Mundelein IV

Nolite Timere – Do not be afraid.  

Duc In Altum – Put out into the deep.

jp-ii-alter

Saint John Paul II Chapel

These words (in Latin above), adorn the altar of the Chapel to Saint John Paul II at Mundelein Seminary.*  Both sentiments are placed appropriately, and profoundly.  The Saint urges us to conquer timidity, and cast our nets into the sea of all mankind: to be fearless fishers of men.  As meaningful to the Scouts I was with, as it was to the seminarians who work and live there.

I was returning to Mundelein for our Scout Troop’s annual “Fishers of Men” outing*, and our first stop at this Chapel was a fitting start on this rainy Saturday morning in mid-September.

heart-of-mercy

Courtyard Statue

The quiet solemnity of this holy place was to set the tone for a day of reflection and prayer.  At least it was for me, if not for the majority of young men I and my fellow Scout leaders were there to chaperone (i.e. keep from getting into trouble).  I like to think we were mostly successful chaperones, returning with the same number of Scouts we left with at least.

Those two quotes of John Paul II remained with me that day, as I listened to the words of the priests and seminarians, who came to guide us through their residences, lives and vocations.  I came to a better understanding of the ways Mundelein Seminary prepares her sons for the challenges of priesthood.

belvidere

The Belvedere

Whether from the story of a seminarian from overseas who heard the call at a very young age, or that of a lawyer like myself who left my profession to begin along the path to diocesan priesthood, each of their journeys left its impression on me.  How strong their Faith!

As I experience the changes age brings, I learn that those things I once deemed important begin to fade with the years:  the wealth I sought in my younger days, the importance of winning every argument, and my own stubborn insistence on being right.

I marvel that the young seminarians realize these are hollow goals, at little more than half my age.  They willingly forego wealth and materialism, wives and careers, to follow the way of the Cross.  I respect their choice and am humbled by it; but more, at times I am given the Grace to see through their eyes the wealth and reward their choice brings.

No path in this world is easy or without pain.  How we deal with the world and its troubles is what makes us human, and suffering is part of the path to the divine, as hard as that is to believe sometimes!  I suppose we must rely on Faith to persevere, in good times and bad.

Mundelein is a well-spring of that Faith.  In the quiet of the Main Chapel, I could almost feel the presence of those countless seminarians who passed through this sanctuary.  How many prayers and devotions does this place bear witness to?

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Main Chapel

Solemn pictures of graduating classes, going back to the 1920’s, are a glimpse of the history of this edifice to Faith.  The few graves silent witness to lives of service and devotion.  Even the red brick of the buildings themselves seem to patiently preside over the onset of seasons, and years.

cemetery-angel

Statue at Cemetery

Yet of all I experienced in Mundelein, I return to the enthusiasm and cheer of those I met, their sense of mission and devotion, their understanding of obligation and trust in the Lord.  Above all, this is what truly inspires me during my annual visits.

immaculate-conception

Immaculate Conception

The rain eventually moved off, and we enjoyed blue skies and white clouds for the remainder of our day.  I suppose the Faith I experienced restored mine to some degree, and made my world a little brighter as well.

Not many trips can do that.

Peter Murphy                                                                         September 2016

*          the Seminary’s web page is:  http://mundeleinseminary.org

 

*          the Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting web page is:

http://home.catholicweb.com/accs/

 

Triple Infinity

 

It struck me suddenly, as I walked alone on a late night beach in Florida:

The Atlantic, spawning crashing waves from the distant horizon,

Under a full Moon, our near neighbor floating in space,

Beneath the stars of heaven, out into the universe.

A triple infinity, leaving me quite speechless. And walking alone on a beach.

Peter Murphy

beach at night

 

MUNDELEIN III

As I loaded up my car for what would be my third early Fall trip to Mundelein and the Seminary, I tried to make the best of what was a rainy morning.  Our Scout Troop was indeed heading back to St. Mary of the Lake, but the weather was far from promising.  The idea of a carload of Scouts covered in mud on the trip back was daunting, and I’d already planned to have the Chrysler detailed when I returned home.

The drive up from the south suburbs started as expected, somewhat like driving through the middle of an East Asian monsoon.  But little miracles still do sometimes happen, and as we passed north of O’Hare Airport we left the cloud banks behind and welcomed the sun.

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            The campus was breathtaking, as we walked the circle drive around to the soccer field, its red brick buildings sharp against the picturesque blue sky contrasted with bright clouds.  We arrived in good spirits at the field, where the priests and seminarians were waiting to welcome us to their annual “Fishers of Men” outing, hosted as in past years by the Chicago Archdiocese CCS*.

