, he said, “are you sure you are meant to be on my list? Is there any chance you are on two professors’ lists at the same time?”

I shook my head vigorously and turning on the charm, I said, “I’m delighted to have you as my professor. I’ll do my best.”

“I have no idea how you ended up on my list. It’s a complete mystery. The education office said to me that they had made a mistake and you were meant to have another professor.”

Later on Professor O’C noted, “I could have opted not to accept you as my student. You had been on another professor’s list. But I felt compelled to keep you on my list.”
The fact that I did not get Professor X made all the difference in the end. I got a very good grade from Professor O’C and even today as I update my resume / CV, I am delighted to be able to put down Honours Degree.  Had it not been for St Raphael's intercession, it may never have been a reality.
Some prayers that are answered have a positive benefit that lasts a lifetime. This is one such example.

In the ‘new’ calendar, we hold September 29 as the feast day for all the Archangels. We know that St Raphael is an Archangel because he said, “I am one of the seven who stand before the face of God.”

Thank you, St Raphael, for making sure that I got a ‘decent’ professor.

In the next picture, you see St Michael, and alongside him is St Raphael, signified by the large fish in his grasp.  This wonderful illustration is the oeuvre of Matthew Alderman, a friend of eight years.  Go ahead, and check out his visually stunning website.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Shouting matches will not reconcile the SSPX with Rome

It is a cause for joy. This week Bishop Fellay met with the Prefect of the CDF Cardinal Müller for the first time since the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
There has been one unacceptable development. Catholics around the globe have reacted – as though they have no part to play in the reconciliation process. 

We are wrong to place all the responsibility for reconciliation on the shoulders of the Church hierarchy and the SSPX leaders. 

There’s a simple test for every Catholic to see if they are helping or hindering the reconciliation. If you are a supporter of Cardinal Müller, could you pray for Bishop Fellay? Most tellingly, could you pray for the SSXP parishioners?

If you are a supporter of Bishop Fellay, are you willing to pray for Cardinal Müller? Or, if you only attend the SSPX, could you pray for Catholics who attend the Novus Ordo exclusively?

Perhaps the greater worldwide reconciliation between isolated Traditionalists and mainstream Catholics has to start with prayer – it will lend that essential softening of the heart.

But for some liberal Catholics, the idea of praying for Bishop Fellay or SSXP parishioners makes them wince. For Traditionalist Catholics, I have noticed bursts on anger whenever they merely hear the name of Cardinal Müller and disgust at the idea of praying for ‘those Vatican II Catholics’. But herein is the problem. It is the same cycle of holding each other in contempt. 

How on earth can there be reconciliation, when we react so defensively towards each other? 

I suggest that ‘the Little Way’ of St Thérèse of Lisieux be adopted immediately, especially as her feast day is around the corner. In line with the Little Way, I would call on both sides to stop the shouting matches, the childish screams of ‘they started it’, and especially to stop compiling lists of faults that is meant to justify the position that ‘we are better than them!’

The reconciliation process between the SSPX and Rome is not just happening in a private room at the Vatican, but inside the heart of Catholics on both sides. 

I wrote this for The Catholic Herald website, you may see it here

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

On relying on Tom Leopold’s comedy to prevent a suicide…

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day

Regular readers of my journalism will remember theinterview that I did with Tom Leopold that was carried in The Catholic Herald last winter.  It was providential that Leopold was in London – just when I requested an interview with him. He was working on The Kumars show. For one episode, he wrote a script for Daniel Radcliffe, which had Daniel putting an advert for a wife in The Times of India. Thousands of interested ladies replied!  

Tom Leopold got to know me last November, but as a huge fan of Seinfeld, I had been familiar with Leopold’s work for over a decade.  Tom was the story editor on several of the Season 3 Seinfeld episodes and set the groundwork for ‘the show about nothing’ to become one of the best-loved sit-coms in American television. He wrote the cult classic episodes, The Café and The Suicide, as well as co-writing the story for the Season 4 episode The Cheever Letters. 

Seinfeld Episode, The Cafe, written by Tom Leopold
I discovered Seinfeld when I was 17.  Watching my first episode was like watching TV for the very first time. Nothing I had ever seen or heard had made me laugh and forget my troubles like that 22 minute Seinfeld escape. 

I started praying for Tom Leopold when I was 18.  It may seem strange to pray for someone that I had never met.  I never expected to meet Leopold and be able to thank him in person.  So, when I was a young university student in Ireland, I prayed for him as a way of ‘giving something back’. 

But during my 20s, I had a much more serious reason for praying for Leopold.  As I mentioned in the original interview, ‘years ago I got hooked on Leopold’s comedy during a dark winter when I was pulling a suicidal friend out of a depression. I kept myself upbeat by repeatedly watching some of the scenes that Leopold wrote for Seinfeld…’

To be more precise, I was at the side of a young pregnant woman who was being cruelly bullied by thugs. She wanted to die by her own hand, by swallowing a lethal cocktail.  

