Another Angel

It’s funny how things happen. Friday morning I was supposed to get breakfast with Alison but my car wasn’t working, so I stayed home until my mom could take me to class. And since I was home, I was able to answer the phone when my uncle Tim called in the morning. I was nervous when I saw his name on the caller ID, he was with my grandfather, who was at the hospital and not doing well. “Claire, I’m going to put you on speaker, is there anything you’d like to say to your grandpa?” My mind swarmed, I had no idea what to do, so I said the first thing that I could grab, “Grandpa? It’s me, Claire. I love you!”

My mom called me after class to let me know that Grandpa passed away that morning. Continue reading


Little Angels

Jack Johnson was serenading me in the car this morning, but instead of telling me about how he was going to make me banana pancakes, he asked, “Where did all the good people go?” Jack, I found them. They’re in VCU.

Let’s first go back to Monday. I had just left my advising appointment in Hibbs, which lead me to the compass, where a group of people stood around, holding signs that read “Love 21”, holding baskets of candy and one guy played the guitar. Omg my kinda people: they’re giving away candy. So I did that slow walk where you want them to come up to you, and one of the girls grabs me, “Hey do you have a minute?” Well of course, I always have time for people who want to give me free food! I’m in college, right?

Twenty minutes later, this girl, Megan, is still going on to me about how radical Jesus’ love is and she’s jumping up and down in excitement about how we can have that love- and love 21 people in 21 days with little sweet surprises. While she talks about how she wants to go to a nunnery for a year to be like St. Clare of the Sacred Heart, I hold back my Catholic nerd that’s dying to correct her- St. Clare of Assisi, Cathedral of the Sacred Heart- I’m also trying to think of a way to end this conversation because I only wanted that piece of candy. “Claire, can I pray for you?” Well I don’t really think there’s any way for me to say no.

“Dear Jesus, please watch over Claire and help her share your radical love with everyone she meets. She has a beautiful heart, she truely cares about people. Help her with her academic plan here at VCU and with her artistic abilities” Hold the phone Megan. How did you know I’m an artist? She continues praying, and I notice something about her. Megan doesn’t even go to VCU, and she’s standing around in the cold, praying for people she doesn’t know, and giving them food. Yeah, I was questioning her sanity for a couple minutes, but she’s here because she just wants to spread love to people. A world of peace and happiness. And guys playing the guitar with candy. Megan and I dig the same hippie world. Spread the sugar, spread the love.

Then today. I was too busy thinking about how splendid it must be to be married to Jack Johnson during my morning commute that I didn’t even notice that my car was having a hot flash. I was five minutes from campus, just passed through Carytown and across the Boulevard, so I turned to the first stop that I found- a slightly sketchy convenient store. Steam was coming out, I was flipping out, so I ran into the store “MY CAR IS OVERHEATING”. The male customer looked out the window, “Your radiator is leaking” and he and the cashier ran out with me. They looked at my car, and the cashier called the mechanic who works behind the convenient store a few times; I called Momma Bear a few times until she answered, we talked, she talked to the cashier, and we deemed it best that I leave the car with him, the mechanic would be showing up soon. It was past nine o’clock, that Italian quiz wasn’t going to be happening anymore. I walked inside the store, the cashier let me take a free drink, and the guy filling the Doritos said he would be heading up to VCU and offered to give me a ride there anyway. I accepted, it was sure a lot better than walking those few blocks up.

I got to school a-okay. The cashier called us later and said the mechanic would finish it by two, and I made arrangements with my so sweet friend Brad to drive me to get my car later, until Mother had my car towed to our regular garage, who finished it by the time she picked me up and took me to get it around 5:00.

So Jack, I found the good people. They’re more of the angels that bless me everyday, and they’re in VCU. Megan is a little angel for just trying to spread the good love everyone is entitled to and deserves, not this hate in the world. The little cashier is another angel for working so hard to try to get my car fixed and the Doritos guy deserves a little halo for letting me hitch a ride (even though that was a little sketch). Grazie to angelic Brad for being so nice to offer to drive me, and to my momma for paying for the bills and coming to pick me up. And an amazing shootout to Forest Hill Garage t fixing my car in no time! I really appreciate all the love I received from all of you. It means a lot to have strangers and good friends offer you warm words and help when you need it or don’t. I don’t really deserve this good karma. How can I ever repay you in anyway?

You gotta be careful when you got good love

‘Cause them angels will just keep on multiplying

-Jack Johnson, “Angel”

My First Angel

While working at Sweet Frog one day last year, I saw a family come in wearing St. Bridget’s uniforms. I started talking to them, maybe they would know my cousins, “My family went to St. Bridget’s, the Gerloffs”. 

“Oh, I know them. I went to St. Bridget’s a long time ago with them” The father answered, then followed up with the most unexpected thing, “Yeah, Peter”.

My uncle Peter died thirty-six years ago Monday, and so I never got to meet him. He was a freshman at VCUarts when he was a tragic car accident and died. I don’t know much about him, other than when he was in Daddy’s stories about his youth. Peter went to St. Bridget’s as a child, but unlike his older brothers, he attended Henrico Center for the Arts instead of Benedictine.I can only imagine what kind of shenanigans he got into as a young man/art student. He was beyond excited to attend VCU, according to my grandma. After his death, one of his friends met Andy Warhol when he came to the VMFA, and told the artist how much Peter admired his work. Andy wrote a little note to my grandma, “To Pete”, scribbled a can of Campbell’s soup and slipped his name down at the bottom. 

