Saturday, December 28, 2013

Common Life

"Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience,bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

This is from the second reading for Mass tomorrow, the Feast of the Holy Family. Maybe because I have so little family and have experienced so little common life in seminary or as a priest, I think that I perhaps idealize family and common life. But this quotation sounds pretty good to me. Why don't we do it in our families or, in my case, in rectories? Whatever work we have to do or interests we have, surely this sort of communion is better and more real. Work and interests will pass away but not charity.

I will continue to be idealistic about family and common life. Maybe I will even experience it!

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Friday, December 27, 2013

Rough day

Up through Christmas, I was very busy, and even though I was sicker a few of those days than I am now, I seemed to be making some sort of progress. Now I just feel crummy physically and overwhelmed otherwise. It will be better. I am going to have organize myself for the long haul to deal with Daddy's estate, even though it's not that complicated. Things can only be done in a certain order. It will be good for me. I just wish that I felt better and had a little more energy.

I am just now starting to miss him. He was always there and supportive. But, you know -- I know, he still is. It really is not that different.

Maybe I'll wake up and feel better tomorrow. If I don't, I will deal with it.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Reclaiming Advent

The timing of my father's death has allowed me to bow out of a lot of "Christmas" celebrations.  I am grateful.  My father was a great believer in keeping Christmas in Christmas and not in Advent.  When I was a boy, for example, we always went out and cut down our Christmas tree on December 23, my grandfather's birthday.  And my parents had their big party on New Years Day.

My good friend (and one of Daddy's pall bearers) Roger Sisson gave me for my birthday, at dinner with my father, a wonderful Advent CD made by the nuns of the Ephesus Monastery.  I have had it almost continually playing in my car these days.

Advent is serious and seriously beautiful.  Advent cannot really exist side by side with all sorts of Christmas extravaganzas.  Some people have expressed sorrow that Daddy died so close to Christmas -- well not from his point of view!  We were not even into "deep" Advent yet.  And he actually died on one of the bright spots of Advent, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (as well as what once was the feast of St. Jane Frances de Chantal, whose motto is Vive Jesu.)  One of the resolutions that I am going to take from my father's death is to get back to keeping Advent as best as I can.  Being prepared for death is one of the lessons of Advent.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Bill Baker aphorisms

Maybe this is a good forum for gathering those quips that my father used to toss off with such flair.  I will get us started.  Please provide as much specificity as you can.

I have already referred to one:
"Everything will proceed normally at once."  Attributed by my father to Maj. Arthur Lee Burns of the McCallie School in the late '40s after a food fight in the dining hall.

From Doris Marie Sanders, former Clerk and Master of Chetham County:
"So be it."  After Daddy admitted defeat in a legal argument.

One of my favorites:
"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment."  Wise.

Jump right in with any that you remember!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Changed World

It is only beginning to dawn on me how much the world is now changed for me since the death of my father, following my mother's death by almost 20 years.

My fears are frankly pretty small.  I am afraid about the practical things of life.  I am dreading dealing with my father's estate because such things lie so far outside my feeling of competence.  But I really don't think it will be as bad as I fear.  I made some first steps yesterday that were easier than expected, even if there are frustrations ahead.

On the much more important level of knowing his fatherly love, I feel that more than ever -- and there was certainly never any doubt about that.  But it is stronger now.  I still feel backed up by the best "cheerleader" ever.

I am flat out happy for him.  See the posts above.

I guess what has changed is that I am a grown up now.  That feels different, and it is not at all bad -- but certainly different.

I am at Bethany, the Dominican Sisters retreat house, with my sister for a couple of days.  Mother Anne Marie practically insisted that we come.  My relationship to the sisters is certainly changing, as I mentioned at the funeral.  Although I have very little natural family (and that is more precious than ever), the supernatural ties are strengthening.  The same is true for my pastoral work: my family and "children" at University Catholic and at St. Mary's.  Over the weekend, a few kindly parishioners expressed surprise that I was at the parish, but I really could not imagine not being with my parish family at a time like this.

People just matter more.  That is the lesson from my father's life and from his death.  I am going to try to learn it permanently.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Evangelical Man

These have been some very tiring days, but at least for an extrovert like me these days have been full of life and love.  It was so good to see so many people who love and respect my father.  One aspect of my father that kept coming out was his evangelism -- his preferred word.

So many people came up to me and said that my father was the first person to welcome them to town, to church, back to church, etc.  Some of his signature modes of evangelism were over catfish, at the post office, or out of the trunk "bookstore" in his car.  "Let me buy you a catfish" was the opening to conversations that would eventually get to a serious challenge to deeper faith or to any faith at all.  But genuine human friendliness and a huge laugh always preceded the call to conversion.