After signing in, our hosts lead us in morning prayer, followed by a Q & A with the boys about life as a seminarian.  The new theology students at Mundelein confessed that spending the next five or six years there was hard to imagine, but all felt blessed to be a part of the quiet, contemplative campus.  It was hard not to envy them just a little, despite the challenging path ahead of these young men.  Not surprisingly, most had been Boyscouts in their younger days as well.

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            We gathered up our fishing rods and camp chairs, and headed down past the Belvedere to the Lake.  This area of campus is a popular spot for professional photographers, and we saw several groups in formal wear, posing before the historic backdrops.  I discovered these groups were primarily wedding and Quinceañera parties, with the odd professional model session also in evidence.  Permission to visit the Seminary for a photo shoot must be secured prior to the planned photo date*.

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            After a morning of moderately successful fishing, and lunch outside near the soccer field, the staff took us on a tour of the campus.  My favorite part of our Mundelein outings, we visited the buildings where seminarians lived, studied, and prayed.

New to me was the John Paul II Chapel.  Smaller than the Main Chapel, and closer to the seminarian’s rooms, it is at once more intimate and accessible than the Chapel of Mary.  Which is the point:  The Presence of Christ near, for adoration or prayer, inspiration or consolation.  The very Center of vocational life, as many of those young men expressed to us.

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            The John Paul II Chapel departs from many I’ve visited, in placing the Tabernacle behind the main Alter, in the very center of the Chapel.  Like the Tabernacle in the Chapel of Mary, this placement is significant and appropriate, as Christ is the center of our lives and the Mass.

The walls of the John Paul II Chapel are adorned with stain glass windows, beautifully imaging several Catholic Saints, with special attention given to those Saints that inspired Pope Saint John Paul II.

Most striking, however, is the portrait of the Chapel’s namesake.  The image of Pope Saint John Paul II is almost three dimensional, and seems to gaze serenely into the soul of all who visit.  Pictures of this portrait cannot wholly capture the power of this iconic image.

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            All too soon, we completed our tour of the Seminary, and a few hours later were done fishing for the day.  The boys I drove to Mundelein, including my Son, each had their own favorite memories of fish caught and lost, and friendships strengthened.  All wanted to make the trip again next year.

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            As for me, it was a successful trip on many levels.  I helped the boys experience a taste of seminary life, and they were able to enjoy a day away from video games and electronic apps.  I shared the friendship of other Scout leaders, and got to spend some informal time with the priests and seminarians.  I was also able to unplug my mind from daily cares, and allow my soul some rest on a sunny day.

And I never did have to bother with mud in the back seat of my car.

Pete Murphy                                                                 September 14, 2015

            *          the Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting web page is:

*          the Seminary’s new web page is:  http://mundeleinseminary.org

St. Bernard’s Memories

St. Bernard’s Memories*

As I think back on all the places I’ve been in my life, those memories that strike the strongest chord often center around my childhood trips to Newfoundland.  I was born on The Rock, and moved to the States when very young.  Still, my family returned home every other year or so, giving me a cultural heritage almost unique in my adopted world.

Whether heard in the lyrics of a Simani song, or seen in reruns of Pigeon Inlet, Outport Newfoundland is never far from the thoughts of most Newfies.  A rich source of folklore and humor, the lives of those hardy fishermen and their families is now almost legend.

My own experiences of Outport Newfoundland were my childhood visits to St. Bernard’s in the late 60’s and early ‘70’s.  I apologize if my recall of that time and place, and the faces of those I knew, has faded with the years.  Any mistakes I’ve made here, in revisiting those times are, of course, my own.

 Harbor

My Grandmother was a Pope from Stone’s Cove (the Family’s last name, not the Pontiff).  Grave markers for generations of Popes can still be seen in Stone’s Cove.  It was Grandma’s generation that experienced the Resettlement first hand.  I grew up listening to the often confusing arguments about Joey Smallwood and the modernization of Newfoundland.

cousin, grandpa & grandma

All we knew as kids was that Grandma’s family lived in St. Bernard’s and that they moved from Stone’s Cove, which was abandoned by the time I went there.  We also knew the only way to see Stone’s Cove was to take a dory trip across the bay.

St. Bernard’s in those years was a 3 hour drive from St. John’s, where I was born and where we stayed (with relatives) when we visited Newfoundland.  The roads to St. Bernard’s were gravel, full of twists and turns.  I remember the rear wheels of our old Ford throwing rooster tails of dust behind us, as we drove to that small Town on the edge of the sea.