My daddy had a special affinity towards Peter, so it’s quite ironic that his first child considers herself an artist  while his bleach blonde, blue eyed baby boy was the spitting image of Peter as a child (or so I’ve been told). 

Although I’ve never met him, I do feel close to Peter. I claim him as my original guardian angel, but that’s a selfish statement. He  watches over James,  our cousins, as well as my uncles and grandma. I know he’s having a ball with my daddy and my granddaddy. Thank you Peter, for always being there for me. Even if we haven’t met, you’ve been a great influence and angel in my life and I’m happy to call you mine. 

Catholic Guilty Pleasure

I had a theology teacher or two somewhere along the way who told me that post-Catholic school, people are going to make fun of our religion. Nope. Not at all, that has actually never happened. Maybe if JFK was being elected and everyone thought America was going to become a papal state or this is 300 AD Rome and Nero is killing all the Christians, but actually no one cares what your religion is. Maybe it’s because I go to VCU and everything is accepted. (Earlier this week I saw some guy hanging around in a ninja suit, and someone dressed up as Waldo running around the commons. If that is the norm, I think Catholicism should go over well.)

History Now! went on our tour of the Cathedral Wednesday with Catholics and non-Catholics alike, and everyone was genuinely interested by this beautiful building). Although it was a repeat of the tour I went on in fifth grade, I enjoyed it and learned/relearned a lot. This might surprise you, but I have a soft spot for church history. I love love love it, probably because how closely it ties in with all of the history I like, from Constantine to my favored French and English monarchs (those medieval popes)! And the church architecture is just art history on high dose steroids so I’m one happy camper. Even the bible interests me, but more as a literary work. Symbols and archetypes–and reading Poisonwood Bible in high school, which is nothing but biblical allusions made me so happy. 

But something I heard on the tour surprised me- Catholics are a minority here. I guess when you’re surrounded by nothing but, you don’t really think much of other religions, but it seems like everywhere you turn in Richmond there’s a Catholic church. It’s funny how when you’re on the inside of something, you don’t really seem to notice the outside until you’re there. And going from Catholic school to real people school, I haven’t really missed the daily prayers and theology lessons, yet I have considered switching my Mediterranean studies minor to a Catholic or religious studies minor. 

You guys know I’m so far from being a good Catholic, but I do what I can in my own way (I am an individual/VCU hipster). Maybe I don’t go to church when I should, but I could beat you in Catholic saints trivia (I need better ways to spend my Friday nights). We all gotta accept everyone for who they are and how they come, right? I’m pretty sure that’s a Catholic doctrine. 

Liberal Catholics Unite!

Let’s begin this post with some family history. My mother grew up in a conservative family as well as during the liberalizing sixties and seventies. Like the little hippies they were/are, she and her siblings protested and found themselves liberal. My father, a big hippie from a conservative family, became a libertarian. His family is still very conservative. They never pressured my brother and me to feel one way or pour facts and figures of why a leader was good/bad. James and I made our own decisions, and we are both proudly liberal (woah I betcha couldn’t guess that).

Catholic school, however, if you didn’t know, is majority conservative. Eighth grade at St. Edward’s, I remember more support for my main man Obama, but that might have been because he was so new and hype (or maybe they were just really cool people). We cheered when he won. But then I came to Saint Gertrude and it was like death glares to anyone who would speak of the president in a good light (Paige didn’t mind, however). I met a few other liberals, and we clung to each other like the world depended on it. But most of those liberals were Protestant, and the number of other liberal Catholics was so much smaller, and they’re still hard to find here (maybe I should check out Catholic Campus Ministry). 

As the lazy liberals we are, we never go to church (Honestly, I can count the number of masses outside of school I’ve been to in the past few years on both hands). School taught me to always go to Church, and I tried to hide the fact that I didn’t attend weekly masses like my peers as a little kid. It wasn’t until I was older and understood why-we don’t agree with the Church on a number of platforms, gay rights, pro-choice, etc. The traditionalism of the Church didn’t feel right to us, but we do good deeds, love everyone, while believing in and praising Jesus Christ in our lives. 

Enter Pope Francis (add a holy “ahhhh” from a choir). In case you didn’t know about Catholic’s newest sweetheart, he chooses to not live in the papal suite, follows the simple life, and preaches about an inclusive Church, open to us all. He’s a living reminder of St. Francis of Assisi, who I have a special affection for since he was a friend of St. Clare and I did my saint report on her in first grade. 

So, have you heard what he said? About gay rights, abortion, and contraceptives? The Church is too obsessed and if they don’t lay off, things will tumble “like a house of cards”. 

 This man is going to bring us to the twenty-first century. Finally, a pope on the left side! May I add that the Church teaches that the pope is infallible? That means, because he holds such a divine position, he cannot make any mistakes. (What about past popes who said otherwise?)

I’m so excited to see what else this humble man has to offer. He and I think similarly, so I’m excited that someone else Catholic agrees with me. We may never find out why Pope Benedict left the papacy, but I believe that things happen for a reason, and now we have Francis. I’ve heard that many Catholics thought the Church was out of touch with society, and Francis will bring it back. Now, if you excuse me, I’m going to go sit at my mailbox and wait for the next Catholic Virginian to see what that typically conservative newsletter has to say about my new best friend. 

“If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who I am to judge him?” – Pope Francis