April 14

Tuesday,  April 14, 2020

Good morning. Good morning.

The response to a good pandemic will always be found in the heroic stories of selflessness and survival.  We have much to learn from each other.  After all man is created to be set in community and not isolated.  Today a story of the sea.  Tomorrow a story of the hydro agrarian challenge.  And the day after, a little levity from the sagas of the masterful monks.

One hundred and eight years ago, tonight, just before the Midnight hour the greatest ship of its time, the Titanic, struck an iceberg on her maiden voyage to America, and in the time of two hours and forty minutes went to the bottom.  The movies that followed the disaster would each last about the same amount of time it took the ship to sink.  For the metallurgists of the parish the very cold water of the North Atlantic left the metal of the hull “brittle” in her fending off the mighty iceberg.  For the techno-savvy collegians of the parish, forward radar had not been discovered in the time of the Titanic.  The best security they could hope for was a set of tired eyes, in a cold “crows nest” on a night with little illumination from the moon.  For the anthropologists of the parish there is plenty to draw from.  More on that below.

On the 11th of April, 1912, the Titanic made her final port of call to “Queenstown,” County Cork, Ireland.  The name of the port city has since been renamed, “Cohb.” Seven people departed the ship and 123 boarded her for her run to America.  Two of those boarding were from a rather meek Irish farm family.  Leaving behind loving parents and two brothers the two adventuring sisters were expected to find jobs in New York that would provide the funds to bring other family members to America.  It was truly a run, if not race, to America as there were some in  the management of the White Star Line, who hoped the new ship would break the record time for crossing the Atlantic.  It was the proud beast, with a shaded heritage, produced in the shipyard of Belfast that had a history since the 1880’s of not employing Catholics.


The two young ladies settled in the steerage holding compartment with many other bunk beds set across the room.  They were at the very bottom of the ship, three decks below the waterline.  They didn’t expect to see daylight for the coming six days.  But, quite by chance, they caught the eye of a couple of young sailors from the Titanic crew who gave them the full tour of the ship.  And more than once.  On the third night, during the rosary offered among the families of the steerage section of the ship, the young sailors showed up and ushered the girls out.  The pious little lassies were upset by their unexpected visitors as they knew their mother would be quite angry to hear they left in the middle of the rosary.  The sailors pushed and pulled the girls along the corridors, in a most awkward way, never explaining themselves, locking the “gates” along the hallways and stairwells above. None of the others finishing the rosary would be leaving steerage that night.

On deck the girls were ushered into a lifeboat in what seemed to be an evacuation drill.  It was cold and at the late hour the young ones were tired and now becoming concerned as the life boat actually descended to the water below.  And out they went into the dark Atlantic night.  Concern was soon replaced by fear for the one sibling thought surely they, on that dark night, would be lost from the ship.  In short order the lights on the ship were extinguished while rockets were shooting into the air like a late night celebration.  And then the rockets ceased as the ship’s bow was settling ever so close to the water.  There were screams rising in the other lifeboats and from the decks of the Titanic.  The one sister would later describe her thoughts on the ship lifting and dropping to the ocean floor… “That ship was so big, we didn’t think the ocean could contain it.”  In short order the screams were replaced by silent weeping.  It was the night to remember, as the later disaster movie would be titled.

The brave little ship, Carpathia, arrived two hours later.  She herself had broken her own speed record by travelling at seventeen knots over the distance of sixty miles, from where she received the distress call from the Titanic. Fifteen hundred souls would be lost that night and by the quick work by the Carpathian crew a little more than half that number would survive.  In gratitude for her survival, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, would have a special medal struck for each of the crew members.

Meanwhile back on the farm in Ireland the father of the two sisters learned of the disaster when he stopped in to the local pub.  He vowed never to tell the wife and sons as he knew the news would crush them.  The mother heard the story from the neighbors when she was hanging the wash by the back fence. True to form with her husband, not a word would be said to the others.  And the sons, while picking up farm supplies, would learn of the disaster and determine not to tell the parents.  All living under the same roof separately holding the same secret.

When word arrived in Ireland that the names of the girls were on the survivors list all the family burst with joy.  The girls were dropped off in New York and met their expectant parties and stepped into the life of America.  Did they ever go back to visit Ireland in the years that followed?  I don’t know.  Did the brothers ever come to America? I don’t know.

Eventually the two sisters would go different ways. One would enter the Convent for the Adrian (Michigan) Dominican Sisters, under the name of Sr. Patricia Joseph OP.  Few of her students would ever learn of her story until one of them became a priest and begged her indulgence as a kindness to the family since his own father, recently deceased, was so good to the Sisters when they needed something fixed at the convent.  Hollywood would never meet Sr. Patty Jo and the kids of St. Rita’s parish, on the South Side, would never forget her.

And now for the anthropologists of the parish.  The five classic theories on the sinking of the Titanic.   https://www.businessinsider.com/titanic-sinking-conspiracy-theories-2018-4  …  One of my favorites, it is a good read.

There is much to be learned from the sufferings of others.  And, in the closing of this pandemic coronavirus there will be much to be taught from the lessons of the Lockdown.  Let us pray for one another.

In closing.  I am most grateful to all of you for sending your parish envelopes and donations in the mail or sliding them under the sacristy door as well in joining the parish giving on line saintfrancisparish.org/parish-giving/   God bless all of you.  Every nickel counts.

Tomorrow I will send pictures of the early development of the new confessionals.  They are looking good on this, the second day of construction.  We still have three or four more weeks.

Please join us for the Divine Mercy Devotions from the church at 3 PM each day this week. Click here

Next Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday.  The Live Streaming will begin at 2 PM. Click here

Confessions will be heard in the academic building each night this week at 7 PM.  Come one come all.  Let us pray for one another.

Love you much.  Fr. G

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