After passing through Jacques Fontaine (or Jack’s Fountain as we called it), we knew we were near the end of the trip.  It always felt good to shake the dust from the road and settle in with a cup of tea and toasted homemade bread at the end of those long drives.

 Dory

Once there, we parked in the grass near three clapboard houses at the end of a dirt road.  Grandma’s remaining family lived here, the homes roughly surrounding a wood pile of chips and an old sawhorse.  Aunts and Uncles, nieces and nephews, and more cousins than I can remember were there to greet us.

Among the first things I noticed were the strange accents of these distant relatives.  They thought I talked funny as well.  Growing up in the Midwest, I had barely a trace of St. John’s accent.  Except in school, when I mispronounced “route” or spelled “grey” wrong, no one would have guessed I was a Newfoundlander.

But here in St. Bernard’s, it was like learning a different language.  Words like lamwash and wharf soon became familiar*, sometimes spoken in the high-pitched voice my Uncle Dick would use when he yelled at us.  My cousins had trouble with my accent too, and laughed at my pronunciation when we talked about life in the States.

 Fishing St. Bernard's Harbor

I don’t think it took us too long to work out these differences.  Of course, telling my friends back home what my summers were like in Newfoundland was nearly impossible.  Even now, how hard it is to convey even a moment of my time spent in that strange and wonderful place.

My Brother, cousins, and I spent our days there wandering along unpaved streets,  throwing skippers into the ocean, or catching conners off the wharf using snails for bait.  Conner fish were spiny, slimy, and pretty unpleasant to deal with, hence the expression “sly (or slimy) as a conner.”*

One year we dammed the small creek that ran through the open field behind my Uncle’s house, making a pond for our sailboats.  Cranky as my old Uncle Dick was, he fashioned some firewood into model boats for us to launch.  I remember returning a few years later to find it all gone, with nothing left of the pond but the little creek and a few stones.

I also recall one summer making a sling shot from an old tree branch and some rubber bands I found, and using it to shoot small metal wires I shaped into a Vs.  I took it home and kept it for years.

During our visits, my Brother and I waited long days for dory rides from friends or relatives, who still kept their fishing boats in St. Bernard’s.  We’d wake each morning and run for a glimpse of the bay.  If the sea was heaving with whitecaps, we knew no boat trip would happen that day.

Harbor Work

The days we did get out were special.  The chugging of the flywheel as the dory made its way from the dock, ocean spray and the taste of salt on my lips, and the chop of even a mild sea as we left the cove, are all part of my love of the Maritimes.  We jigged for cod and squid (two completely different ways of fishing), and once stood on an 18’ shark that beached after getting tangled in fishing nets.  The smell was really something!

We also went to Stone’s Cove.  Even back then, it was mostly abandoned, with only a few fisherman’s cottages maintained for seasonal use.  After walking through the old Town, its homes facing the cold sea, we picnicked on salt crackers and butter before heading back out from the small harbor.

Of all those memories, perhaps the most precious are the people I knew back then.  My Uncle Dick, a rough seaman who’d survived a night clinging to his overturned boat, during a storm that took the life of his fishing partner.  Uncle Tom with his kind eyes, and my Aunts who knitted and made tea.  Even during the summer, my Uncles had to get up before sunrise each morning to chop wood that fed the iron stoves, which warmed their houses before we even got out of bed.

Margaret, a cousin of the family, lived in this small enclave, with her fisherman husband Leonard and a load of children (my cousins, although I’m still not certain of the exact relationship).  She was part Micmac*, and her oldest son Sam resembled a full blooded Algonkian Indian.  Her husband Leonard had a rare saltwater allergy, leaving his eyes constantly red and teary.  He drowned years later, walking back home one cold night.

Most of the rest have passed on as well.  These proud and independent people didn’t care much for modern medicine.  When your time came, you accepted it.  Most spent their final days at home among family, not in hospital beds at St. John’s Memorial.  I can’t fault them for it, nor for their lives of simple pleasures.

For them, Faith was a matter of concrete belief.  The old Catholic Church in town hosted community bingos and picnics, and on Sundays a traveling priest came in his modern outboard motorboat to say Mass.  The hymns we sang were familiar, although sometimes the words sounded a bit odd to my ear.

As I grew older, I tired of the monotony of Outport Newfoundland and St. Bernard’s.  My cousins were growing up and moving away, and there was little for a teenager to do.  Whenever we went, I soon longed to return to the excitement of St. John’s.

