Plain Talk For Painful TimesWritten by Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
September 11, 2001 became our new “Day of Infamy.”
The calls started at 6:00 a.m. PST. Mother’s voice shrilled into my not-quite awake brain. “Turn on ABC.” She hung up.
The devastation and horror began with a flick of power to television. Hatred came to life before my eyes. With it came fear, a moment of panic, and then calls to everyone I loved and cared about. Like so many of you, I alternated between listening and watching “the news” to half-hearted attempts at work.
On day after this evil, I am compelled to write. Everyone reading this has also experienced both planned cruelty of humanity as well as its generosity. People stood in line waiting to donate blood. Firefighters and police officers gave their lives. Messages of support swirled across e-mail channels. And “safety” we thought was ours has disappeared in dense clouds of smoke that carried World Trade Tower, Pentagon, and four planes into destruction. All technology in world would not have prevented this attack. The human technology of hatred overrode all systems.
The question for me is deeper then “who did this?” Instead, question is “how can we use this evil to become wiser and more humanly connected?” How nation responds in aftermath of this horror will tell world just who we really are. I pray that our wise responses will be words of compassion and reason in midst of insanity. While cold inhumanity of terrorism is horrific, it cannot lead us into generalizations about a race, religion, or nation. The actions of a few do not denote mindset of all.
Memories, Meanings, and Lessons for LifeWritten by Eileen McDargh, CSP, CPAE
Some places just feel like home even if you’ve never lived there. I can feel calm settle over me as I turn from highway and see St. Joseph Convent perched in its solid position above Pennsylvania Dutch countryside. Its three-story arms spread across hill as if embracing furrowed farmland below. The manure-covered fields puff pungent perfume into April morning air. The dense pine trees planted by my grandfather are almost as tall as bell tower. I don’t remember pink and white dogwoods that blush next to retreat center but then again, I have never been here in spring. An emergency calls me here now.
Could it have been 45 years ago I watched my beautiful aunt walk down aisle and become a “Bride of Christ”, a term that kept my eight year-old Catholic mind in puzzlement? I remember coolness of chapel and stained glass colors dancing across pews. Could it have been so long ago and after successive summer visits, that my twin brother and sister and I found cows kept by Sister Phillip, grotto walkway, Lady of Lourdes statue and chicken coops? Could it have been so long ago that countless arms swaddled in black gauze reached to hug us against ample bosoms?
How strange it seemed that we had to meet her—Auntie Pep now-called Sister Mary Clare—in a small parlor with uncomfortable velvet chairs. Stranger too was hearing Nana and Pappaw call their daughter, “Sister Clare”.
There was mystery behind all those doors marked “private” just as surely there must have been some secret hidden behind starched headpiece and cowl and beneath long black skirt and veil. Yet for all mystery, my overwhelming sense was always one of contentment when I walked up steep marble stairs to entry hall and candlelit chapel.
The black habits are gone and I am staying in one of rooms behind private doors .I wear my bathrobe and stand shoulder to shoulder with nuns of all ages at a sink to spit toothpaste and water. I carry my tray into dining room and laugh at jokes around a table. I know security code to open backdoor and where yogurt is hidden in big refrigerator. It is now a different kind of mystery.