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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Broken, yet behold! we are being made whole!

I arrived home around 1:30 from Atlanta to a neighborhood in lock down.

Blue lights flashing everywhere and yellow crime scene tape around an entire neighborhood block. Traffic backed up. School buses filled with somber-faced teachers, parents and children. Small clusters of worried neighbors here and there.

My cell phone rang just as my cab driver, an ebony-skinned man from Sierra Leon, was asking me, "Is this Chatham?"

Fr. Ed Hines, pastor since 2003 at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church,had been found murdered in the rectory, one block up and one block over from the rectory where I live and move and have my being.

Ed was a colleague, but more importantly, he was my friend. A genuinely nice guy. One of the last of a dying breed of gentle souls.

He fully respected the status of my ordination. He was a mentor. A role model. A confidant. A colleague. A friend.

If the entirety of our lives can be summed up in one story, here's my story about Ed:

It was not long after the death of my daughter. I thought I was doing okay. The grieving process was progressing on course. "Thank you, I'm fine," I heard myself saying, over and over again, to kind, caring people who asked how I was doing.

And then, one morning, I woke up and found that I couldn't move my feet from the bed and put them on the floor. Neither could I take a full breath.

My first coherent thought was, "I've got to get to Mass."

The only place I could think of that was close by was St. Pat's. There was an 8 AM daily mass there.

I got up and got dressed. I knew I wouldn't be able to receive the sacrament in a RC Church but I was okay with that.

All I really needed at the time was to be in a small community of people who believed in the Resurrection. Who not only believed in but cherished the idea of Life Eternal. Who willingly and gladly entered into the paradox of understanding the Mysterium Grandum of God's sacramental grace.

I pulled on my favorite old jeans and a hooded sweat shirt, put on my hat, coat and mittens and walked the block up to St. Pat's and took a seat in the back. There were 8 or 10 people already in the church.

When it came time for communion, I sat in my pew, praying quietly to God, my head bowed, my knees bent, my hands and heart open.

Suddenly, I felt something being pressed into my hand. I opened my eyes and saw Fr. Ed standing before me, pressing the broken wafer into my hand, as I heard him say, "The Body of Christ, the Bread of Heaven."

I took the broken wafer into my hand, gobbling it like a hungry beggar who hadn't eaten in weeks. I hadn't known how hungry I had been.

Right there in front of God and the people of God, I was fed and nourished.

I had received a foretaste of the heavenly banquet which my daughter now enjoyed. I was one with her and she with me and I experienced a wholeness and a healing that surpassed sublime.

What really broke my heart open was the risk this man took for Incarnate Love. For the Gospel. Right there, in the Roman Catholic Church, in front of God and the assembled faithful, he broke a rule, and fed a hungry, broken woman a broken piece of bread which filled me with wholeness and holiness of Life.

Ed Hines found a place deep in my heart in that moment that became all his own. It is that place, tonight, which cries out in the pain of his loss.

I've been on the phone most of the night. Coordinating with area clergy about a collaborative pastoral response. Conferring about what we might do to allay anxieties and assuage fears.

All this while I rehearsed a bridal party of 20 for a lavish, posh Interfaith Wedding tomorrow evening in one of the most 'swankified' country clubs in the area.

It's been a surreal evening.

In the midst of everything else, I've gotten three independent text messages from three different parishioners that are, word for word, the same:

"Are we safe?"

Here's the truth of it which I haven't had the courage to write back: We never were. Never have been. None of us. Any where. If we had been truly safe, Fr. Ed would be alive tonight.

Safety and security are illusions. Always have been. Always will be. We walk a fine line between our illusions and the common every day realities of truth as we perceive them.

Or, alter our perceptions to convince us of our realities as we want them to be.

Who said: "Perception is reality and reality is truth"?

(No, really. Who said that? Aristotle or Socrates? I can't remember.)

Here's the truth of my reality tonight: I am not afraid.

I suppose I'm not afraid tonight because my perception of reality is very different than most people who live here.

I see beyond here. I believe in the Resurrection. I truly believe in Eternal Life. Those aren't just words in the Creeds. I could recite any of the Creeds without crossing my fingers and still pass a lie-detector test.

