Friday, July 22, 2011

Saint Who?

     I never used to pay attention to why cities like St. Paul, San Francisco, St. Augustine and St. Joseph were named after saints.  I was raised Episcopalian and was used to the surname; I guess I realized these people were remembered for something. People of all Christian faiths acknowlege certain early Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo and early martyrs like Stephen. When Marie and Susanna were homeschooled we used a great history text that detailed the European settling of the New World, and the different styles of the Spanish and French and others. I had not studied in such detail in public school.

     We can all acknowledge documented historical events. Of course we may interpret them somewhat differently, but it is fascinating study. Sometimes I've felt that my own geneological research, while interesting, is moderately futile. Twenty generations back and we all have close to a million ancestors--so why would one thin line of them mean anything more than another? I lost my drive for geneology, but not for history in general. As I studied them, I realized what incredible, spiritually inspiring people the saints were.

      Each city named after a saint has a good reason for it. I do not understand how people deny the Christian foundations of our country. There was tragedy involved in some cases of "religious" settling. There was horror in the case of many Native American Tribes. Man is fallible. Good intentions may not always produce the results that I think God would have wanted. Man, throughout history,  is sadly inhumane to man. So instead of focusing on the evil, I find it better to focus on what was learned and most especially what was good. The lives of saints are such stuff. Recently up for sainthood is Mother Teresa. No one would deny that hers was a heroic life. Try Googling some lesser names like these: Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein, both of whom died in concentration camps in the Holocaust. Just incredible people.

     Four years ago on July 20th,  an obscure saint became known to me. Mary Pat was prep'd in the OR, ready to have a gastrostomy tube, or "GT" inserted at five months old. A GT enters directly into the stomach through a stoma created in the abdomen, and is used for feeding. Mary Pat could not nurse. She could not suck from a bottle. All those months since she was out of the NICU we'd been managing a Nasogastric tube or "NG". That's the feeding tube that goes up into the nose and curves down the back of the pharynx, through the throat and espophagus and into the stomach. The mucous membranes are very sensitive and tender, especially in the pharynx. Insertion is at best uncomfortable to a cognizant adult. Most people describe it as intensely irritating or painful. During insertion there is a good chance of putting the tube into the lungs, rather than the stomach. As a nurse I'd inserted NG tubes so I felt at an advantage. But those were adults. And this was my tiny baby struggling for life. I prayed so hard to God to let her suck from a bottle. I pumped for six months to provide her with the best nutrition possible. I ached to nurse her, but the chance of her taking a bottle would be a miracle to me. It wasn't to be. Every time she needed the NG reinserted she screamed and cried and turned blue. I prayed and tried to be so cool and clinical. Being an RN did not make it any easier.

      Mary Pat additionally needed a procedure to tighten the top of her stomach.  She had such bad gastric reflux that one day she stopped breathing and had to be life-flighted back to the hospital. She had an apnea monitor at night which I needed to attach to leads on her chest. False alarms in the middle of the night were not uncommon.  I prayed that Mary Pat would not need any of this, but the answer I wanted did not come. We checked into the hospital and dressed Mary Pat in her tiny gown. The nurse took her and I cried as I had before her other surgeries. Mary Pat had additional difficulty with each of her surgeries when intubated, because of her cleft palate, jaw surgery and anatomy.         Dr. St. Peter was her surgeon. He was very kind and comforting. He spoke with us before the surgery and was just the confident, calming presence that I needed. Bruce and I settled in for the wait. My reading led me to the "Saint of the Day." A Feast Day is usually celebrated on the date of death of the saint...the day they entered the hereafter with Christ. This day was the feast day of St. Apollinaris.

     St. Apollinaris was the first bishop of Ravenna in the first to second century. He was a great preacher and many came to know Christ because of him. He was brutally beaten and tortured more than once by the Roman officials but he kept evangelizing and was eventually martyred. St. Apollinaris had been ordained and sent to Ravenna by St. Peter himself. St. Peter! This fact may seem in no way to be connected to Mary Pat, but I knew that in God's great love, He knew about what would happen to Mary Pat, and when St. Peter did ordain St. Apollinaris He knew that centuries later it would give comfort to a frightened mother. Mary Pat was indeed in His hands.

     Dr. St. Peter came out after the surgery to tell us that it had gone well. As we began to breathe a sigh of relief, he informed us that he encountered something serious. Because of the need for that surgery, Dr. St. Peter found a life threatening condition called a diaphragmatic hernia and expertly fixed it. He also found that her large intestine was not where it should be. Part of it was basically unattached and could have led, undetected, to a fatal condition of twisting and strangulation of the bowel. He fixed it. If God had answered my prayer and allowed her to nurse, or even to be fed from the bottle--to be spared of the NG tube and later the G-tube--these conditions could very well have killed her. I learned the beauty in unanswered prayer.

     I have a thirst for wisdom, knowledge and history that will never be quenched in this lifetime. Though eternity may be incomprehensible, thinking about getting to know all those who have gone before us--is a taste of paradise to me... is Mary Pat.

God bless you,


The Abbey Farm

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ora et Labora

     Marie attended an Agribusiness/Entrepreneurship course at a local community college. She was worried about the days away from her Nubian milk goats but Susanna jumped right in to take-over farm chores and Marie was able to make the break. About a dozen students from three or four counties participated. Marie said the course was quite informative and inspiring. Each student had an idea for his or her own business and was required to present a business plan at the end of the week to a panel of judges.

     Marie’s business plan was entitled “The Abbey Girl Goat Farm” and detailed the first few years of a small-scale dairy farm. To our surprise and pride, she won first place. She’s been buzzing ever since. Marie is aware of her time constraints and the difficulty involved with starting and running a small business. She knows that college has to be factored into the plan in two years. Nonetheless, she has a realistic, yet hopeful excitement. She has been working like a horse and praying a lot about her plans.

     “Ora et Labora.” Pray and Work. Today is the Feast Day of St. Benedict of Nursia.  He is considered the Father of Western Monasticism. As a young man in the fifth century he was educated in Rome and became offended by the worldliness he witnessed. He retreated to a remote place. For a few years he lived a hermit’s life in which he prayed and fasted and grew closer to God. Later, he founded the Order of St. Benedict and a code or “Rule” to live by. That “Rule of St. Benedict” is followed to this day by thousands of men living a Monastic life.

     In the mid-1800’s, Benedictine Monks came to the United States from Germany. By the late-1800’a a group of them made their way to Kansas. They built a Monastery and founded a college. The Abbey Farm was started by these same Monks and Brothers. Farm Managers were later hired and lived here with their families. Our children are certainly not the first to be raised here, to pick dandelions, to turn over rocks in search of night crawlers, to wade in the pond, to raise livestock.

     Whether or not we know it, we are all called to a life of prayer and work. In an age where the created is celebrated in absence of its Creator, many are offended by the worldliness and self-centeredness of our culture--where people are treated like things and things are valued more than people. We don’t have to become hermits, or to move to a farm to reverse the trend. Wherever we are, in whatever occupation we can make a difference. There is dignity in the most menial of work. There is sanctity in the weakest of lives.

Seek God. Love His creation as He does. Ora et Labora.


The Abbey Farm