My travels of the last month or so have held many blessings. A quick rundown on events of my first couple of weeks:
I attended the Ignatian Spirituality Institute at Seattle University. There were far more lay people than Jesuits at the conference, and it was wonderful to see so many people excited about Ignatius and The Exercises! It was my first visit to Seattle—what a fascinating and beautiful place, if but a bit on the new agey side.
While in Seattle, I had the great privilege of meeting Matthew Fish
. Matthew actually entered the Jesuits the same year I did, right after he finished high school, but soon left. Now, older and wiser, he will be teaching at our Jesuit High School in Dallas while considering joining us again, this time in my very own New Orleans province. I hope to welcome him next summer!
I also, at long last, got to meet Susan Francois
, that musing discerning woman. We had time for a spot of brunch, and she was kind enough to give me a ride to the airport. We had a good few hours to chat and to allow me a bit more of a look at Seattle. It was great to catch up, and to be with Susan as she approaches that daunting day of entrance into religious life. She was a joy to be with, and I’m sure her fellow sisters will think so as well. I hope to catch her again on a future tour of New Jersey, where she’ll be making her novitiate.
From there I spent several days staying at our Jesuit parish in Hollywood while visiting my brother, his wife, and their two-year old twins, Sam and Ellie. As I walked the street of Hollywood the night I arrived, I was a bit overwhelmed. It’s a strange mixture of wealth, aspiration and poverty, and you can feel it all coming at you at once. I ducked into a local establishment for a bite to eat and was a bit disturbed when, as a homeless man entered the store, one of the women at the counter said repeatedly and loudly to him across the dining room, “I need you to leave.” It instilled in me a strange mixture of relief and shame.
Sam and Ellie are such a joy. And, as you can imagine, they have lots of energy! We had lots of fun visiting the aquarium, going to the beach and walking around Santa Monica. They live in the valley north of L.A., and while I was there they broke a temperature record—it reached 119! I especially enjoyed the bed time ritual my brother and his wife have with the kids. There is a bit of silly athletic jumping around, each trying to best imitate the other, followed by settling down into story time. We’d read some three or four books of their choice, to the sound of a soothing music mix that my brother plays every night. Kisses and hugs, etc. I can’t wait for the next visit. It probably won’t be until at least next summer. In the meantime, they are expecting another addition to the family soon!
And here’s the story of how I was almost trapped in L.A. I had an early flight, and had to return a rental car. So, departure from the parish was about 4:45 am. The parking lot is surrounded by fences, with several gates. I checked to make sure I would be able to get out, and was told that one of the gates, though closed, is never locked. It’s just a matter of getting out of the car, and opening the gate, driving out, then closing it again. So, that morning I got all my stuff together, returned my house key to the appropriate box, and left the building. Put the stuff in the car, drove up to the gate, and it was very clearly locked, and chained. Thinking maybe I got the info wrong, I drove to each of the other gates, and found each of them locked. And, remember, I can’t go back into the house, because I had to return the key before I left. So, imagine Mark in the parking lot at just short of 5 am in the morning, standing below the windows of the Jesuit house, screaming in hope that someone might wake up. Thankfully, they don’t have air conditioning, and some of the windows were open. So, I did manage to wake someone up. However, it still took a little while as the person I woke up came down, having been assured by the superior that the gate was never locked, to see for himself. He found it just as I did. So, then, we had to get the superior who, thankfully, was able to find a key for the mystery lock on his key chain. But, by then I had lost a good 20 minutes or so. Before getting to the airport I had to fill the car with gas, endure a cranky rental car shuttle driver, and, of course, my airline was the last of the stops. Somehow, miraculously, I was able to arrive at my gate while the plane was still boarding.
I’ll follow up with another post about our experience in Colorado . . .