Daddy put the old in the New Evangelization.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

First thoughts on my father's death

I feel safer writing than trying to speak these thoughts, at least for right now.

There is, like everything else in life, the self-absorbed side to grief.  All the what-ifs and looking for consolation.  I know that trap too well.  It is the mode that I am in when I first get up.  I am not saying that I can't or shouldn't feel sad and cry.  It would be inhuman not to do so, I think.  But it can easily become about me.  So instead I think about my father.  How blessed is he now, and I would not begrudge him that peace and joy for anything.

Although my father had many accomplishments in life and knew many joys - wasn't that laugh great? -- he was never at home in this world.  Never.  If truth be told, this world was often not kind to him.  He was uncomfortable.  He was great at putting others at ease, an ease that he himself never knew.  It was what made him great.  He refused to settle for things as they are.  He knew that things were meant to be better.  He was not a lawyer for nothing.  He really believed in justice.  But he was more than that.

He lived the maxim of Bl. John Henry Newman that to live is to change and to become holy is to change often.  He, the most conservative of men, was changing right up to the end.  And always for the better.  I am sure that I will reflect on this at greater length, but maybe I can sum it up this way.

He is now in the hands of the just God.   He is at peace, literally and for the first time.  Even if he is in purgatory, he is the happiest person there because everything in the Kingdom of God is as is should be.  Things are proceeding normally, for once and forever!

Maybe these are strange and impious thought for a son to have -- impiety being a sin against a father's love.  But I think not.  One of the greatest gifts he has given to me, besides cooperating with God and my mother to give me life and always loving me, is dissatisfaction with the way things are.  Because of him I can never be a conformist.  I hope that I will be able to keep my eyes fixed on the reality of Heaven, where things are the way they should be, as he did, and not be distracted by the vanities of this world.

One final and maybe not related note: the UCat students are making a spiritual bouquet.  (If I am not supposed to know, I found out accidentally.)  One of the recent graduates included this in her spiritual offering: one day's work.  St. Josemaria, pray for him!

Friday, December 13, 2013


Here are the (almost) complete arrangements for my father's funeral:

Sunday, December 15 -- 1-7:30 p.m. followed by the Rosary, Cheatham County Funeral Home in Ashland City

Monday, December 16 -- 10 a.m. Funeral Mass at St. Martha's Church in Ashland City, followed by a lunch at the church

3 p.m. burial at Evergreen Cemetery in Murfreesboro

We are still working on the possibility of a gathering following the burial.

Thank you for your prayers.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

William R. Baker, R.I.P.

My father just died about 10:30 this morning. The sepsis was simply out of control. He died peacefully, with the consolation of the sacraments and his faith and family.

Please pray for the repose of his soul.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Update, late evening 12/11

Things have gotten worse during the day. Daddy's primary doctor was here with us tonight. He just left a short while ago. He explained the severity of Daddy's infection. It seems to have developed from a kidney infection, most likely. There do not seem to be many medical options left, unless Daddy's organs themselves begin functioning again.

I ask for your prayers for my father. I am praying for God's Will for my father -- for what is best for him. I also ask you to pray for my sister, who had a hard day here at the hospital. The change for the worse began as she watched. She is getting a little rest now. And maybe a prayer for me, in your kindness.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Thomas Hospital

Update, 12/11, early a.m.

Here is a little news before it starts getting busy around here.

It has been a pretty quiet night. Daddy's nurse has been both high tech and high touch. No big changes, but all in all he is a little better.

He is sedated and intubated. They are still trying to determine the origin of his infection to treat it in a more targeted way. A few of the worse possibilities have been eliminated. They are trying to get him rehydrated and to get is blood pressure up. He seems to be headed in a positive direction, very slightly and slowly.

So thanks for your prayers, and keep them up. He is still very sick, with many questions unanswered.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Thomas Hospital

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Prayers please

I think that most of the few of you who still read this blog already know about my father being in St. Thomas Hospital. He is in the critical care unit with sepsis. He is very sick. I ask your prayers for him.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:St. Thomas Hospital

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Do whatever he tells you

That is my advice about Pope Francis, borrowing a line from someone ;-)

Here is a great article about reactions to the Holy Father.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Really, really basic stuff

The big mystery that is overwhelming me right now is the wonder that there is anything at all, let alone me!  So amazing.

And then I figure that if God can take care of all of that is, He can take care of me, especially my sins and failures.  I need only let Him do it. 

So simple.  Why has it taken me 51 years just to get this far?  Thanks be to God anyhow ;-)

UCat Dominicans -- not the one in the middle!

Newly named Br. Cyprian and newly professed Br. Pachomius, O.P. at St. Gertrude's, Cincinnati, Ohio, August 15, 2017

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