rugged angel: ubi caritas

Rugged Angel: Ubi Caritas

“U-bi ca-ri-tas et a-mor, De-us i-bi est”

The notes danced in a cheerful six eight meter. Next to a cluster of medicine bottles, a small candle on the kitchen table was lit, a crucifix supported upright in a small orange juice glass and two women sang a hymn to a congregation of one, Ms. Miramontes.

“Con-gre-ga-vit nos in u-num

Chris-ti a-mor.”

I chose to sit silently in the back pew; the furthest chair at the opposite end of the kitchen table. My stomach sang along. It was half past noon and all that I had for the day was a communion wafer. I annoyed myself with internal chastising for not getting a good night’s rest, not having breakfast and feeling frustrated that time with mother on Mother’s Day was going to be with other people at other people’s homes before making it to the family gathering at my brother’s home. For two verses I growled with my stomach before getting reeled into the reality three feet in front of me.

“Exul-te-mus, et in ip-so lu-cun-de-mur.”

A plastic container in the shape of the good lady of hope with a blue cap stood next to the flickering candle. The blue cap was taken off and mom’s church sister Miss Lori or “Auntie Lori,” blessed Ms. Miramontes with holy water while she sat in a light orange floral flannel nightgown trimmed with white dainty lace. She was frail but proud; weathered but noble. She gave a quiet cough and didn’t smile but was unruffled by her condition. She held an air of dignity. My mother continued singing and handed me a hymn book motioning me to join in.

“Ti-me-a-mus, et a-me-mus

De-um vi-vum.”

It was my second “Mass” of the day. The first Mass was celebrated at a high school gym where I sat on a riser directly below the score board with my brother and his family. Mom sat with the choir, a modest collection of young people mixed with the granny club. I didn’t sing. I listened. I listened to my nieces laughter, the gentle reprimanding of their parents, and the choir. My brother’s babies delighted in the sounds their feet made when they jumped up and down on the shiny court; the guitarist strummed a false chord and the game pressed on. The altar and priest stood centered in the three point area before the basketball hoop while the bulk of the parishioners sat in the perimeter on folding metal chairs. I was content and happy to be away from my Sunday routine of teaching piano lessons in Beverly Hills. I was in the southernmost part of San Diego. I could see Mexico.

“Keep Mom company at her appointments and help her to NOT lose track of time.” My brother instructed me earlier that morning when I emerged from the guest room.

I had restlessly sat up most of the evening and managed a two hour nap. So it wasn’t a surprise that somewhere between the high school gym and the five minute drive to Ms. Miramontes’ home, I lost track of that Sunday sort of feeling.

Et ex cor-de di-li-ga-mus nos sin-cero.”

Thank God the hymn anchored me into the moment. I forgot my nagging stomach. I forgot about the family party that was waiting for my mother and I. And Ms. Miramontes patiently listened to a faster version of the Bible readings. She then assured us that she was fine, had been fed earlier and expected her caretaker to return. Mother’s Day wishes were exchanged along with apologies for not being able to stay longer and we hastened from Ms. Miramontes’ home to the next appointment where Sunday readings and Ubi Caritas was to be read and sung for the third time.

“Did you see the photographs of Ms. Miramontes? She was very beautiful.”

“And still is, Mom.”

“Should we call your brothers? We still have one last appointment. The next house might be a bit difficult in getting away. Mr. Rose likes to talk.”

“No, let’s just text them when we are close to the house. They already know that lunch is delayed. They’ll call us if they need to.”

Two hours of sleep, no breakfast, lunch delayed, a world away from Los Angeles returned to the old world where I am like a child once again, dragged around to Mom’s errands.


“No thanks, Mom.”

But I wasn’t a child anymore. I had lost all my baby teeth, earned my driver’s license, and held a degree. I could drive anywhere I want, sleep whenever I wish and enjoy the free will to eat cookies in bed.

But in my world of teaching, paying rent and figuring out the dating and marriage question while having fun with friends for late night meals and laughs, I missed that a cloth of arrogance and ignorance covered me. I had forgotten that I really wasn’t a grown up. The people my mother spent her time with on Sunday afternoons were the real grown ups reminding me that I was still growing up. They were several decades ahead of me on the game of Life.

“U-bi ca-ri-tas et a-mor, De-us i-bi est”

My mother was right. Mr. Rose loves to talk. Upon entering his home, the eighty something year old puts an orange in my hand.

“Si-mul er-go cum in u-num con-gre-ga-mur:
Ne nos men-te di-vi-da-mur, ca-ve-a-mus.”

“It is very sweet.” He says in greeting, smiles and then disappears to retrieve Mrs. Rose.

“Ces-sent i-ur-gi-a ma-lig-na, ces-sent li-tes.
Et in me-di-o nos-tri sit Christ-us De-us.

The altar is set up again on the kitchen table. The holy water in the Mary container, the crucifix balanced in a small glass and the communion wafers are in place by the time Mr. Rose returns with Mrs. Rose. He wears a blue button down shirt with stripes. He looks ready for a stroll along the beach. But the furthest he likes to go is his garden. He likes to be near his wife. Mrs. Rose takes her place at the table in a cheerful red and white cotton gown with blue and red flowers on her collar. She’s lovely and is also wearing a touch of lipstick. She smiles and gives me a hug right away and I sit down gingerly with the orange still in my hand.

“U-bi ca-ri-tas et a-mor, De-us i-bi est”

Mr. Rose recited the Bible readings as well as shared his personal insights during the homily. Mrs. Rose sat serenely through the service while her husband played pulpit from a recliner chair. He was very comfortable sharing how he felt inspired and moved by the words of the good book. We would’ve enjoyed staying longer to listen.

“Si-mul quo-que cum be-a-tis vi-de-a-mus,”

“Pardon us, Brother Rose.” My mother signaled the wise man on his easy chair, “We would stay longer but it is Mother’s Day, my daughter is here to visit me and my sons for the weekend.”

“Not to worry.” Mr. Rose gave an understanding smile and thanked us for humoring his thoughts with him.

“Glo-ri-an-ter vul-tum tu-um, Chris-te De-us.”

The visit with the Roses came to a close shortly after.

“Gau-di-um qu-od est im-men-sum, at-que pro-bum”

The candle was blown out, the altar put away, oranges in hand and hugs exchanged.

“Sae-cu-la per in-fi-ni-ta sae-cu-lor-um. A-men.”

Mother’s Day lunch was celebrated with my two brothers, my sisters-in-law, their mothers and mothers-in-laws, and my nieces and nephews by three in the afternoon. We got caught up in a traffic jam on the way due to road construction closures. It was a good thing I accompanied my mom to her commitment. We never lost track of time. We sat with time. And time crystallized itself to a profound memory.



~ by jnetsworld on June 2, 2009.


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