Furlough to the Mainland III

The Brothers Five seated at the breakfast table

Family Time in the Adirondack Mountains

Within minutes of greeting my brother Rich and his wife Jan, we were in deep conversation. The same happened when I met my brother George at the beach just before dinner. In fact, George was so caught up that he volunteered to join us for dinner that evening. We chatted about the usual family topics: What are the real family traits? Who got along well with whom when we were young? How have we changed over the years?

Brother Paul and sister-in-law Jan with a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator

But then we began talking on an old theme of mine: How has the sense of community (at all levels) declined over the years, and why? Sally, my sister-in-law, weighed in here with vigorous counter-arguments of her own. She made the case that it hadn’t—at least not for her and many she knows. She and the family deserve great credit for all they have done to keep alive the sense of togetherness among us, but the sense of community in the nation clearly has declined while the hyper-individualism that many criticize has become a norm.

We all enjoyed dinner with the Garnet Hill community down at the lake. There I met a retired theology teacher at Fordham, a man whose brother was a priest. I also chatted with a man who donated a couple thousand each year to Xavier High School in Chuuk. There was also  a couple who had visited Chuuk and Palau a few times for scuba diving. So no need to explain what Micronesia meant and where it was. We shared food and talk. What could be more satisfying than that!

Liz and daughter Patty

What are  your favorite movies?  After dinner by brother Paul and I discussed that for an hour or more. Shawshank Redemption rated high on my brother’s list. So did My Cousin Vinny. No need to lay out my own favorites here, since you all can probably guess these.

All the brothers gathered at Rich’s place for one of those classic late breakfast sessions. We all started out enthusiastically, but the conversation soon broke off into two groups. Too bad, because we were getting on to spiritual topics: sexual morality, changes in prayer and ways of handling distractions as we age, and different means of supporting our faith community. All rich subjects for discussion, but none of them satisfyingly handled this morning as the talk jumped from one thing to another.

We had a liturgy this morning for everyone—about 15 of us in all. The mass was a special remembrance of my mom, whose death anniversary we celebrated, and a prayer for healing since we have so many relatives who find it difficult to get around.

We had another mass for the whole clan on my final morning in the mountains. It was touching, at least for me. I preached the usual message—that is, the importance of the bonds of unity that connect us with the entire world. We said our goodbyes to one another over coffee and donuts before I left with two of my brothers for Saratoga Springs to catch the train to New York, and from there to Newark airport.

The gathering was a wonderful opportunity to recapture ties with one another. I just hope we can enjoy another one soon.

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About the author

Francis X. Hezel, SJ
Francis X. Hezel, SJ

Francis X. Hezel, SJ, is a Jesuit priest who has lived and worked in Micronesia since 1963. At different times he has served as high school teacher, school administrator, pastor, and regional superior to the Jesuits of Micronesia. He spent thirty years directing the Micronesian Seminar, a non-profit, non-governmental organization based in Pohnpei, Micronesia. He has written and spoken widely about social change and its impact on island societies. He has also written several books on Micronesian history, including The First Taint of Civilization, Strangers in Their Own Land, and The New Shape of Old Island Cultures. His most recent book, Making Sense of Micronesia: The Logic of Pacific Island Culture, is available through University of Hawaii Press.