Over the last couple decades, I have received between 350 and 375 messages from the “other side” and I’ve written down, verbatim, every single word I heard. So, I’m used to it when another one shows up. They are always surprising.
I undertake a number of steps to identify who the sender is, but in this case, it took longer than usual. I soon concluded he was someone spiritual and that I had actually known him from my early years in Arizona. Then, his face flashed before me; it was the Catholic priest who performed my first marriage. I was 18-years old at the time and the priest’s name was Fr. Thomas O’Dea.
I remember Fr. O’Dea’s charming Irish brogue and that he was a kind, light hearted man who dutifully served his parish in Mesa, Arizona. I didn’t know him very well since our family wasn’t well connected to the church, but what I did know of him, I liked. I later heard that he had in 2016, in his homeland.
Now 57-years later and right after the publication of “Hi Momma, It’s Me”, Fr. O’Dea was returning to pay me a visit. His message came in the evening and because he was a priest— I thought maybe I should delay actually receiving the message until morning. I was, frankly, a little concerned that I’d receive a scolding for being a critical of organized religion including the Roman Catholic Church. It wasn’t a specific criticism of Catholicism but more general criticisms about how all the man-made religions complicate the process of simply having a personal relationship with God. I certainly wasn’t against communing with others in worship—that was a good thing but the rules and regulations that surround such gatherings are often counterproductive. I expected a wrap on the knuckles, so I waited until morning.
Fr. O’Dea wasn’t that kind of a priest and I should have known better—in fact, he was the antithesis of some of the stern nuns I faced in Catechism class on Sunday mornings when I was a little girl. He was kind, understanding and full of love. I was honored that he came to visit me, and his message was quite lovely so I’m sharing it all.
“My child, my child. So long ago I married you and Richard. You were so innocent, and I gave you all the blessings I knew to give but you were so young. Mature in some ways but immature in others. I guess this was a premature union— but both of you went on to be wonderfully loving people and I am proud I played a part in your life.
“Now here you are, on a grand journey that dazzles me, frankly. With insight that floors me and speaking truth that exists [that] we may never fully have understood, even as priests. We, too, were clothed in the cloth of innocence and were led by our shepherds down familiar paths. We didn’t question and I don’t believe even our teachers knew.
“Over the centuries the path grew narrower and narrower until we were only preaching from one perspective and not responding to the needs of our parish while being open to inspiration. Inspiration and insight were replaced with Vatican directives, recommendations and guidelines and perhaps bureaucracy even closer to home.
“You have brought back the gift of total freedom, Sandy—to question, to forgive, to try to understand what’s presented—without dissecting it to study, which fractures the purity of the original concept.
“You are a blessing, my child. Love is it! Simple and true. I hope all clergy embrace the work you do as possible and open their hearts once again to the pure word of God. I’m so proud to have been—and still be—in your life.
“In Christ and Love, Fr. O’Dea”
I hope you’ll find Fr. O’Dea’s message comforting in that, this very devout clergyman found something beneficial in the work I do. His comments reinforced much of what I tried to convey in the book, “Hi Momma, It’s Me”. The message of that book was simply that the purpose of this life is all about love and that the same love connects us with our family and friends, forever. Moreover, we needn’t become distracted by man’s tendency to complicate everything—even religion. Participate in organized religion, if that feels right to you, but don’t become so focused on the institution that you discipline yourself out of day-to-day and minute-to-minute contact with the Lord.
I believe the shortest way from here to there is always a direct line and it should be no surprise that the direct line, to which I’m referring, points straight up.
POST-SCRIPT TO THIS BLOG
That evening I wondered if Fr. O’Dea would have a problem with me sharing what he wrote. No souls had ever objected before, but for some reason I had reservations about him. In fact, I mentioned that concern out loud (I often talk to myself—HA!) as I was getting ready to turn in for the night. About ten minutes later, my television had been turned off, the armoire doors were tightly shut and, in a pitch, black room, I settled into bed. The next thing I knew, the bright Visio logo flashed onto my TV screen, glowing right through the lining of the fabric/chicken wire panels of those armoire doors and startled me! Oh, my, I thought – another message.
As I began to get up to turn off the set once again—the logo quickly disappeared just as my feet hit the floor. I asked who was trying to reach me and it was Fr. O’Dea with a quick and simple message. He just wanted to let me know that I had his permission to quote him in entirety and that it was “perfectly fine”. He thought my work was “pure and good”. So, with a smile, I crawled back into bed and fell asleep.