Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Summer '09 Journeys!

We began our journey on a Saturday and had four or five days to actually arrive at our location in Northern Colorado. We spent Saturday evening with Vincente and Sharon Ambrossetti in Nashville Tennessee. They are wonderful supporters of our ministry and we spent hours and fellowship with them.

It was late, but we headed up to Clarksville Tennessee and camped in a rest stop and with the truckers and the tired. We arose early and made it to our alma mater, St. Louis University. This is where we met in 1971 at a coffeehouse Cricket was opening on the campus mass was celebrated by Jesuit father john Kavanaugh, one of the famous St. Louis Jesuit musicians responsible for so many of the hymns now sung all over the world. We got to visit with Father Kavanaugh and I attempted to remind him that he and I had both played in Cricket’s coffeehouse a few hundred years ago. He teaches philosophy in the college and grad school, and I later discovered has written a book on the topic of being Catholic in a consumerist culture, which was exactly the theme we were using for the Franciscan regional conference we were leading. After mass we wandered the campus which has grown so much since we were here and found the place where the coffeehouse had been.

Later, we traced our roots to the Saint Louis Christian home, which was an orphanage/Foster Care center where we worked and lived so that Jerry could finish his undergraduate degree. Jerry worked days and went to school at night and even did the converse as well. For a time, after our son Jacob was born, we lived in a large storage closet in the residential center. This center still functions for the city of St. Louis as a refuge for victims of abuse.

Although Cricket grew up in north St Louis, our relatives were not in town that day so we headed for Leavenworth Kansas. Along the way we visited a beautiful state park and hiked along its rocky ridges (blue springs, mo). We arrived that evening to spend a couple of days when our good friends the Anderson’s in Leavenworth. Paul took us to see a church that is in the Guinness book of world records, because it has one floor for Protestant services and another for Catholic services; I believe it is the only church holding simultaneous Catholic and Protestant services in the same building. They were wonderful hosts, and while Iran and did research and prepared music, Cricket did her final preparations for the retreat we were giving.

On Tuesday we headed across the great state of Kansas with the intention to stop at the beautiful “cathedral of the plains”, St, Fidelis church.
It is a beautiful and remarkable Capuchin parish that you can actually see from the interstate. We spent the wonderful time there and then headed to a remote state park for the evening. Although it is called Cedar Bluff, I call it “walking stick” park because the road was covered with those finely created insects. The late night held a typical Kansas thunderstorm which cooled the air. For this entire trip, we never hurried. We left early enough and spaced things well enough that we could start, stop, and side trip whenever we desired. We were surprised as we drove across the plains to see a few big Catholic churches in very small farmer towns. I know something of why this is, as my home state of Indiana is similar in its history.

As it was a Franciscan feast day, and we wound up having to drive all the way to Denver to find a weekday mass we could attend. This was at Our lady of Loretto which is a beautiful and vibrant parish even in the middle of the week!

We so enjoyed the evening mass that we camped nearby in a state park (within the city limits of Denver) and attended mass the next morning.

That afternoon, after visiting the Colorado State university nature center, we spent the next two days with Cricket’s college roommate Mary and Dennis Sovik. I remember joking with Denny in college about how impractical people thought my theology degree would be, and even moreso his degree in geography. But Denny and Mary have lived a very full life and raised a family, traveled, volunteered, and served as a wonderful inspiration. Denny has always had a successful construction team business with solar and ecological emphasis.

