The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

The thoughts expressed here are my personal thoughts and sometimes reflect my political views. As a private citizen I have every right to express these views.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Western Trip, Part 3: God's Gifts


Our trip to the Far West continued as we departed Laguna Beach and made our way, very indirectly, to our destination of Danville in the Bay Area. Although we lived in California for over seven years back in the 60s and 70s, Dear Diane and I had never visited Sequoia National Park. It's one of those places we've always wanted to visit, but we just never got around to it. And so we took a bit of a detour and drove inland into the hills and checked into a nice hotel near Three Rivers, California, not far from the entrance to the national park. Since it was still early in the day, we decided to drive to the park and see the big trees that afternoon.

The drive through the park is breathtaking, and I found myself wanting to stop at every turn and just take in the beauty that surrounded us. A few photos...
The mountains were raised up in homage to the Lord

All of creation seems to point heavenward
Who shall live on your holy mountain, O Lord?

And then we meet the sequoias. Not long after entering the park, following the recommended route, one begins to encounter these huge trees. What magnificent creations! Interestingly, as we climb up the winding road to this mile-high forest, the size of the trees seems to grow proportionately until we find ourselves in the midst of some of the largest and oldest living things on earth. The largest of the sequoias is the General Sherman Tree which stands tall at 275 Feet and has a diameter in excess of 25 feet. It is also estimated to be about 2,500 years old. Such numbers boggle the mind but not as much as the reality itself. 

"General Sherman" - the largest of the large
Standing at the foot of one of these beautiful trees one learns to appreciate the greatness and variety of God's creation. They seem to be pointing to the heavens, as if to say, "We have long been witnesses to God's greatness, and we reach up to Him in thanks." One can almost hear them singing as the breeze rustles their branches:
Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it; shout, O depths of the earth; break forth into singing, O mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will be glorified in Israel [Is 44:23].
Sequoias reaching up to heaven

It was a glorious day and I am so glad we were able to be there. I've included a few more photos below...
Another large sequoia
A cluster of trees
Two giants stand together
Diane and Maddie checking out the trees
The next morning we drove north through the farmland of California's Central Valley, eventually cutting over toward the San Francisco Bay Area, and arrived in Danville in the early afternoon. It had taken us eight days to make the trip from our home in central Florida, and a wonderful eight days it had been. But now we would begin the long anticipated week with our daughter, Siobhan, her husband, Jeffrey, and their two boys, our grandsons, Ezekiel and Phineas. We stayed in the lovely home of Jeffrey's mom, Puffy, who graciously put up with us (and Maddie) for our entire stay. Actually, Maddie took an instant shine to Puffy and probably would have preferred to stay with her than travel back to Florida with us.

On Saturday, May 10, we were privileged to take part in young Ezekiel's First Holy Communion, celebrated at St. Joan or Arc Parish in San Ramon, California. Fr. Ray, the pastor, kindly asked me to join him in the sanctuary as the deacon of the Mass, permitting me to offer the cup of Jesus' Precious Blood to these wonderful new communicants. What a joy! Diane took some photos.
Ezekiel with his grandfather

The first communicants with Fr. Ray and myself

Ezekiel with his parents and brother, Phineas

Later that afternoon the family and some close family friends came together for an extended celebration at Puffy's home. The weather was just about perfect so we were able to celebrate outside by the pool which certainly pleased the children. At some point during our festivities Ezekiel sat down to open his cards and gifts. "The gifts are all very nice," he said, "but I really like the cards." I doubt that any other child has ever expressed such a sentiment. Since Ezekiel's middle name is Francis, Diane and I gave him a rosary blessed by Pope Francis. He liked it so much he wore it around his neck. Photos follow.
Ezekiel with one of his new rosaries
Puffy admiring one of Ezekiel's gifts
Dear Diane keeping Maddie quiet and content
More tomorrow...God's peace.

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