 It was a bitterly frosty winter, and I would spend my days with the suicidal lady, pulling her back from the abyss and encouraging her to cut ties with the bullies who were mistreating her. 

After long days with the suicidal pregnant mother, I would be emotionally exhausted, and doubted if I had the strength to spend so much time with someone who yearned to drink a deathly draft. 

When I came home, my remedy for my hopelessness was to watch Seinfeld, which renewed me.  Most importantly, I was able to get a good night’s sleep after watching Seinfeld Season 3. People who have cared for pregnant suicidal women in distress know that it can be hard to sleep for fear that the woman will ‘do something stupid’ during the night. But I needed my sleep urgently.
At that time, I would repeatedly watch The Suicide, the Seinfeld episode that Leopold wrote.  It gave me a way of coping: the parallel black-comedy storyline about a man who attempts suicide but fails.  

At that time, when I was praying intensely for Leopold, a room-mate of mine at the time said, ‘I can’t understand why you pray for that Seinfeld writer. IT’S NOT LIKE ANY OF THOSE WRITERS WILL BECOME CATHOLIC!’

I prayed for Leopold out of gratitude. To understand my gratitude, you have to consider that I do not think I would have pulled the young woman out of despair, had I not been able to feed my mind with the mirth of Leopold’s comedy.

The lady survived her suicidal ideation, and she gave birth to a lovely baby.  She never had depression or mental illness per se, but was going through a phase of suicidal tendencies. Now, she can’t understand why she was so eager to die by her own hand, and reflects that, ‘I don’t know what came over me. It’s like I was a different person then’. 

During the years that I was praying the mysteries of the Rosary for Leopold, I didn’t know and never expected that he would convert to Catholicism. Some time later, I picked up a newspaper article and saw that Tom Leopold had become a Catholic.  I thought that I was dreaming. I watched an interview that Leopold gave on the inspiration behind The Cheever Letters, and made sure that the same writer was the one who had converted to Catholicism.

I’m not alone. Steven Spielberg relied on Seinfeldian comedy when he was making Schindler’s List. Spielberg watched Seinfeld Season 3 during filming breaks as a way of keeping his spirits up.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

What did YOU look like when you started school? Join the 'When I Started School' meme

The internet is still young. Most of us who document our lives have an identity problem. We present as a people without a past. 

The general public sees us in terms of the photos and insights that we post. So, if you started using sharing your life on the internet when you were 20, the world gradually sees you as having began life at 20!

The internet was an unheard of concept when most of us were kids. So, those of us who got to know each other on the internet are not aware of each others’ childhoods.

I’m starting a meme to remedy this.

What kind of child were you?

Are you a very different adult?

How to do the 'When I Started School' Meme

You don’t need a blog.  If you have a blog, you can do the post there, but if not, you can do the post on Twitter or Facebook. Some people might like to do all three: post on their blog, Facebook and Twitter. Please always use the tag, #WhenIStartedSchool to keep us together.

Post a photo of yourself from your early school days.

Answer the questions:

What kind of child were you?      Are you a very different adult?

Nominate at least three other bloggers and/or social media users. Tell them they have been nominated by leaving a comment on their blogs or by tweeting to them or posting on their wall on Facebook OR whichever method you prefer.

NB – YOU can chose as many bloggers and social media users as you like.

Give them a link back to this post on my blog that you are reading now, where they can find the instructions.

If they like, they can leave a comment here, mention who nominated them and say who they are nominating. This means that my readers are more likely to take an interest in their childhood reminiscences. 

I’LL start the meme rolling…   The picture you see above of the platinum blond child is me.

What kind of child were you?

I wrote about being ‘an emotional Benjamin Button’ in January. I was a deadly serious and introverted child.  Every spring, a yellow rose bush would bloom in our garden. After school, I would stand by the rosebush talking to the flowers that were in bloom and play-act with them like they were puppets.

I loved listening to an audio tape (yes, those relics of technology past) of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, written by Robert Louis Stevenson.  The story infused my vocabulary so much that when I was about 7 and obsessed with writing my will, I wrote at the top, ‘in the event of my death or disappearance’, which is how Jekyll starts his letter to his friend, the lawyer Gabriel John Utterson. 

Are you a very different adult?

Yes, a wildly different adult! Fun-loving and irreverent. 
Let my holiday snap from this summer taken by the sea in Kent speak for itself.  We travelled by train to Kent, near Broadstairs where Charles Dickens used to go on holiday and where he would restore his energy.
Summer 2014 Later on I rolled on the ground like a sheep and the Collie ran around me.

I am a blogger so I will nominate my own kind…

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