We arrived at Saint Malo on Friday afternoon and began our retreat. The first evening concentrated on “seeking in the desert”. Jerry had felt lead to write a song based on psalm 34, “there is one thing I seek,” and while he was writing it a small bird landed on the window and began singing nonstop. Jerry practiced other songs and the bird wasn’t there, but returned whenever the “one thing” song was played. Jerry couldn’t believe that the participants would believe this happened, so he had Cricket verify it. It was a wonderful evening with Cricket’s anointed teaching and a social time afterwards. Saturday began with mass and Friar Felix brought us together. We had three presentation times which included “Becoming Prayer”. Both Cricket and Jerry’s presentations were interactive with the group, but there was plenty of time for socializing and reflection as well. The meals were not rushed, and on Saturday night we found they had a tradition of a sing along in the lodge; I’m not sure how often Glory and praise, Motown, rocky mountain high, and southern spirituals get mixed in the same venue but we all laughed and sang until we collapsed. Sunday morning was the final presentation and then the celebration of the mass it was a very special time up blessing, and so many of the 60 participants wanted to maximize the time we all had together. As we were leaving, Cricket happened to ask in which room Pope John Paul the second had occupied when he was here---and sure enough, Marianne and the team had given us that room.

Heading back across Kansas, we provided an evening of Franciscan reflection for a group of 3rd Order Carmelites in KC! They welcomed us wonderfully and we were blessed to pray into the late night with them!

We drove back across the plains and somehow got lost trying to get back to walking stick park. Cricket guided us to a road that I believe still had the wagon Ruts of the Pioneers’. But we had a wonderful late night and morning “Rough camping” (without hookups) and Cricket prepared the retreat she would give in Kansas City for a group of third order Carmelites. We knew this would be a small group, but as always, the right people were there and we went well into the night in prayer and celebration. Cricket stayed with her good friend Maria in Kansas City but Jerry headed down to Little Rock to give a workshop. There is something so renewing about driving on the smaller highways our grandparents had as Jerry headed through the southern half of Missouri to Arkansas. On Friday, we had a rendezvous and headed to see our daughter Talia in a major role in the Baton Rouge little theatre’s production of The King and I. (Talia can be heard, as can our other daughters, on our CDs.

Our son and daughter inlaw, Jake and Liz had also come down to see Talia’s performance, so it was a nice little reunion at the end of our trip. We had stayed the night before at the trail of tears state park and had a wonderful evening walk along the Mississippi river. But late Saturday night we headed home after more than two weeks. We attended a wonderful Sunday morning mass at Our Savior Church in Mobile. We met Father David Tokarz whose engaging yet challenging style was so fitting for the eucharistic readings of the day.
We arrived home on Sunday evening and thanked God for our trip and all of you!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spring Part 2!!!

Our new year began with some finishing, that is within a week our son & daughters headed back to their respective worlds with grandchildren. Before they left however we began work on one of two new recording projects for 2009. We laid down the vocal tracks for the Christmas CD Cricket has requested for years. Nika literally laid down her songs while Cricket occupied her babies and she packed to fly back across the ocean to Spain. There will be both advent and Christmas themes on this record with many instruments and most of the family (and pets) involved.

Our unstuffing began in earnest this year. We vowed to get rid of half of our stuff, and as I tried to discern how to do that, I was led to “15 things per day”. So that has been ongoing; we give away, throw away, or sell 15 things per day. Like most inspirations, this sounded a lot more fun and romantic than it has turned out to be. It is truly releasing in the first weeks, but it starts to become hard choices very quickly. Extra and neglected clothing, books, CDs and dvds, computers and printers, and whatchmacallits are easy to unload. And moving from our large home of 20 years into a motorhome the size of C S Lewis' wardrobe makes the visualizing tangible. But even beyond the emotion, there is the practical question that arises when you realize that it will cost a lot more to replace this if you wind up needing it. It is at this point I believe the spirituality demands more attention: what do we really need? It is natural to consider this with perhaps a memento or nice sweater in mind; but the “rub” comes when it’s actually a book you love that no one else would want. And this same description could apply to a pillow or book of music or video or picture. I’ve heard some Franciscans say that they believe this is why the gospel is a essentially one of itinerancy; of motion, of not being held back or held down by “stuff”. (especially in Luke.)

We lead two retreats in February, traveling to Greensboro where Cricket led a woman’s day of reflection. It was a wonderful day and we are invited back to do a parish mission there later this year. We also gave a retreat with Father Bob Cushing of the Savannah diocese out at the monastery at Conyers Georgia. This same father bob is the man who introduced Cricket to Jerry in 1971.

