Thinking of You From Afar!

Greetings from hot and sunny -- but not so steamy -- Phoenix, Arizona where yesterday the mercury rose to an intense 108 degrees! The site above is my home away from home for the next few days as I am preparing to preside and preach at the wedding of JJ Jansen and Laura Bliss. Notre Dame, Packer and Panther fans will know him as a pretty decent long snapper. DePere faithful will know him as a regular worshiper at Old Saint Joe's at Saint Norbert College. Local friends will not know Laura as well considering she has been hard at work here in the Phoenix area, getting ready for the move out to the Carolinas.

Given the Jesuits and Holy Cross priests JJ befriended at his Alma Maters, Brophy Prep and Notre Dame University, I feel blessed to partake in the beautiful days JJ and Laura are experiencing out here in the desert.

I departed from DePere early Wednesday morning and flew into O'Hare ahead of schedule and without a hitch. While waiting in the airport to depart for Phoenix, I almost bumped into Frank Luntz [literally] as we both were both engaged in cell phone conversations. You Fox News junkies might know Frank as the guy who wrote "Words that Work" who also gained popularity in tracking folk's reaction to presidential candidates' speeches leading up to last fall's elections.

I must admit, I am relieved that we do not know each other. I can just imagine him hooking up my parishioners to those suction cups and wires that -- like a lie-detector-test -- assesses people's reaction to a given presentation.

In this case, I'd hate to see the graphs plummet as I -- seldomly -- stretch the homily beyond 10 minutes in duration! I think Frank would diplomatically tell me that the parishioners are with me up to 7 minutes, but after that, all bets are off! Well, we started to board the plane, pretty much on time. Here's where life gets a little dicey!

As we taxied out to the runway, I closed my eyes for a bit, just trying to get a few minutes of rest when I was disturbed by a loud crackling noise -- a noise that sounds like a throng of mosquitoes running into a giant bug-zapper, or a gas stove that's just not turning over! This is followed by some pretty loud reactions from the guys seated in row 24. As luck would have it, I am seated in 24F! I heard plenty, but what I did not experience was the sight of an early but isolated 4th of July celebration at the base of our seats: fireworks without the joyful and approving "oohs" and "aahs!"

I did not join in on the discussion with the flight attendants given I was trying to get a little sleep-eye when the display was in full bloom. Yet it was alarming enough that the the plane took a lap around the tarmac and made its way back to the gate with the pilot calmly announcing, "flight attendants, please prepare for arrival!" I found his words to be assuring and comforting and disturbing and alarming all at the same time -- in actuality, the expression almost seemed somewhat comical as well given you normally hear those words only after a couple of hours, not minutes! The pilot then alerted the customers to the concerns of the men in Row 24 [that's me!] and so we're parking this baby long enough to check it out.

Frayed and exposed wires! ? !

Given the situation which caused such an uproar was settled with a little back electrical tape found in any one's kitchen junk drawer, I felt a good "Act of Contrition" was in order. 50 minutes later, we were once again flying the friendly skies! All would go well until the descent into Phoenix. While all looked well, I learned that there is an interesting phenomenon in Phoenix. It seems as though there is great turbulence in landing when the weather is as hot as it is. JJ told me that those who fly smaller planes tend to do so before 10 AM because landings in the heat can be pretty sketchy. Given the Pack begins and ends this year's flying season on August 28 and January 3 en route to the Cardinals, I'll have to remember to eat lightly. So too will the young girl in 22A who lost her cookies upon our landing! At that point, given I began the flight with a simple prayer, I decided to conclude the flight with one as well: "Mother of God, get me off this ride!"

Minus the helmet and pads, JJ was at the doors waiting for my arrival. As always, he's the total gentleman; filled with pride, he would offer me a tour of suburban Phoenix as we would make our way to the Biltmore. The first stop would be to show me Laura's Alma Mater, Xavier College Prep. Quite the beautiful place -- it looks more like a castle than a high school! The place has graduated many great women who have gained great prominence, I have learned; Laura is one such gifted woman.

Just down the street, we would continue on to Brophy Prep where the wedding will take place on Friday. I was intrigued by the outdoor lockers and the outdoor mall where the students often eat lunch throughout the academic year. ".....We're not in Wisconsin anymore!"

Unfortunately, all of the doors to the school were locked, so I'll have to wait a few more hours until I see the chapel. But I did do a little research. This is what I found:

It's a beautiful looking place -- just like the outside, just like Xavier College Prep and nearby Saint Francis Xavier Church. One of the aspects of the beauty is that the place is air-conditioned. (I see the Luntz-meter getting ready to plummet in anticipation of a longer homily on Friday!)

To pass the time today and Friday, I have been walking all over the place. Family and friends from home have been asking me about the heat. Actually, I suspect it's more pleasant here than back in Wisconsin. Don't get me wrong, there certainly is an intensity with the 108 degree heat out here -- bit it is very dry -- like placing your body in an oven verses placing your body in a broaster -- like back in Wisconsin over the past few days.

In fact, while walking to the mall today it started to rain. Normally, I'd head for cover to "get out of the rain" as the song goes, but the rain actually felt so refreshing. Even people in business suits seemed to completely ignore the rain -- either they also thought that it felt so good or -- as locals -- they know it will be dry again in no time. Either way, it's making for a pretty pleasant experience.

As I close this chapter for now, I'll continue to rejoice in the desert -- and in the rain!


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