Friday, December 6, 2013

happy feast of Saint Nicolas, my dear Pat!

A silly moment on the Camino, which often felt like it was ALL uphill! 
Pat walking into Santiago
the final shell in Finisterre, pointing down to signify the end of the Camino
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
   In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
   he refreshes my soul.
 He guides me in right paths
   for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
   I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
   that give me courage.
 Only goodness and kindness follow me
   all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
   for years to come.

                                                 ~Psalm 23 
I will never be able to hear Psalm 23 and not visualize Pat Stankus in my heart’s memory.

As part of her preparation for our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, Pat memorized all the words of the Psalm in order to use it as a prayer mantra as we walked. And by the end of our 350+ miles of walking together, I, too, had internalized the words that we proclaimed out loud together—usually on physically difficult days or when walking uphill!

It’s been 5 months since Pat completed this earthly pilgrimage. I miss her. I miss being able to call her to get her opinion on a decision, or being able to share pictures or stories of our grandchildren over email. I miss her spiritual insights, and hearing about the novels and non-fiction books she had just read (and then mailed to me, along with a note telling me what she loved about it). I miss her surprise cards and just-because gifts. I miss her sweet, generous heart and the way she made me feel loved, unique, and truly myself. I miss hearing the way she said "Amen!" with her whole being when she received the Eucharist. 

And I am still caught off guard by emotions and tears, as I was earlier this week at prayer, when reading out loud Wednesday’s daily reading from Isaiah. It was the exact Scripture that I proclaimed at Pat’s funeral Mass: Isaiah 25: 6-10.

Although the only beach that Pat and I ever shared together was Finisterre, the small fishing town where the final Camino shell can be found, this week I have felt her close to me on my long walks along the North Padre Island shore.

Perhaps it also has to do with today’s feast!

Pat loved the story and the image of Saint Nicholas, the fourth century bishop of Myra (modern day Demre, Turkey), who was known for his generosity to the needy and for his acts of surprise gift-giving. So when I went to Turkey on an inter-faith pilgrimage, I brought her back an embroidered pillow cover that Pat stuffed and kept in her prayer corner at home.

On the Camino, whenever we encountered San Nicolás, which was often, Pat and I made a point of lighting a candle and saying a prayer together for our families and for all who are in need.  But no memory stands out more than celebrating Mass together at the 12th century church of San Nicolás in the Camino town of Portomarín, Spain. I can still see Pat smiling, with the giddiness of a little girl!

This is a special feast for Pat, her first time to celebrate together with Saint Nicolas, her special friend and, clearly, her mentor in generous giving!

St. Patricia Elaine of Austin, pray for us.

image of Saint Nicolas in Demre, Turkey