We were blessed to be very involved in Holy Trinity’s “100 hours of devotions” in the second week of march.

We then traveled to Baton Rouge to see our daughter Talia in the lead of “singin’ in the ring”. Many of you have heard Talia and her sisters voices on HRS CDs: knew she who sang the Panis Angelicus on our Presence cd and the Salve on the Crown Rosary cd.

Later in march we were blessed to do a mission for Saint Philip Neri church in fort mill South Carolina this was the week prior to holy week and we were so blessed by the opportunity to serve this wonderful parish. Though Father John offered to have us park our motorhome next to the Church, there were 2 cell towers nearby so we enjoyed the 'night shift" at a local Wal-Mart! We never lack for invitations to stay with people, but our little 'home on wheels' is a fine place.

Cricket and I got to visit with the family of Natalie and Paul Burt and their four little ones extensively. Natalie's parents are close friends of ours from our Brown County Indiana days; but Natalie and Paul have a childrens' ministry we strongly support. They will be presenting at the Eucharistic Congress in Atlanta in June, and we have advertised their children's cd's because they are so well and prayerfully done.

Although this was the week just before Holy Week, we had great participation every evening! We were blessed to conclude this mission with an Evening of Reconciliation with Fr. John, and Fr. Ed, and Fr. Joseph from India. (I believe he could hear confession in a dozen languages!) On this night, Jerry spontaneously began singing songs of healing and forgiveness quietly on classical guitar as people returned from their time with the confessor. This solemn time of prayer lasted for over 3 hours as many stayed in a quiet time and prayed. I believe the Lord provided a spiritual oasis during this mission, but especially on the closing night! Here is a quote from a letter we received from the founding Pastor (I love his comment about our being 'low maintenance'):

"Recently Cricket and Jerry Aull conducted a Lenten retreat in my
parish. I recommend them whole heartedly because they spoke to issues of prayer, Eucharistic Adoration and Reconciliation in word and song. They were low maintenance, as far as no trouble, and very grateful of what the people gave. It was the first time that we had a lay-led retreat and it was very well received by our people.

Jerry and his beloved wife Cricket have a very deep spirituality upon
which they draw upon the lives of the saints and their contemporary
experiences. Sincerly, Fr. John Giuliani, C.O. Pastor of St. Philip Neri"

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Spring update!

It is difficult to say when and where this all began, but certainly an igniting moment was when our oldest daughter and grandsons returned to their home in Spain and our baby, (of six), headed off to the university of Georgia. This was our first “empty nest” in over 35 years.

We immediately left for Minnesota, where cricket led a weeklong retreat or a convent. I traveled into Pennsylvania for one of my last corporate gigs, and returned in the motorhome to carry us to Arkansas. We then spoke to the catholic association of musicians conference at the little portion hermitage with john Michael Talbot.

We have attended this conference several times, but this trip was special and many ways. It was our first relying solely on the motorhome, staying in campgrounds and truck stop parking lots, and receiving tremendous encouragement all along the way. It was that this conference that we made a special connection with Pierce Pettis, an award winning professional songwriter based in Nashville and Alabama. (check out Pierce’s Bio at stable music dot com) we were blessed to be invited to Pierce’s church for a mass saying goodbye to the Sister who had administrated the parish for over a decade

July found us in preparation for what the rest of the year would bring , partly beginning the process of “unstuffing” our lives and making ready to spend longer periods on the road. Jerry also began the process of recording our newest CD,” my favorite picture”, which is a collection of original and other songs we use in our ministry.
In August, we were blessed to serve the Franciscan regional gathering in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Jerry provided music at mass and in the context of Cricket’s workshop, which we have recorded and made available to those who desire it. We also provided a Franciscan retreat at the Trappist monastery in Conyers Georgia.

September began with our leading the night of prayer and song at Most Holy Trinity parish in Augusta Georgia. We celebrated their with our own “archangel” Father Michael Lubinsky, whose prayerful encouragement has become a constant miracle for us.