Desperate to get a television signal during one particularly long visit, my Brother and I spend a day running bare wire up a tall hill to an old antenna at the top.  The view of the ocean from there was spectacular, but in my haste to see if the TV worked, I didn’t linger long.  I can’t recall to this day if the picture was much improved.

Any tale of Outport Newfoundland must end on a melancholy note.  With little or no work to be found, the younger folks my age mostly moved away.  I lost track of all of my cousins, except for Sam, whom I’ve heard still lives in his father’s house.

Yet I can still see the old fishing nets clinging to rough picket fences, fading to strings in the sun, and the lines of little white boats bobbing in the bay.  Nothing lasts it’s true, but Outport Newfoundland lives mostly now in the memories of those who had the good fortune to experience it.  Like so many other transplanted Newfoundlanders, a large part of my character was formed out of that hard land by the side of the sea.

Pete Murphy                                                                May, 2015

*  This article originally appeared in the May, 2015 issue of Dowhhome Magazine, page 132.

*  A good review of Outport Newfoundland words and usage can be found in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English:  www.heritage.nf.ca/dictionary

Orlando & Son

Orlando & Son

           My eldest child was two years old when I took him down to Orlando for the first time.  Father and Son, we got to spend a couple of weeks together in the summer of 1997.  It was a strange time for the both of us.

I had little money in those days, struggling in my practice after my law partner of four years had quit the business a few months before.  My 1991 Ford Mustang had certainly seen better days, but I didn’t have the funds to maintain it back then.  Airfare being beyond my modest budget, my Son and I set out from the south Chicago suburbs on a hot Saturday in early August.

Once on the freeway, the Mustang quickly developed a persistent vibration from an unbalanced tire, which really shook the car when it hit 60 mph.  It also lacked air conditioning and a reliable speedometer (although the aforementioned tire rattle indicated I was doing the speed limit).  To keep cool, we kept a large Coleman chest filled with ice cubes within reach in the back seat, and held the cubes to the backs of our necks during the hot afternoons on the road.

My Son was away from home with me for the first time, and I had all the concerns that come with being a single dad on his own:  from dealing with diapers to wondering what to feed the little guy.  But what we lacked in experience together we more than made up for in enthusiasm, learning from each other as we drove those long miles down to Florida.

I remember we talked a lot, but admit it was pretty one-sided.  At two, my co-pilot didn’t yet have much of a vocabulary.  Still, he could answer my basic questions about being hungry, thirsty, or car sick.  Somehow the communications must have broken down regarding the length of the drive, and his eyes filled with tears that first night, when we hadn’t made it to Orlando and instead stayed in a motel south of Atlanta.

Things improved when we drove into Orlando in the late afternoon the next day.  The sights of all those large neon-framed hotels and resorts along the I-4, not to mention the 3-D billboards showing popular park rides, picked up our spirits considerably.  In a short time, we were checked into our modest motel in Kissimmee and changing into swimsuits for the motel pool.

Unlike these days, when a trip to Orlando involves online booking of resort hotels, air, rental cars, theme park tickets, and even restaurant reservations and ride passes, I often “flew by the seat of my pants” in those years.  We checked into our motel without a reservation and paid cash for our first three nights, not certain we’d be able to stick it out longer.

The next morning, I grabbed a free coffee and local map in the motel lobby, and drove to Universal Studios.  After parking in their garage, I unloaded the umbrella stroller from the trunk and, putting a few snacks and diapers into the carrier underneath, headed toward the Park.  We only had to wait in a short line to pick up a multi-day ticket for me, and went inside without waiting in today’s lines for security checks or bag searches; and being only two, my Son didn’t need tickets, a savings I appreciated.

The Islands of Adventure theme park was still under construction that year, although a huge count-down hourglass was featured in the Preview Center, along with scenes of the coming attractions.  Islands looked like it was going to be a good time, and was indeed fun when we returned in later years, but on this trip Studios was all we hoped for and more.

Admittedly, some of the ride experiences at Studios were a bit intense for my Son; but he toughed it out, enjoying even Jaws, Earthquake: The Big One, and Terminator 2: 3-D.  The fun part for me was that my little guy very nearly believed a real shark was after our small boat in Amity Harbor, or that we were trapped underground for the Big One in San Francisco.

Back then as now, Universal Studios had some of the best rides in Orlando, a few even more exciting than their Disney cousins.  The animatronic King Kong was stunning in size and movement, dropping our tram at the height of his attack on Kongfrontation.  We barely made it out of the Big Apple, as a special news bulletin showed us on our in-tram television near the end of our ordeal.

