#2 Paying my respects to “my man”

A few weeks ago, my sister and I headed out to California to visit friends of ours who live in Burbank. Despite the history-making torrential rain that plagued us most of the weekend, it was a great getaway.  She and I have never had a sisters-weekend like that, and it was made perfect by the fact that we were visiting some of our favorite sisters, Therese and Bernadette Peters.  Sisters squared! Throw in Mr. and Mrs. Peters, and you have a regular musical adventure.

For the purposes of this post, however, I won’t be talking about seeing Walt Disney’s house, or having drinks at the homey pub where the animators used to hang out, or even Bernadette’s incredible opening-night performance as Rosie in Bye, Bye, Birdie.  Instead, we need to focus on the Empty The Bucket List item I accomplished: paying respects to Ronald Reagan.

When I was really little, I used to call Ronald Reagan “my man.”  No one is really sure why, but I’m glad I had the foresight at such a young age to recognize greatness when I saw it. I always admired him growing up, but when I wrote my thesis on him in college, I really fell in love.

He died the day my sister got married, and if anyone remembers my toast, I toasted him (my dad told me I had to toast my sister first). It seems Therese remembered, because she asked if we would be interested in going to his Presidential Library while we were out there.

She didn’t have to ask me twice. I tried to remain calm and act like if it worked out, that would be great… but inside I was doing dances of joy.

The rain stopped long enough for us to drive to Simi Valley and enjoy the view.

IMG_7976.JPG

The Library, which just celebrated their 25th anniversary, is a testament to a great man and a reminder of what moral leadership looks like. The beginning opens with a short video that introduces Reagan’s legacy to those who remember him well and those who may not have even been alive to know him.  I almost started to cry watching him again – witnessing his eloquence and strength in the face of hard issues, many of which we are facing again today.

The museum tells the story of his life, from growing up in Dixon, IL, to his announcing days, his time in Hollywood, and eventually his political career. You could read old high school essays and watch clips of his movies.

The library moves quickly, obviously spending the most time on his presidency, but even then not belaboring anything for too long. There were some places I would have liked to see more detail, but all in all, I think it moves at the right speed and has the right amount of information for those looking to get a good overview of his life and the issues of his presidency.

All of it was well-done, but several areas stand out –  The way they presented the assassination attempted made you feel as if you were witnessing it for the first time.  The mock-up of the Berlin Wall was dramatic and terrifying.  And it was a treat to feel as if you were in the Oval Office.

IMG_7958.JPGIt is set up exactly how it looked during Reagan’s presidency, although none of it is original except the chair behind the desk. One of the docents later told us that Reagan would occasionally sit in that office after the Library was completed and receive visitors.

There was even a jar of jelly beans, of course.

IMG_7961.JPG

While it’s hard to choose a favorite part, a highlight was definitely Air Force One. It’s the only place you can tour an official Air Force One, and like the Oval Office, it is set up exactly how it was during his Presidency.  Unlike the Oval Office, however, he really used it as President, and I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t a movie set or a mock up.  It was a little smaller than I expected – only a 727. No photos were allowed inside, although they did take a cheesy picture of us on the front steps and then tried to sell it to us.

IMG_7964.JPG

I loved the prevalence of quotes throughout the library, as well as all the things they had – I never thought I would see things like the suit he was shot in, the Bible he took the oath of office on, or his riding saddles.

IMG_7948

IMG_7954

I loved this – his file of little notecards where he would jot down quotations. I need to start doing this!

The museum ended with a room about life on the ranch after the presidency, then a room about Nancy, and then a room about his funeral.  Once again, it was hard to keep back the tears.

IMG_7971

I’ll never forget the sight of these boots backwards in the stirrups of that riderless horse.

Outside (after the gift shop), there was a piece of the actual Berlin Wall, a beautiful overlook of Simi Valley, and then the tombs of Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

I was able to pray at the tomb of Ronald Reagan.

IMG_7985.JPG

 

“I know in my heart that man is good, that what is right will always eventually triumph, and there is purpose and worth to each and every life.”

IMG_7988.JPG

“Let us be sure that those who come after will say of us in our time, that in our time we did  everything that could be done. We finished the race; we kept them free; we kept the faith.”

IMG_7990.JPG

 

IMG_8034.JPG

And that, my friends, is emptied from the bucket list.

 

The real reason for Martha’s sorrow

For some reason, a little snippet from the daily reflection in the Magnificat really struck a chord with me this morning.  It’s the feast of St. Martha, who like St. Thomas, always seems to get a bad rap even know we know that we’d all do the exact same thing in that position.

St. Teresa of Avila has this gem as she writes her thoughts to Our Lord:

“I sometimes remember the complaint of that holy woman, Martha.  She did not complain only about her sister, rather, I hold it is certain that her greatest sorrow was the thought that you, Lord, did not feel sad about the trial she was undergoing and didn’t have as much love for her as for her sister.”

Such an honest, open confession to our Lord.  To be so real with Him and tell Him something that we know in our minds can’t be true- but to be real with Him about what’s in our heart. It leaves me kind of speechless with that feeling of recognition/sorrow/relief that hits you right in the stomach. The fear that the Lord doesn’t love us as much as our neighbor… So real, so human. He shows us He loves us everyday, but we are so weak and so in need of His mercy.  We need Him to show His love again and again.  Lord, help my unbelief.  Give me some little consolation of Your love.

The situation we face

“But the biggest failure, the biggest sadness, of so many people of my generation, including parents, educators and leaders in the Church, is our failure to pass along our faith in a compelling way to the generation now taking our place.

We can blame this on the confusion of the times.
We can blame it on our own mistakes in pedagogy.
But the real reason faith doesn’t matter to so many of our young adults and teens is that — too often — it didn’t really matter to us.
Not enough to shape our lives. Not enough for us to really suffer for it.”

Archbishop Chaput, 2014 Eramus Lecture: Strangers in a Strange Land

The whole thing deserves reading– too many fantastic points to quote here.

Watch it here.

Or read it here.

The various tempting extremes

We don’t have the official translation of the Pope’s closing remarks to the Synod (after which he received a five-minute standing ovation), but from the provisional translation, I wanted to share this:

And it has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned:

– One, a temptation to hostile inflexibility, that is, wanting to close oneself within the written word, (the letter) and not allowing oneself to be surprised by God, by the God of surprises, (the spirit); within the law, within the certitude of what we know and not of what we still need to learn and to achieve. From the time of Christ, it is the temptation of the zealous, of the scrupulous, of the solicitous and of the so-called – today – “traditionalists” and also of the intellectuals.

– The temptation to a destructive tendency to goodness [it. buonismo], that in the name of a deceptive mercy binds the wounds without first curing them and treating them; that treats the symptoms and not the causes and the roots. It is the temptation of the “do-gooders,” of the fearful, and also of the so-called “progressives and liberals.”

– The temptation to transform stones into bread to break the long, heavy, and painful fast (cf. Lk 4:1-4); and also to transform the bread into a stone and cast it against the sinners, the weak, and the sick (cf Jn 8:7), that is, to transform it into unbearable burdens (Lk 11:46).

– The temptation to come down off the Cross, to please the people, and not stay there, in order to fulfil the will of the Father; to bow down to a worldly spirit instead of purifying it and bending it to the Spirit of God.

– The temptation to neglect the “depositum fidei” [the deposit of faith], not thinking of themselves as guardians but as owners or masters [of it]; or, on the other hand, the temptation to neglect reality, making use of meticulous language and a language of smoothing to say so many things and to say nothing!

Read entire address here.