Friday, June 20, 2014



One Christmas my family went, as was the custom, to Woonsocket, RI, to celebrate the feast but also to gather in the most expensive gifts from Aunt Kay. She lived, with my Gramma, on the 2nd floor of a 3-story rental on High Street. I had been there often, so was known by many of the kids my age (12) on the block. As we unloaded from our car, I dashed to the front door, ran up the stairs, and without a knock, burst through the door and saw IT under the tree. A brand new boy’s Schwinn bicycle, full of chrome, with raccoon tails from the handle grips and back bumper, with a powerful mounted searchlight on the front bumper, a horn and reflectors suspended at key positions on the spokes of each wheel. 

I screamed with joy, grabbed the bike and bumped it down the narrow stairway and out onto the street where I rode it with pride. Neighborhood kids yelled after me, “Hey, Charlie, where’d you get the nice bike?” “My Aunt Kay”, I yelled back, “Ain’t she great?”
Then I saw my Dad at the front door of the apartment looking like a thunder cloud. I could tell that something was very, very wrong. “You dope! What the hell is wrong with you?” he bellowed.
“I thought it was for me” I sheepishly replied. 

“It is, you jerk. But don’t you know, you grabbed the bike and went to show it off without ever saying thank you to your Aunt.  Get up there and apologize to your Auntie  and thank her right now!”

I bumped the bike up the stairs as fast as I could and ran to my Aunt. Threw my arms around her and hugged her as hard as I could. “Thank you, thank you, thank you, Aunt Kay, I LOVE it!”
In typical Auntie fashion she said, “Now if it doesn’t fit right, I can exchange it for a smaller size.”

“No, no, Aunt Kay. It’s perfect, and I can use it on my paper route.”
This story stayed with me all my life. I remembered it vividly while studying, meditating upon and praying the psalms in the Divine Office during five years as a Trappist monk. I thought often about how at the beginning of “time”, there was NO THING. At that first moment, energy and matter evolved from a point of no dimensions and spread out to become the Cosmos, in which a universe of time and space, matter and energy spread out at incredible velocity. Ultimately, our galaxy, the Milky Way, formed and huge debris from previous generations of stars gathered to form our solar system. One of the planets formed in orbits around the star we call the sun, then the earth formed at just the right distance from that star, with just the right composition to allow for life to form, then sentient life, then animate life, then human life capable of recognizing the wonderfulness of everything as a gift. This is contemplation.

Our task, is like that of a child, to receive this gift, acknowledge it as a gift and use it as it was intended. Then we can say, “... from God, ain’t God great”, i.e., to praise God is much more childlike than to “Thank”God.
Thank you, Auntie Kay!

                                                                                                                                      Charlie Mc