Jaws was a bit reminiscent of the original ride in Hollywood, but had more of a storyline, which added several additional shark attacks, including one inside a dark boathouse.  To me, Jaws was both nostalgic and new at the same time.

Entering the subway car at the Embarcadero for my first ride on Earthquake: The Big One, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  The pre-show presentations of Hollywood special effects had prepared us for a wild time, but when the underground fires exploded and a tanker truck started sliding towards our stricken subway tram, even I had to double check that we were still on the ride and not about to be its victims!  I’ve never been in an earthquake, but have no doubt it would have felt a lot like that ride (at least until the lights came back on and the subway scene reset itself).

As a fan of the Terminator series, Terminator 2: 3D was my favorite show at Universal.  We walked into the pre-show area to watch a sales pitch from Cyberdyne’s corporate shill, and were soon confronted by the specter of realistic cyborgs on a killing rampage.  Arnold, a.k.a. Cyberdyne Systems Model 101, eventually defeated the monster guardian of the cyborg production plant and destroyed it.  Humanity was safe from its own creations, but for how long?

Sadly, Jaws, Earthquake: The Big One, and Kongfrontation have since closed at Universal Studios in Orlando.  For those of us who enjoyed them, they fade only reluctantly from our memories.  Fortunately, we can still find video of these adventures online.  These images, while never quite the same, help us relive those original thrills.

Back in 1997, it was all new to us.  Still a toddler, my Son was worn out most afternoons by 3 p.m. or so, when we headed back to our motel for a dinner of fast food hamburgers and some pool time.

I’d brought with us a small bucket of soldiers for him to play with, and the local hamburger joint gave away mini car kits with their kids meals; so in the evenings, we’d line up the plastic army men to be run down by homemade Mad Max style vehicles.  Then it was off to bed before another day at the theme parks.

Our second day found us at Magic Kingdom, where I again purchased a multi-day pass, and soon was whisking him down Main Street.  I’d gotten pretty good at weaving the stroller through foot traffic, finding a place to park in the stroller lot and, taking my Son by the hand, sprinting to the closest ride queue.

We experienced most, if not all, of Disney World  and Universal Studios over the next several days.  From Peter Pan’s Flight and Snow White’s Scary Adventures at Magic Kingdom, through The Livings Seas and Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, to our last day at Universal and a repeat ride of Jaws and Kongfrontation, it seems we never stopped.

I suppose I tried to fit everything possible into this vacation, both to show him the fun of Orlando and because I wanted to relive my best times there.  Looking back now, maybe some of my enthusiasm was fueled by the desire to make it his best vacation ever.  During a time of change and challenge for both of us, I like to think I did pretty well.

We certainly managed to do a lot on that trip:  four days in Disney World and three days at Universal Studios, not including the four-day drive in the old Mustang and a couple of pool days at the motel in between.  I ended up extending our stay in Kissimmee for eight days, and the car made the 2200 mile round-trip without a problem.  All in, I probably spent less than twelve hundred dollars on the entire trip.

Those theme park rides and shows were their own particular slice of time, some gone now and some exactly the same as they were over 15 years ago.  That summer I shared my favorite experiences with my young Son, leavened with the endless explanations, opinions, and comments that most young dads are powerless to stop themselves from offering.

And if there were a few times outside the queue lines when I had to explain to him that the rides were not real and that we were never in any danger, the joy of surviving an attack from freaky ghosts, cyborgs, or a giant gorilla more than made up for it.  We grew closer over those summer days in Orlando, which I think was Walt’s original intent, and almost certainly the reason Universal Studios and Disney World succeed.  They not only bring out the child in all of us, but remain a unique lens through which we revisit our childhoods with our own children.

In my later years, I’ve slowed the “mad dash” to do everything on vacation, and learned to listen more when I talk with my younger kids.  I sometimes wonder which is the better approach to parenting, or if in the end it makes much of a difference.  My younger ones find a seasoned and considered Father most times, while my eldest Son often found the raw enthusiasm and energy of a much younger Dad.

I’ve been back to Orlando countless times since then:  with only my eldest; with him, my Wife and his younger siblings; and most recently with just my Wife and younger children.  Each new experience changes me and the members of my family, and I suppose I will never be quite the same person I was back in 1997.

Yet these days, I trust that our family vacations to Disney World and Universal Studios still manage to bring out the best Dad in me.  Walt would have understood.