Words about Jerry and Cricket Aull are my gratitude to them for coming to Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Augusta, GA September 9,2008 , and offering our community an unforgettable evening of prayer and song and reflections that pierce he mind and heart and soul and spirit with mystical holiness, joy ,and love of God.

Jerry's singing lifts the soul to God in exquisite beauty. He is complemented by the message of Gospel truths and values by Cricket Aull as she focuses us on the mysteries of Christian faith in Jesus to keep us single-minded in His purpose for the honor and glory of God and the sanctification of our lives. What a powerful duo of talent and Christian faithfulness to God's plan for them to sing His praises
I am totally recommending your parish to call upon Jerry and Cricket to give you the opportunity to hear and see for yourself the beauty of their calling to our Church."

FR Michael Lubinsky parochial vicar at Most Holy Trinity Church

In the middle of September, we reconnected with many friends in our previous parish of Saint Agnes, in Nashville Indiana.

We were blessed to lead a retreat for the Franciscan fraternity in Hendersonville North Carolina, and stayed in our camper “on the street where Greg lives”.

Autumn brought some beautiful scenery on our trip up to St Louis for Cricket’s high school reunion and reconnection with good friends there. From St. Louis we traveled to the national secular Franciscan convention where Cricket spoke on while Jerry again provided liturgical and workshop music.

Later in October, we were honored to serve the Franciscan fraternities in Chattanooga Tennessee for the day of reflection on [photos etc.] And were the guests of John and Faye Martin. We found at this retreat that we were out of sync with the heating system in a meeting room and were freezing inside while it was gorgeous outside! We celebrated youth and balance of nature by warming up outside in the wonderful Tennessee sun.

Early November took us to Sioux City Iowa, where we were so blessed to serve the Church of the Nativity with the parish mission on harvest.

Father Jerry Fierfeldt and his community held us in their souls from Saturday through the following Thursday. We had camped in this area on our way there, at Graham cracker state park (my name). It went below freezing that night and our heater wouldn’t function, and the win sounded like something out of the wizard of oz. Needless to say, we were the only campers at night, but it was actually quite cozy as we rolled the rest of the way into Sioux City. We did a brief description of the mission at the masses, and Jerry provided music with the parish as liturgical musicians. Monday night was focused on the seeds of harvest, the parable of the sower, and a hearty group of folks braved the first big snow and ice of the season to join us.
It was after this “polar” experience, (at least for us Georgians), that Father Jerry and his dog
Invited us to stay in the guest part of the rectory. It was like being in a mansion compared to the motorhome, but this dog’s enthusiasm and gregariousness is almost as nonstop has his master, Father Jerry. We are dog lovers from way way back, and Father Jerry reminded me of Father Griffin constantly walking across the campus of the University of Notre Dame with his dog when we went to school there.

Nearly all returned under the same conditions for Tuesday night, where our theme focused on the cultivation and the growing of our catholic faith and harvest. This worked well with the examination of conscience, and then our celebration of the sacrament of reconciliation. Several priests came from neighboring parishes, and it was so wonderful to visit into the night with so many people for prayer and fellowship.

Father Jerry and several others had recommended that we visit the shrine in Sioux City before we finished our mission. The pictures we’ve included were taken with a lousy camera on a an overcast day but here is a link for better visuals. http://www.trinityheights.com/ We spent several hours roaming the grounds and appreciating the wonderful testament and teaching of our catholic era teach present on this holy ground.

We finished the nativity mission on the theme of harvest, with a wonderful Mass celebrated by Father Andrew-Bao Vo from Vietnam. We always knew that one of the blessings of our itinerant ministry would be the stories that we got to share with people we met. Father Andrew and his family lived for seven years in the jungles of Vietnam after their father was arrested. During that time the family still grew in their catholic faith so much so that this young man this now a wonderful priest in Iowa. By last night of the mission, we felt truly as though we were at the dinner table with wonderful friends and believers, and we look forward to our next visit to the nativity family.

