Friday, January 03, 2014

2013 In Review

Happy New Year!

It's high time to bring this blog up to date, and I thought one way to do that might be to take a brief look back at the year just past and speculate a bit about the year to come. For me personally, 2013 was a year of invasions, abdications, relocations, infections, and explorations.

The year got off to a rough start with a home invasion in mid-January that turned my life upside down for quite a while. Until that time, my principal occupation had been researching my genealogy and family history, but dealing with the invasion and its aftermath largely brought that to a halt. After my family and I got over the initial shock of the event, we decided it was time for me to move to a safer location, and my brother and sister in the Charlotte area quickly set to work finding a new place for me to live. They found the condominium where I now live remarkably quickly, and February and the early part of March were largely devoted to my packing up and preparing to move. During that preparation phase, the world received the stunning news that Pope Benedict XVI had decided to abdicate and step down from the Chair of Peter, a thing not seen in several hundred years. It seemed change was in the air for the whole Catholic Church, not just for me.

I arrived in Charlotte in early March and immediately got to work lining up the medical and social support services I knew I would need: doctors, home nursing care, medical supplies, attendant services, Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security disability benefits, and transportation services. There were, of course, some bureaucratic tangles, but on the whole, the process went remarkably well. One afternoon in March, as I was in the bathroom taking a break from filling out forms and making phone calls, my brother called to tell me that Pope Francis had just been elected.  It seems the whole world, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, is still trying to figure out what to make of this unconventional Pope, the first from the Americas, who seems to be a reformist and a man with a gift for saying and doing the unexpected and surprising thing.

Ironically, just as the Catholic Church and the world at large seemed to embrace this pope who is developing a reputation as a progressive and a reformer, it seemed my own personal practice of the Catholic faith moved in a more conservative and traditional direction. Ever since I had arrived in Charlotte, I'd been seeking a church home; I had visited a couple of parishes in the Charlotte area, but neither of them felt quite right. One of my Facebook friends in Charlotte recommended her parish, which is very tradition-friendly. I've blogged before about how much I've come to love sacred polyphonic music, and when I saw that my friend's parish regularly celebrated the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (aka the Tridentine Mass or the Traditional Latin Mass), I thought this might be an excellent opportunity to hear some of the music I had come to love in its proper context, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I started attending the Extraordinary Form masses in June, and to be perfectly honest, found them baffling at first. My fellow Mass-goers, however, explained that the Extraordinary Form does take a bit of getting used to and urged me to keep coming. I have kept coming to the EF Mass, and with each liturgy I attend, the rite becomes a little more familiar and a little more comfortable. I consider it part of my continuing education as a Catholic.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to go to Mass or anywhere else for much of the month of July, as I came down with a nasty infection that kept me sidelined for over a month. Eventually, however, I did get well, and aside from some occasional trouble with sciatica or a pinched nerve, I've been able to avoid any major medical catastrophes since then. May it remain so, at least for a while, for awhile, please God!

In mid-November, I received a letter from the solicitor's (prosecutor's) office back in South Carolina that the police had made an arrest in my home invasion case, and the solicitor was preparing to bring the case to trial. I wrote a detailed letter back describing my recollections of the crime and its effect on me. I also spoke by phone with someone in the solicitor's office who told me that the defendant in this case is facing other outstanding charges, and in all likelihood will "plead out" or plead guilty to a lesser charge in order to avoid doing time for a greater one. The defendant in my case is being charged with armed robbery, and the case is likely to come before a judge sometime in February. I'll post more information as it becomes available. I've heard crime victims on TV news shows talk about the need for "closure," and for the first time in my life I understand what they mean. With the perpetrator of my crime behind bars and preparing to face the justice he deserves, I feel as if I can truly begin to close this chapter in my life and move on to whatever comes next.

December and my first Christmas in Charlotte were quiet and low-key but peaceful and happier than my Christmas celebrations have been for some years now. Like many adults who are getting older, I feel a twinge of nostalgia and melancholy as I recall all those long-ago childhood Christmases with their mix of feverish anticipation, excitement, and delight. I miss my parents, who worked so hard to make Christmas special for my brothers, sisters, and me. As my sister observed, Christmas just doesn't seem quite as much fun without them around. Yet this year, we were able to get almost everyone together (on New Year's Eve, if not Christmas Day) and we were truly happy to be together. For that moment we were all content with the present and unafraid of the future. Whatever hardships may come, I pray we will face them together because we are a family and we love each other. I feel extraordinarily blessed to be here at this time in this place. Deo gratias! Thanks Be to God!

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