Gulf Pine Catholic - page 4

Gulf Pine Catholic
July 1, 2016
An older, retired priest I knew when
asked, “How are you?” would simply
reply with two words: “Above ground.”
Obviously, he is no longer “above
ground.” He is “below ground.” An-
other person, I know used to say, when
asked the same question, would say,
“Every day, I am above ground, and not
below, is a gift. It’s a joy to be alive.”
I suppose the hardest thing for any-
one of us to accept is to accept that we
are loved. Many of us grew up with a
conditional kind of love. Often, the idea
of being loved was played out with promises of “either or.” So
often, “If’ was injected into the equation. “If you…, then you
can…” Reward and punishment became the pattern. Other
times, it was played out in the comparison game of “Why
aren’t you like…” “Why aren’t you as smart as…” Why don’t
you work as hard as…”
I wonder what would happen to us if we stopped judging
ourselves; stopped beating ourselves over the head, stopped
comparing ourselves with others, stopped letting other peo-
ple’s expectations dictate our lives; stopped trampling on our
own unique dreams; stopped determining our success or fail-
ure in life based on what we achieved or failed to achieve,
rather than who we are as loved persons.
This past summer, I took some friends from Mississippi
on a trip to the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland.
The forty-five minute boat ride allowed us to drink in the salt
air and enjoy the sea breeze as the boat bobbed up and down
in the wake of its generated waves. Sitting beside me on the
open deck was a gentleman. In his mid-fifties, he was spend-
ing two weeks riding around Ireland on a bike. He was from
Holland. We began to talk about places he had visited and
suggested other places for him to see. I suggested one place
for him which was the Burren District, an area where tropi-
cal plants grew where, according to the climate, they should
not grow. Then, the man said, “Isn’t that where John Dono-
hue was born.” Our conversation zeroed in on this priest who
wedded the philosophy of Hagel with theology and the idea of
befriending our life, love, and environment which become our
“Anam Cara” or “soul friend” on our journey through life.”
The prologue of O’Donohue’s book,
“Anam Cara,”
gins with: “it is strange to be here. The mystery never leaves
you alone. Behind your image, below your words, above your
thoughts, the silence of another world waits. A world lives
within you. No one else can bring you news of this world.
Through the opening of the mouth, we bring out sounds from
the mountain beneath the soul. These sounds are words. The
world is full of words. There are so many talking all the time,
loudly, quietly, in rooms, on streets, on television, on radio, in
the paper, in books. The noise of words keep what we call the
world there for us. We take each other’s sounds and make pat-
terns, predictions, benedictions and blasphemies. Each day,
our tribe of language holds what we call the world together.
Yet, the uttering of the word reveals how each of us relent-
lessly creates, Everyone is an artist. Each person brings sound
out of silence and coaxes the invisible to become visible.”
I thought of that solitary figure from Holland, peddling
his bike around Ireland, amid the sound of passing cars, bus-
ily traveling to more important places. Yet, he could drink in
the sounds of nature all around him, the call of the tame and
wild animals, the smells of the heather and freshly cut peat,
the gentle breeze from the lakes that caressed his face, the tall
stature of the mountains that both challenge and protect him.
In his own thoughts and peddling power, he was able to coax
the invisible out to join him on his journey.
Tomorrow morning, my first outdoor journey will be
along the country road by the side of my house, where I can
hear the call of nature as well as the call deep within my per-
sonhood inviting me to embrace the invisible in the visible I
will be grateful to enjoy another day above ground, blessed to
appreciate life as a gift of love.
Father Michael Tracey is retired and lives in Ireland.
He can be contacted by email at
. His
website is
Above ground
the Pond
Fr. Tracey
What kind of man intentionally crashes his airplane be-
hind enemy lines during wartime to save a friend?
That’s the question that New York Times best-selling
author Adam Makos set out to answer in his book
about the bond between two Navy pilots during
the Korean War: Tom Hudner, a white New Englander
from the country-club scene, and Jesse Brown, an African
American sharecropper’s son from Mississippi.
As Makos recalled during a
“Christopher Closeup”
terview with me, “On December 4, 1950, the Korean War
had turned very dire. We had 10,000 U.S. Marines sur-
rounded by 100,000 Chinese communist troops at a place
called the Chosin Reservoir, way up in northern North
Korea. Men like Tom and Jesse would fly [from their near-
by naval carrier ships] to give air support to the Marines.
They would drop bombs and strafe, and that’s when Jesse
Brown was shot down. He was hit by a bullet from the
ground, and he crash-landed in the only place he could—
on the side of a North Korean mountain.”
Brown’s wingman, Tom Hudner, witnessed what hap-
pened, and then saw smoke rising from the nose of Jesse’s
plane, which lay 13 miles behind enemy lines. Hudner
said, “I’m going in.”
Makos continued, “Tom knew his friend was about to
die, and he was willing to give his own life to try to change
that. With his wheels up, Tom circled around and came
to a skidding, screeching stop alongside of Jesse’s plane.
Tom got out into that deep snow and set out to try to save
his friend’s life. It had never happened before; it has never
happened since.”
Makos wasn’t solely interested in
the incident itself, but what made these
two men who they were since they
came from such different backgrounds.
He knew it had to be special because
the seed of this book was planted when
the author attended a Veterans History
Conference in Washington, D.C. a few
years ago, and saw Hudner there wear-
ing his Medal of Honor, “the highest
award in the U.S. military.”
Hudner, he learned, could have
lived a comfortable life following in the footsteps of his
father who had opened a chain of grocery stores. But he
gave it up to join the Navy because his country was in the
midst of World War II, and he wanted to help.
Jesse Brown, meanwhile, had grown up dirt poor in
(Editor’s note: Brown was born in Lux and
graduated from Eureka High School in Hattiesburg).
a child, he fell in love with the idea of being a Navy pilot,
even though that was a nearly impossible dream for Afri-
can Americans at that time.
Racism was a major challenge that Jesse had to face, so
he prepared himself while growing up. Makos explained,
“Jesse’s mother was a missionary and a teacher, his father
was a deacon at their local church. They both taught him
to let words roll off his back. So when someone called him
a slur, when they would say the most hateful thing, his
mother would say, ‘You can let it get to you, Jesse -- or
you don’t have to give the words any power, and you can
just let them go.’ So Jesse would stand in front of a mirror
at night and he would curse himself in the mirror. And he
taught himself to be hardened to it and to just let it go.”
Both Brown’s and Hudner’s Christian faith also plays
into the story, and I’ll share those details and more in my
next column.
Tony Rossi is the radio host/producer for The Chris-
tophers. For a free copy of the Christopher News Note,
GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP, write: The Christophers,
5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail:
Light One
An epic story of heroism, friendship and sacrifice
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