Pete Murphy    April 2015

Cocoa Beach – The Space Coast

COCOA BEACH – THE SPACE COAST*

             It was a warm, cloudy morning when my family and I lifted off out of Midway onboard our 737, bound for Orlando International at the beginning of the Labor Day weekend.  We had reservations for Disney World later the following week, but our first stop would be Cocoa Beach.florida 4

After a half-hour wait at the rental car counter, we loaded up the luggage and were soon driving out of Orlando along the 528.  It’s a straight road most of the way to Cocoa, until it turns into part of the A1-A and heads out over the water on a pair of long causeways, just before you reach Port Canaveral.  There, the big cruise ships are almost always in port, loading up passengers for 3 and 4 day excursions into the Caribbean.

We followed A1-A south, and about an hour after leaving Orlando found our hotel.  As usual, we stayed at the Four Points Sheraton, just a couple of blocks from the beach in downtown Cocoa.

The Atlantic rollers on the Beach that afternoon were higher than I remembered from previous trips, but that made swimming and body surfing much more exciting.  Quite a few locals said it would be crowded this weekend, and I suppose it was; but, compared to an August weekend at Oak Street Beach in Chicago, it wasn’t that bad.

Florida 3

The shoreline at Cocoa Beach is impressive.  I felt I could walk for miles along the sand and not come to the end of it, and so visitors could really spread out.  The kids were soon lost to the waves and seashells, with my Wife tagging along behind to keep them from getting lost.

You could quickly pick out tourists like myself, painfully pale and liberally dosed with sun screen.  I envied those lucky residents who could hop in their cars, park for a few quarters in the meter, and head down to the sea whenever they felt like it.

After an afternoon in the sun and sand, we headed back to the Sheraton for some dinner and shopping.  The Cocoa Beach Surf Company makes up about half of the Hotel, and includes the Shark Pit Bar & Grill and a surf board rental shop.

I rented a body board the next morning, and we were back at the beach around 9 a.m., to soak up more rays and do some serious body boarding.  I’m the first to admit that I have no talent or skill in this area, but the couple of times I was able to ride a decent wave all the way into the shallows made all of my efforts worthwhile.  There’s a joy in it, that makes all those times getting knocked down seem less important.

We headed back to the Hotel when they closed the beach for half an hour around noon, due to a shark sighting, or so the lifeguard told me.  We grabbed lunch, and still had a long afternoon of fun in the sun before finally calling it a day.

Later that afternoon, after a short walk from the Hotel along a boardwalk near the beach, we stopped into Captain J’s, a bar and grill with upper deck seating overlooking the ocean.

Florida 2

Good food and service, the main attraction is watching the Disney, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean cruise ships as they head out to sea.  That Sunday night, the ships appeared in line heading southeast, and we watched as they sailed out of sight into the vast Atlantic.

Florida 5

I walked the beach alone that evening for the last time:  listening to the sound of the surf as they sky darkened, looking at the lights out to sea and those of the resorts on land, and enjoying my solitude among the last few beach combers.

The Moon was quarter full when it appeared that evening, and almost directly overhead.  I could almost feel the presence of those astronauts who left from nearby Cape Canaveral on their Moon missions.  Did Collins, Aldrin, or even Armstrong walk these sands, looking up at this same Moon mere days before they walked on it for the first time?  I could well imagine them here.

Toward the end of the evening, I spotted a couple of old men in front of a lopsided tent, enjoying a few beers as the sun set.  As they talked, joked, and reminisced, I wondered if they might have the right of it, just sitting there on the beach in Florida without an apparent care in the world.

florida 1

Maybe this lifestyle would grow routine, but I saw a lot of enthusiasm on the faces of the surf boarders, skim boarders, and body boarders – old and young alike.  I wondered what it would be like to live out the lyrics of those old Beach Boys songs, if even for a little while.

I would be driving to Orlando and Disney World the next day, and I knew, in the back of my mind, that my law practice in cold Chicago was waiting for me when I got back home.  But part of me waits on that beach, walking the sand, watching the sun set and listening to the waves.  And maybe having that cold beer.

*  this article appeared as “Cocoa Beach Reflections” in the November 2014 issue of The Beachside Resident, page 17.  The Beachside Resident web page can be found @:

http://www.thebeachsideresident.com

 

Pete Murphy                                          January 2015

 

Disney and Back Again: A Dad’s Journey

Allears, the Disney Fan site, has published my most recent article,

Disney and Back Again: A Dad’s Journey.   Here’s the link:

http://allears.net/ae/issue794.htm

A contemporary look at Disney World, this article recalls our family’s trip there in the summer of 2012.  I also review the more recent attractions and accommodations that make Disney World one of the best family vacation spots!

 

Pete Murphy

 

 

Mundelein Revisited

Mundelein Revisited

Santo Subito!

