Friday, May 6, 2016

The Chicken Runs at Midnight...Alleluia

Pope Francis wakes up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to pray for an hour and half. 90 minutes! He then presides over the holy sacrifice of the Mass, another way of prayer. No wonder the Holy Father is able to do what he does—walk along the peripheries, touch those in need, and extend mercy; he is rooted in a relationship with God. That anchor is prayer.
Throughout my adult life, I have read the daily readings everyday...and then strayed from them. Reading the Gospel is a powerful way to start my day. Why I commit to reading them is obvious to me. Your words Oh Lord as spirit and life. And why I let things go and break that habit? I'm not so sure.

My advice to anyone who wants to be more like Francis in his spiritual discipline, is to pick a form and way of prayer that "works." Maybe it's reading the daily devotionals like Living with Christ or This Day. For me, it has been reading and praying with Faith ND. Reading the Good News lives up to its name; it's a good, better and best experience—if there is such a thing. Yesterday's reading and reflection was one of them.
First, I love the 50 days of the Easter season, Eastertide. Christ dwells in these liminal places, between heaven and earth. He has yet to return to the Father (still not sure what that means) and yet we know he has been crucified, he died, was buried and rose from the dead. Alleluia! He appears and reappears. He continues to teach and sets hearts on fire. He is with his disciples but is seeking to relate to them in a new way.

When Joe Reis connected this Gospel reading to what he studied in psychology, I was hooked. AP Psychology is a very popular course for seniors at St. Ignatius where I teach. Anytime I have a chance to connect theology and psychology, I can and I will. Call me Ms Cross Curriculum, I believe these two subjects can compliment each other for a new level of understanding. But the connections didn't stop there; it prompted me to think of the Communion of Saints.

I believe in the Communion of Saints. I say it with conviction. I have written about it many times and love teaching what it means to my students. This was a new and welcome way to teach about this rich Catholic tradition.
So, yesterday was a good day. I prayed this Gospel reading  with my seniors, shared Joe's reflection. I gave the psych experts in my class a chance to speak about object permanence and then share with them my favorite example of the Communion of Saints. I can't believe I haven't written about it before. No time like the present.

As seen in the video "Champions of Faith" long time MLB baseball coach Rich Donnelly had strayed from his Catholic faith. He was embarrassed to go to Mass. His priorities were far from the Church. That is, until his 18 year old daughter Amy got a brain tumor.

Amy, his only daughter had a zest for life and a creative perspective on it. She once asked her father: What do you yell at your players when you are standing in the third base coach's box: The chicken runs at midnight, or what? Where she came up with that thought and why— the Donnellys did not know. But, it caught on. In fact, Amy once called her dad on the road and told the traveling secretary to write the following on a written phone message "The Chicken Runs at Midnight. Love, Amy."

Amy underwent chemo and radiation, but died of cancer. Her two brothers decided they would inprint one message on her tombstone. It said:
Donnelly stayed in MLB and away from his faith. When Amy died, I wonder if anyone had told him about the Communion of Saints. I hope they did. Here's why:

Jim Heft has written, "Catholics believe in the "communion of saints." Even though people die, we stay in touch with them and they with us. How is this possible? It is possible through Baptism by which we enter into the death and resurrection of Jesus. Even though Jesus died, he rose from the dead, remaining even more present than when he was on earth to all who believed in him. We live in Christ. Those who have died believing in Christ remain alive in him." 

In 1997, five years after Amy's death, Rich Donnelly had the good fortune of being in the World Series, coaching the Florida Marlins. In Game 7 against the Cleveland Indians, Craig Counsell led off the eleventh inning with a single. Counsell was known as "the Chicken" because he would flap his arms like one in his batting stance. He moved to third and when one of his teammates hit a single up the middle, he scored from third base to win the championship. Donnelly's two sons, were sitting in the stands. They hugged and greeted their father and one of them said with tears in his eyes, "Dad! Look at the clock!!!" Donnelly looked up to see the time, not knowing what he was talking about. Brian said "Dad the chicken ran at midnight."
That was a turning point for Rich Donnelly and his Catholic faith. He said that moment, which I believe is sacramental, reminded him to return to another way of being.

Any relationship rooted in love seeks to do good for another, even long after death. As object permanence suggests, "presence can continue even if something or someone is no longer observable through the senses." Rich Donnelly came to realize that returning to his faith not only brought him closer to God but to his daughter Amy, albeit in a new way. That is the Communion of saints. I have come understand it in my own life. I've also realized that prayer, the Gospel, daily readings and more help me pay attention to what the Saints and everyday saints want me to hear. I wouldn't mind it if "the chicken runs at midnight" was it...blessed be.

The full story of the Chicken Runs at Midnight can be found here

Photo Credits
Pope Francis prayer
Faith ND

Amy's tombstone

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