Our trip home allowed me to visit with my sister Mary Pat, who is on staff at boys town research hospital. Many of us I’m sure recall the story of father Flanagan and boys town, symbolized by the beautiful song, “he ain’t heavy father, he’s my brother”; and even though my sister and I are among nine children of a deaf widow, it was transforming to see my sisters' passion and results and dealing with deaf infants, children, and their families.

We were honored later that week to serve of Franciscan retreat outside of Kansas City, and one page of the newsletter below tells that story well.

Morning of Reflection, Saturday, November 15
It was cold and snowy that Saturday morning, but inside the Sanctuary of Hope there was warmth emanating from the words and music of Cricket and Jerry Aull. The Secular Franciscans gathered were treated to a presentation on “Understanding Penance.”
We were told that the official commentary on the Rule of the SFO describes a person who does penance as one turned toward God. We need to be the presence of God to the world. Penance also means that my life can be offered to God in such a way that I help to call forth more of creation, in addition to myself, to loving God wholeheartedly. Everything we do has potential to bring others closer to God.
Penance should be a way of life for the Secular Franciscan. We do this best by following our promises of simplicity (planting the seeds of patience and love), purity (everything done purely for God), and obedience (serving others) as best as possible according to our state in life.
God uses all of our situations in life to bring about a transformation to holiness. God, in loving wisdom, has made the painfully difficult circumstances which work to fashion us into holiness and that also serve to present our beloved Lord to a world that needs to see Him.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “The interior penance of the Christian can be expressed in many and various ways. Scripture and the Fathers insist above all on three forms, fasting, prayer, and almsgiving.” A form of penance is detachment from preferring our own opinions; also detachment from material goods; denial of one’s self. The love and imitation of Christ is present in all penance.
In faith we embrace everything as a gift from God because we trust our gracious and loving Father to take everything we go through and use it for His will and our good.
It is JOY (a) to be freed from a self-focus; (b) to know Christ intimately; (c) to know the great depth of the love of Christ; (d) to realize that all of our sufferings of life and the cross are valuable, redemptive, and used by God’s design to make us holy; (e) to allow the Holy Spirit to take us through all life’s experiences and relationships with love’s pure desire to give of itself.
We must try to remember that God uses our sufferings to transform ourselves AND the world. Think of lifting up someone else rather than myself—love lowliness!!
Cricket and Jerry gave us much to think and pray about. Visit their website at jerryandcricketaull.com to check out their book store and music store.
Let us pray for the Spirit of Penance:

“O seraphic father, St. Francis, I venerate in you the living image of Christ crucified. Your Love transformed your whole life into one long martyrdom. It made you strive by means of severe penances to satisfy the ardor of your desires, until at last it impressed on your body the wounds it had long before engraved deeply in your heart. It thus made you a living crucifix, preaching sweetly to all people the sufferings and love of Jesus. Obtain for me, O holy father, that I too may banish from my heart the spirit of the world; that I may esteem poverty and humiliation above wealth and honor; that I may mortify my passions and advance daily in the knowledge and love of God, until at last, detached from myself, from the world and from all creatures, I may live for God alone, and like you say with my while heart, “My God and my all,” my God, my inheritance and my joy in time and eternity. Amen.” (from Secular Franciscan Companion, Franciscan Herald Press, p. 54)

December began with our celebrating an advent evening of reflection with holy Trinity parish in Peachtree City Georgia. Despite the hurry and flurry of the season, the room was brimming with people fully desiring that graces of advent prayer. (sorry the photo is dark, but you know how candlelight mixes with a cell phone photo!)

We were so richly blessed to give an Advent retreat in the last week before Christmas at St. Peter Chanel Parish, who had just dedicated their new sanctuary!

Fr. Frank McNamee, now at the Cathedral in Atlanta, worked with us on a wonderful 3 nights of Advent waiting and living in hope and grace. We concluded on Wednesday evening with an Evening of Reconciliation with over 20 priests there, and the choirs helped with the songs of quiet reflection! (more to come!)