Deer Me

This post is quite far removed from my ordinary efforts here, but I’m kind of starved for content given the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Couple the pandemic with the protests, some of which have turned violent, over the tragic, unnecessary death of George Floyd, and finding cause for optimism at the moment has been difficult.

Under those circumstances, I thought it fitting to link to this little bit experience I shared with my my wife this past Saturday, a reminder that if nothing else, we can still marvel at the beauty and wonder of God’s creation.

This past Saturday was a spectacular weather day, mostly clear and warm with an intermittent breeze that provided well-timed relief when the sun’s heat got too feisty. Kem and I used the conditions to venture outside, heading south to Charlestown, Indiana, and our first visit to the state park located there. Heck, our first visit anywhere in quite some time.

Charlestown State Park is a nifty place with a rather interesting history. The main site is the location of the former Indiana Army Ammunition Plant. Our ultimate destination in the park was Rose Island, once an amusement park and a popular getaway for Louisvillians a century ago.

A path steeper than Mandarin’s learning curve takes you to the Portersville Bridge, a camelback truss that once connected Daviess and Dubois counties in southwestern Indiana that has since been relocated to the other side of the state. The bridge crosses the Motown-flavored Fourteen Mile Creek to Rose Island, which is actually a peninsula named Devil’s Backbone. (All of these glorious monikers are just more reminders at how much we’ve devolved when it comes to naming stuff. Today, I’m sure, it would be branded Papa John’s Island on Fifth Third Peninsula).

There isn’t much left of the old park, which was hammered by the Great Depression then wiped out by the Great Flood of 1937, the latter an event that took the Ohio River a staggering 57 feet above flood stage. A few concrete piers, some cool arches and the filled-in former swimming pool are about all that remains of the park. The hotel and dance hall are but a memory, with most of the site reclaimed by nature, as nature is so relentless in doing.

Speaking of nature…

While walking on the trail that takes visitors near the adjacent Ohio River, we happened upon a fawn, a young deer that couldn’t have been more than a few days old. We froze, then watched in awe as it got back up on its spindly legs, Pinocchio-style, and walked straight toward us, not the least bit afraid of the strange, slack-jawed creatures towering above.

Eventually, the fawn stopped right at our feet. We then realized a group of hikers behind us had a large dog in tow, and we worried how the dog might respond to this terribly frail creature, particularly if the canine noticed the young deer before its human companions. We stood between the hikers and the fawn – which Kem retroactively named Fran – to caution them and another dog-walking pack behind them. Regrettably, we might have even breached our social distancing protocols in the process. Fortunately, both of the dogs were quite well behaved, and their Homo sapien friends were almost as disciplined.

As the lot of us kicked around thoughts on what should be done, Kem and I decided to continue along the trail, hoping the young deer would venture back into the woods. That wasn’t Fran’s plan. Much to our surprise, the fawn followed us, and not for just a few feet. For almost 200 yards, Fran bopped along behind us, never letting us get too far ahead despite the obvious fact it was still breaking in the new hooves. This was like nothing I’d ever experienced before, and doubt I ever will again. It was not an example of nature in the reclamation process; rather it was wildlife getting its hooks in us from the get-go, with me and Kem powerless against it. We stopped again, flummoxed how to handle the situation. Ultimately, one of the groups behind us decided to move the fawn off the trail, where we hope it was able to reunite with the doe that was undoubtedly nearby, watching us with a mother’s scornful eye.

She wouldn’t have been the only one baring her motherly instincts. I’m sure Kem will someday forgive me for not letting her take Fran home with us, but it will be awhile.

Alas, as my web site host doesn’t allow me to post video, you can see proof of the event on my Facebook page below. It’s most definitely worth the effort.

Honk if you love Christ

Sunday, we returned to our cars at Nativity of Our Savior.

When my home parish was founded in 1965, we had no church building. Instead, the Catholics in our rapidly growing city held weekly drive-in services at the Portage Mall (think the National Mall, rather than the Mall of America).

I was not around then, but many of our parishioners hold fond memories of those DIY days. So when the novel coronavirus wiped out in-person church services throughout Indiana this week, those long-time parishioners called for a return to our roots.

Which is what led to a hundred or so parishioners sitting in their cars at the church today, our radios tuned into an FM station to listen to Father Kevin lead Mass inside. Heritage Mass, we labeled it. Others stayed home, watching the Mass on the parish’s Facebook page.

These are most unusual times, certainly unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. With apologies to 9/11, my suspicion is the COVID-19 outbreak will become the defining communal experience of our lives.

As a Catholic, I’m hopeful our inability to worship publicly reminds of us its enduring value, and leads to a jolt of renewed attendance when we get on the backside of this pandemic. Likewise, I hope the fear and concern we’re all experiencing now serve as a catalyst to sincere prayer. The world desperately needs as much as it can get right now.

St. Anthony of Padua’s Town

It’s funny what you don’t know because you never gave it any thought before. That described a lot of San Antonio, to me, before the past three days.

A work conference took me to San Antonio, the Texas city most known as the site of the Alamo. But the city’s connection to Catholicism dates not only dates back before its setting for the most famous losing battles on American soil, but includes that site as well.

Before serving as a fortress during the Texas Revolution, The Alamo was built as a Catholic mission, one of five in the downtown area. San Antonio was founded as a Spanish mission city, and was named after Saint Anthony of Padua. It seems pretty obvious in retrospect.

My non-work itinerary took me not just to the downtown area (where I stopped in at St. Joseph Church, built by a wave of German immigrants to the city), but also to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Little Flower, a church west of the downtown area. By good fortune, the conference schedule allowed me to attend one of the nightly masses at the beautiful church.

Top three photos from the National Shrine of the Little Flower Basilica Catholic Church.
A statue of St. Anthony of Padua sitting alongside the famed River Walk.
The Alamo, which began life as Mision San Antonio de Valero.
Bottom three photos are from St. Joseph Church in downtown San Antonio.

.Org Worth Supporting: Unbound

I wear my support for Unbound on my car window.

Mass today brought us a visit by Father Robert McAleer, a retired priest from Iowa. He was there as part of his new mission, serving as a traveling priest extolling the virtues of Unbound.

Unbound is a Kansas City-based organization that allows Catholics to provide financial assistance directly to a child or adult living in poverty around the world. Children are eligible for participation as long as they remain in school. Each sponsor contributes to the health and welfare of an individual with a monthly contribution of $40.

Just as important, it’s not simply money sent off with no knowledge of how it’s being spent. Regular communication with the sponsored individual is available, with letters and photos sent between the parties, allowing the sponsor a personal connection to the individual being helped.

And as is worth noting with all charitable efforts, Unbound has a strong rating from the Better Business Bureau, Charity Navigator and other watchdog groups. More than 93 percent of all contributions go directly to the sponsored individual.

My support for this organization is not just digital. Our family has been sponsoring Erika since Unbound was known as the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. We’ve seen her grow into a confident, bright young girl with a promising future. It’s extraordinarily gratifying to think we might have played a small part in that.

For more information, visit