Thursday, August 27, 2009

Alma Redemptoris Mater

The passing of Senator Edward Moore Kennedy has made me think about redemption. And while an Alma Redemptoris Mater (loosely, loving mother of our savior) is not part of the Catholic funeral mass or any requiem masses, it struck me as expressing the appropriate sentiment. Senator Kennedy is being buried from the Cathedral of our Lady of Perpetual Help and the Alma Redemptoris is a Marian anthem, but it also asks for forgiveness and makes reference to the sea and nature--things which figured largely in the Senator's life.

It became quite apparent as I watched the coverage on Wednesday that the Senator had, in my opinion, made great strides to try and build a legacy based on redemption, and part of redemption is finding a purpose and steadfastly pursuing it. Pursue it as if Beelzebub himself is at your heels. As those of us who have been "downsized" (surely not all, but many of us) will attest, finding a purpose and a way to reconnoiter and move forward is not easy. It is, however, easy to feel as though everyone is against you and that you have no safe harbor.

After Chappaquiddick and Senator Kennedy's well-publicized "wine, women, and song years" he must have shared those feelings. Granted, his was a hell of his own making, but that doesn't make it any easier to escape, it only gives you fewer people to blame. After all that, though, he seemed to actually find a special assignment within that purpose. For my money, no family, save perhaps the Roosevelts, has done more to better the lives of average American citizens than the Kennedys. Their dedication to public service has been steadfast. Even if you don't agree with their politics, it is hard to disagree with the positive impact that they have made on this country. Within this devotion to public service, though, it occurs to me that Senator Kennedy found his real niche with health care. He has literally been working on health care reform--or some variation of it--for most of his tenure in the Senate.

Here, a part of a 2002 speech: "Every American should have the opportunity to receive a quality education, a job that respects their dignity and protects their safety, and health care that does not condemn those whose health is impaired to a lifetime of poverty and lost opportunity."

To my mind, it was Kennedy's finding that purpose that allowed him to become the man we remember and mourn today. The stalwart "Lion of the Senate" who utilized all his charm and Irishness to broker deals and bring people on board. With a renewed sense of purpose and a spouse who fought by his side, redemption--something that must have seemed unlikely if not impossible, after the horrible death of Mary Jo Kopechne--could begin to take hold. All his passion, fervor and intention had an outlet and one that could help millions of people to have better lives.

People in many parts of the country forget that one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on September 11th had taken off from Logan Airport in Boston. Senator Kennedy was devoted to those families and he and his staff worked tirelessly to ease their burdens in the days and years since 2001.

I'm certainly not suggesting that Senator Kennedy was a saint, but we sinners can make a difference, too. And maybe it means more when the sinner makes strides to redeem themselves, tries to right the craft, as it were.

We will all choose to remember the Senator in different ways. I will remember him for his love of the sea, one I share, and his beloved dogs, Sunny and Splash. I will pray that Joe Jr., Jack and Bobby (and all his sisters as well, of course!) are there to greet him on the other side.

In his own words from the DNC in 1980 after his failed Presidential bid: "There were hard hours on our journey, and often we sailed against the wind. But always we kept our rudder true, and there were so many of you who stayed the course and shared our hope. You gave your help; but even more, you gave your hearts."

The full text of the 1980 speech is HERE and includes a call for National Health Care and better minimum wage and for the most part is as apropos today as it was then. This is passion in pursuit of a cause.

Alma Redemptoris Mater

Sweet Mother of the Redeemer,
that passage to heaven,
gate of the morning,
and star of the sea:
Assist the fallen,
lift up, you who cure, the people:
you who bore to the wonderment of nature,
your holy Creator.
Virgin before and after,
who received from Gabriel
that joyful greeting,
have mercy on us sinners.

As my beloved Grandma A. would say in toasts (and only half in jest...) "May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you're gone." I hope there are many toasts across the country and in heaven in honor of redemption, passion, the sea, and Edward Moore Kennedy. Requeiscat in pacem, Teddy.

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