This phrase was heard constantly throughout the streets of Rome during Pope Saint John Paul II’s funeral in 2005.  It means “sainthood now,” and those words echoed in my mind as I approached the Chapel of Mary at Mundelein’s St. Mary of the Lake Seminary for the second time in my life.  There, at the entrance to the Chapel, hang the large icons of two of our recently Sainted Popes:  Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Saint John XXIII.

ChapelSt. Mary Chapel     

It was comforting to see these images of the two larger than life Saints, continuing to inspire visitors and seminarians alike, in wisdom, patience and courage.  How quickly that Italian phrase was realized!

Nearby, inside the Seminary’s Library, an ornate chair is displayed, with a modest plaque indicating it was used by Pope John Paul II during his visit to Chicago.  I remembered his visit as I touched the chair, reflecting on how close I was standing to a physical artifact used by a living Saint.  I was humbled.

LibrarySeminary Library

            We were visiting Mundelein again as a Scout Unit, during the annual “Fishers of Men” event, hosted by Mundelein Seminary and organized by the Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting.*   It was a warm and sunny day, as the boys lined up with rods and reels, to listen to the priests and seminarians talk about vocation, discernment, and the joys of religious life.

LakeLake View

            I’m always impressed by these selfless young men, meeting the daily challenges of study while reflecting on their own callings.  Most of us look forward to a job after college or graduate school, and maybe even think in terms of a career.  But these seminarians think in terms of service and vocation, of a life-style and commitment, which will encompass much more than just a 9 to 5 work schedule.

Reflective MomentA Reflective Moment

            Family is also a much broader term for these men.  I’ve found priests and religious have extended families compared to most of us.  They find family beyond their parents and siblings, extending their families to include fellow seminarians and teachers (even decades after ordination or vows), close personal friends, and the parishes or communities they eventually serve.  We are all fortunate to call our parish priests Father.

And that is perhaps the biggest difference between my education as an attorney and theirs in religious life:  they graduate to serve others, not themselves.  Which is not to say the laity doesn’t serve.  We do.  But our careers are rarely service.  We work to provide for our own wives and children, and for ourselves in later years.  We serve our parishes and communities in our spare time.

I try to explain this to our scouts, through scouting’s religious awards programs, special scout masses, and these retreats.  Religious life is a choice that all young people should consider, and discern in the silence of their hearts.

StatueSaint Therese Statue

            I remain hopeful that our society is less materialistic, at least for this coming generation.  We need to defeat secularism, but I hear less from my scouts about having a fast car, large house, or massive wealth, than I did from my peers during my own younger years.  Time with family and friends is becoming, appropriately, more important to our youth, even if it takes the form of texting, tweeting, and skyping.

The chase for riches is an empty one.  This was the lesson my generation had to learn.  I hope our younger generations learn lessons about the society they are confronted with, whether those involve peer popularity, instant gratification, global competition, or simple information overload.  I hope they find answers to these challenges in our Faith.

Library WalkwayLibrary Walkway

In the end, most attorneys (and other professionals) I know cherish their volunteer time.  Giving of ourselves feeds the soul, as we lay up treasure in heaven.

How great would it be, if fulfilling those endeavors was your full time job?

*          the Chicago Archdiocese Catholic Committee on Scouting we page is:

https://sites.google.com/site/chiaccs/

 

 

–           Pete Murphy                November, 2014

Vegas Run

VEGAS RUN

             I recall feeling excited, as I watched my neighborhood in the south Chicago suburbs dwindle below the wing of the Southwest Air 737.  I was heading to Las Vegas for the first time as an adult, attending a legal seminar and intending to check off this item from my personal “bucket list.”  I would be in “Sin City” four days, and largely on my own, to experience and explore.

Canyons

The view from my window seat on the 3 ½ hour flight gradually changed:  from urban landscapes of houses, schools and businesses, to vast lonely farmlands, and finally to the desolation of canyons, mountains, and flatlands of southern Nevada.  The State is quite impressive, even from 34 thousand feet.  I wondered at all those souls who made this trip overland during the California Gold Rush and the Dust Bowl, and thought what a miracle my flight would have been to them.

Sign

My first impression, as I walked the jetway into McCarran International Airport, was how hot and dry Vegas was compared to Chicago in September.  I had expected the heat, of course, but was still mildly surprised at the intensity of it.  Once inside the terminal, the air conditioning was about able to keep up with the hot desert sun.  Heading to baggage claim, I was almost immediately overwhelmed by the vast numbers of chromed slot machines that seemed to fill every hallway and concourse.