What I know tonight that I didn't think I'd ever know is the pain of the loss of my friend, Ed. Nothing is more real to me tonight.

Of your kindness and mercy, please pray for the repose of the soul of Ed Hinds. Pray for all who knew his smile, experienced his compassion, called him friend, and saw the light of Christ in his heart.

Pray for the frightened souls of the people of The Chathams.

And pray for me, a sinner of Christ's own redeeming who was once hungry and broken and was once fed and made whole.

And, is deeply, deeply grateful.


Kirkepiscatoid said...

My prayers go out to all in the community--but especially to you and Ms. Conroy. This has to be an absolutely awful thing to come home to.

I am feeling that you might have a little of that same feeling that I had when I discovered, when rushing home in the Kirksville Tornado this May, that I had missed meeting smack dab with it by five minutes...and THEN some, b/c Fr. Ed was so close to you.

You're right. No one is EVER safe. The versicles in Morning Prayer come to mind..."for only in you do we live in safety."

What a beautiful story. Hang on to it when there's nothing left to hold, squeeze it tight, and if the tears come, they come.

Meanwhile, I will hold you in prayer and squeeze my prayers as tight as you "squoze" that wafer.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Please know that I am praying for you and for the friends and loved ones of Fr. Ed. I pray they'll be spared from the indignities that follow a crime like this one. Blessings on you as you go about your pastoral duties. If things get too surreal, perhaps it's time to speak truth to the swankified.

Paul said...

Prayers and more prayers for all affected. May choirs of angels sing him to his rest.

Brian R said...

Prayers for Fr Ed, for his congregation and for his friends including Elizabeth.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

Prayers ascending for Fr Ed and you and Ms Conroy and all close to this!

And Amen, amen!

Bruce Garner said...

You are in my prayers my dear sister.


Sam Candler said...

Blessings to you Elizabeth:
I am sorry to have missed you in Atlanta, and I even more sorry to hear about Father Ed Hines. Your words now, however, are strong and faithful. Thanks for writing them. -- Sam Candler

Anonymous said...

May God's peace be with you and with all the people of Chatham. Prayers and love surround you!

Karen said...


Prayers for you all and for your friend.

Malinda said...

Hi Elizabeth - I saw the headline in the NYTimes on-line and was stunned. Thank you for sharing your story of this man's life with us. You and your community are in my prayers.

Janis Bland said...

I saw this on the news when I got up this morning and immediately thought of you.

My prayers are ascending for Fr. Ed, you, and the community.{{{Chatham}}}

Janis - Juanuchis' Way

it's margaret said...

God bless you and the work you do and will be doing to thank God for the life and witness of this priest of God, who knew and acted faithfully that we are indeed already ONE at the altar.

You continue in my prayers.

Frair John said...

May he rest in peace and rise in Glory.

For the rest of you:

Assist us mercifully, O Lord, in these our supplications and prayers, and dispose the way of thy servants towards the attainment of everlasting salvation; that, among all the changes and chances of this mortal life, they may ever be defended by thy gracious and ready help; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Paul Davison said...

My prayers for Father Ed and for all those whom he touched, you not the least.

Caminante said...

And I have been praying since I read yesterday about his murder (in the NYT and when I saw Chatham, groaned).

TBTG for the loveliness of Ed Hine's soul who realised what is of Christ and not of the Church.

Prayers for you, your daughter, your beloved Ms Conroy, your community, your parish...

All our hope on thee is founded....


jerseyjo said...

Prayers and peace to you and your family, to your community, and to God's beloved Fr. Ed.

Wormwood's Doxy said...

Your story about Fr. Ed made me cry. I, too, have been fed by generous Catholic priests, when I would not have dared to receive on my own.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory. And may the Holy Spirit wrap those who love him in Her wings and comfort them.


susankay said...

Elizabeth -- again, you and your community/family are in my prayers.

June Butler said...

May Fr Hinds rest in peace and rise in glory. Prayers for all who love him, especially for you, my friend, Elizabeth. May God give you all comfort and consolation, and the peace that passes understanding to keep your minds and hearts in Christ Jesus. May the love of God ease hearts and dispel fear.

Bill said...

