When I stopped at the butcher shop this week, I told the butcher that I actually was picking up two turkeys for Thanksgiving: the 25-pound fresh bird that would feed our crowd of sixteen at Thanksgiving Day dinner and the 5-foot 11-inch friar accompanying me who had just arrived from Chicago. The butcher laughed as I continued, “Both turkeys will grace our dinner table this holiday!”
The friar (not fryer!) is Franciscan priest Albert Haase, one of my favorite and dearest authors. We’ve known each other since 1992 when his book manuscript for what would become Swimming in the Sun: Discovering the Lord’s Prayer With Francis of Assisi and Thomas Merton came in the mail for consideration for publication.
Fr. Albert, a Franciscan of Sacred Heart Province, lived at that time in Taiwan, where he served as a missionary before going to mainland China for what was a total of almost twelve years. During the editing and production of Swimming in the Sun, we became good friends, a relationship that has grown to include his sister, Sr. Bridget Haase, an Ursuline sister living in Boston, Massachusetts. Fr. Albert and Sr. Bridget co-host a weekly radio program, “Spirit and Life,” on Relevant Radio.
Our friendship has endured through publication of two more of his books by St. Anthony Messenger Press: Instruments of Christ: Reflections on the Peace Prayer of Saint Francis and Enkindled: Holy Spirit, Holy Gifts (with Sr. Bridget). I’ve watched with pride (and some envy!) as Fr. Albert has branched out to writing for other publishers and to broadcasting on the radio, in addition to his vibrant preaching and spiritual direction ministries.
For years, Fr. Albert and I have shared our joys and sorrows, our dreams and ideas, our jokes and our annoyances through letters, faxes, emails, and phone calls, even when he lived halfway across the globe in China. His wise counsel and prayers have sustained me in tough times and rejoiced with me in good times. I hope my prayers have helped him.
When I heard that he was coming to Cincinnati to preach a retreat for the Poor Clares, I invited him to come to town early and share Thanksgiving dinner with my husband, Bob, and my family and me. Bob and I were thrilled when Fr. Albert accepted our invitation. I promised him we’d grill steaks at least one night during his stay!
So far this week, we’ve spent hours talking about books we’ve read, authors we know, trends in culture and spirituality. We’ve tossed around a dozen book ideas and jumped up and down together when an idea really grabs us. I can’t imagine how many ideas we’ll amass before he departs for the retreat. On December 5, Fr. Albert will visit Franciscan Media and talk with our staff about more product possibilities.
I know that this Thanksgiving I am grateful for many things—my spouse, my family, my employment that is really ministry—and a certain turkey named Fr. Albert.
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