It’s not true insight to remark that Vegas is a shrine to gambling, nor is it unexpected.  But the quantity and variety of available gaming, at all hours, make our local Midwest casinos seem quaint by comparison.

Casino Indoors

Luggage in hand, I grabbed a quick shuttle ride from the terminal to the Tropicana, my hotel for this trip and the location of my two-day seminar.  After an unusually long wait at check-in, I was in my suite, unpacking and changing my sensible cool weather clothes for the light-weight golf shirts and shorts nearly everyone wears on Las Vegas Boulevard, a.k.a. “The Strip.”

Sunset

During my stay, I managed to keep my suite pretty cool by blasting the air conditioning on high, and leaving it that way throughout my visit.  I also kept the large bathroom closed, figuring I didn’t need to keep it as cool as the sleeping areas.  It seemed to work pretty well, and heat really wasn’t an issue.

As I look back on it now, my strongest memory of that first day (and even those that followed), is the scent of the Tropicana and other casinos I visited on my first night in Vegas.  To me, it was a combination of citrus air freshener and the stale cigarette smoke from over 50 years of tourists and staff.  While not unpleasant, it did take some getting used to.

Overall, the casino/resorts along Vegas’ south Strip were like the rat pack movies of the early ‘60’s brought back to life.  Certainly, the introduction of cell phones and wireless devices (nearly everywhere), does much to destroy this illusion.  Yet the piped-in music, décor, and atmosphere hearken back to this earlier time.  Indeed, I feel the casinos cultivated this connection, a sentimental tie-in to the golden days of Vegas from  those bygone years.  A sort of Vegas kitsch to my mind.

Tropicana Pool

Talking to some of the local staff and guests who remember those days, I was struck by the passion they have for that Vegas.  Simpler times, when the Flamingo and Golden Nugget were two of the few casinos in operation.  It’s gotten pricier and more crowded, they say, but there is something about this Town that draws them here.

The Strip itself is a study in contrasts.  Walking from the bright desert sunshine into the cool darkness of the casinos, you will find a unique mixture of high energy passion and dull lethargy at almost any hour of the day or night.

Veer Towers

 

 

Groups of younger couples passionately gathered around a roulette table are distinct from the solitary slot machine players, lost in their world of spinning wheels, lights, and sounds.  The mad passion of a night in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, yet within a few feet, the heavy solemnity of the morning after Fat Tuesday in the Big Easy, and all under one roof.  It was, to me, a strange vibe.

I suppose it was inevitable that I would find myself considering my views alongside those of Hunter S. Thompson’s experience in “Fear and Loathing.”  As a long time Thompson fan, his weird tales were running through my mind as I walked the streets and casinos.  I can’t hope to compare my experiences to those of the Great Dr. Gonzo in any manner, but I guess I felt some of that energy he wrote about, even now, some 40 years later.  Vegas, if nothing else, is enduring.

The food at the hotels is quite spectacular, and any visitor should try at least one gourmet meal.  Aside from taking a shuttle from the Airport, I walked to most attractions along the Strip.  The pedestrian walkways make navigating downtown Vegas an easy proposition, but double check the advertising handouts you are frequently given before slipping them into your suitcase!  These are often pictures of scantily clad “escorts,” and not appropriate souvenirs for the younger members of your household.

New York Casino at Night

 

I broke even with the Vegas casinos on my trip, which I’m quite proud of.  Still, part of me regrets not putting down a last big bet on my lucky number as I was heading back to my airport shuttle.  If it hit, the winnings would have paid for the entire trip, plus a few more.

When I return next time, I’ll be more of a Vegas veteran than wide-eyed tourist.  This City has room for both.  If I might have enjoyed it more with the company of family or friends, it was a fun experience without the constant negotiations and compromises such company inevitable requires.

Las Vegas is the ancestral home of American gambling.  It continues on as our most electrifying example.  Everyone should experience Vegas at least once, if only to check it off their bucket list.

 

Pete Murphy

September, 2014

 

This article is also published by Leisure Group Travel @:

http://leisuregrouptravel.com/first-timers-las-vegas-perspective/

Check out this link!

Yesterday’s EPCOT

My latest Walt Disney World article, Yesterday’s EPCOT, is posted on the Allears Disney fan site:

http://allears.net/ae/issue781.htm

In this piece, I remember a road trip I took to EPCOT with my Brother in the late 1980’s.

Recall with me part of that magical place and time, from the challenges of keeping an old car on the road, to experiencing one of the first video conferencing systems.

I hope you enjoy this look back at EPCOT as much as I enjoyed reliving it!

 

Pete Murphy