It takes something like this to remind people that whether you are living in Chatham or Newark the end is only a heartbeat away and all you can do in this existence is live life to the fullest and never, never give in to fear. The other thing you can do in this life is to give what love and service you can back to those other transient humans who are passing through with you and maybe, just maybe, you can leave with you head held high and be remembered as a loving, caring person. I'm sure Fr. Ed will be remembered just this way.

JimB said...

Prayers for your community and you.

May he rest in peace and rise in glory.


Kay & Sarah said...

Praying for you, you community and Fr. Hines. You had a beautiful friend.

Christian Paolino said...

I thought of you guys immediately when I saw this news. Then when I saw his name I realized I know him too. Fr. Ed was assistant pastor at St. Michael's in Netcong during my Antioch youth group days.

Praying for strength for you and your community at this tough time.

Bob Schneider said...

You story touched my heart, and I've shared it with my (Roman Catholic wife. God bless and hold you in the Everlasting Arms, dear Sister. And may Fr. Ed's soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the Mercy of God rest in peace.

Riley said...

Oh Elizabeth,

What an awful mess to come home to
after such a wonderful celebration
in Atlanta. My prayers go out to
you and Barbara, Fr. Ed, and the

Warm Hugs for you, my dear.

Ann Markle said...

Oh, Elizabeth. Having lost a daughter myself, that was the first thing to which I responded. I remember how it felt for me to return to the church (6 years after her death) and be in that community that believed "life is not ended, only changed." I grieve for you in the loss of your friend, and rejoice in that memory of God's grace. That's another point of identification I have with your post -- grace happens, whether we notice it or not. You are surrounded by prayer at this time.

Muthah+ said...

Will remember Fr. Ed at eucharist tomorrow. Heart and prayrs are with you and the people of Chatham and especially his parishioners.

Kirstin said...

Prayers and more prayers, for all of you.

I am so, so sorry.

Karen H. said...

Prayers for Fr. Ed & for all who are shaken, fearful, & grieving.

Many thanks to you for the story you shared...your words and the spirit you conveyed, are healing.

the cajun said...

Thank you for sharing this memory and I send prayers and love in Father Ed's name.

mibi52/ The Rev. Dr. Mary Brennan Thorpe said...

Prayers for you and those so hurt by this violent act - prayers of gratefulness for the ministry of fr. Ed and for your ministry in Chatham, prayers of shared grief for all who are victims of violence. I was in your neck of the woods (actually interviewing at a church in your Dio) when I heard about this, and prayed for the whole diocese and all in ministry there. God only knows...

marcia king said...

It sounds like Fr Ed was a kind, compassionate man who cared with spiritual nourishment and friendship when it counted the most. Prayers tonight for your loss and that of your community.

Jane Priest said...

I saw the headline in the NYTimes and came straight to your blog. Ed is now feasting at that heavenly banquet where we will all be fed regardless of the name assigned to our worship. My prayers are with you all. What a loss.

Malinda said...

How do we cope with the violence that seems to be all around us - the news reports tell us that it is someone known to him who struck him down - someone he would trust and know and it just makes it all seem too real and surreal - if it can happen to him/her - it can happen to me - just the same as the violence that has come inyo our community all too unexpectedly. We grieve with and along side you. Many prayers.

textjunkie said...

Thank you for that beautiful writing, and I am sorry that you have lost (for the moment) your friend and mentor. God bless you and the community where he lived and worked. May God make His face to shine upon him, and give him peace.

Fran said...

Oh I am very late to this but still here so deeply moved by your words about Fr. Ed. This is so tragic - truly.

One bread, one body - Fr. Ed knew that and made sure that you were fed. Now I am weeping again at the thought of his generosity that did not stop at denominational lines... just as Jesus' generosity doesn't stop there.

Rest in peace Fr. Ed and prayers for all of Chatham.

Lapinbizarre said...

Moving post. Clearly a fine man.

susankay said...

Elizabeth -- I guess I want you to know that, because of your post, Ed+ is so embedded in my heart that I DREAMED of praying for him last night. I am notably klutzy at prayer, so this is notable.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I apologize for being remiss in responding to all of your wonderful comments and petitions of prayer. It's been a bit surreal - and slightly frenetic.

My heart is filled to overflowing with gratitude for this wonderful online community.

I am blessed. Truly.