Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Bernadette sings only two songs. The first is simply, "Alleluia!" The other is of her own composition and it goes: "Oh Glo-ri-a! Oh Mnyah Mnyah!" (We do play "normal" secular children's music in our home, but The Wheels on the Bus just haven't seemed to roll into that little heart quite yet.)

Mnyah Mnyah is a person. Well, a phenomenon, really. "Mnyah Mnyah" is Bernadette's best effort at pronouncing the name of Fr. Michael. That's what she calls him. And she loves him. Every morning as he proceeds from the sacristy to the altar, Bernadette is (loudly) repeating, "Hi Mnyah Mnyah! Hi Mnyah Mnyah!" He's the only person she pretends to call from my cell phone. He's also the only person she succeeds in calling from my cell phone. When the doorbell rings, she asks excitedly if it's him. I think all four of us feel that way. It's actually a little odd that the girls have taken such a shine to him because, frankly, he has no "children skills" - nor does he seem to have any ambition to cultivate some. He talks to Maria (almost 4) in baby talk. He reads Dr. Seuss books to Bernadette as if they were written in the meter "rap".  No, seriously, please pause for a moment and imagine Jay-Z performing: Hop. Pop. We like to hop. We like to hop. On top of Pop. [Personal Coolness Disclaimer: I had to ask Richard for the name of a famous rapper. And for the spelling of the name he supplied.]

Children skills or not, Fr. Michael is every bit as fantastic as my children believe him to be. He is the funnest person we know. I'm willing to break one of the most basic grammatical rules to make that point. Heck, I break a lot of grammatical rules on this blog. Anyway, he's simply fantastic company, a one-man variety show: extraverted, quick-witted, passionate, hilarious, opinionated, engaging, enthusiastic...all things intense wrapped up in the strongest imaginable personality on the entire spectrum of possibilities. And the man loves Jesus like an insanity. (He might be unbearable if he did not.) His humility before Jesus balances out his Goliath personality. I see that most in the Confessional - the man who never misses an opportunity to tease suddenly becomes as gentle, calm and meek as any mortal man is capable. One might have to experience this to believe it.

Fr. Michael in younger, skinnier, hairier days

Fr. Michael loves the Church. He loves his vocation as a priest - and he gives himself fully as a priest to the Church. But that's not exactly why I'm writing about him right now. I chose him as tonight's blog topic because Rich took me out on a date last night. We don't get to do that very much - I think it's been 2 months since our last date. We went to a wonderful Italian restaurant and enjoyed our first New Zealand moonlit beach stroll afterwards. There were no young children interrupting us, smearing food or being cranky. Even Freckle was still. We had the charming restaurant to ourselves, our food was amazing and I saw my first ever shooting star during our walk. It was a perfect night. And all we talked about was Fr. Michael. (We never stopped laughing.) We agreed that - of all the many wonderful things we are enjoying about our time in New Zealand - the most precious for both of us is the joy of spending so much time with Mnyah Mnyah. We met him 7 years ago when we were all studying in Ohio, but we've not seen him at all for the past 5 years - and we missed him very much during that time. The opportunity to spend 2 years catching up with him was a huge "pro" when we were discerning the decision to come to New Zealand. We did worry about how the dynamic of our friendship might be affected by working with and for him. There seems to have been no need to fear. The past ten months have been nothing less than blest, fruitful and hilarious.

Rich and I both are asked very frequently by friends back home what it's like here, how things are going, what we're enjoying, etc.... Those are huge questions and the answers can all change from moment to moment! But last night I think Richard and I realized that perhaps the most purely fun and intensely enjoyable thing about this entire adventure is not a thing at all. It's a person. And while, unlike Bernadette, we reserve our "Gloria!"s for things divine, we do almost understand where she is coming from. Almost.

learning the YMCA at our wedding
(one thing I realized while writing this post was that 
for all the TIME we are spending with Fr. Michael, 
we have way more outdated photos of him than recent ones.
I'll have to make a conscious effort to remedy that ill)