Continuing with the blog (6/6/16) of that hot night in our bedroom in the Bronx, Maureen then asked me, "Would you like to go up onto the roof to see the stars?" We lived in a six story apartment building. It had a flat roof where people hung their laundry to dry. Apartments did not have washers and dryers in those days. I would go up there sometimes but never go to the edge because I am afraid of heights. But our bedroom was hot and the roof might be cooler. Now when it is really dark with no lights, Maureen turns back into a witch. So I said, "Yes, if you don't become a mean and ugly witch up there." "The stars are very bright, so you will be safe," she assured me. Out of the apartment and up several flights of stairs, we went out onto the roof. The stars were very bright indeed. This was before The Bronx got all polluted. An especial good view was if you looked toward Woodlawn cemetery, where there were no lights, you could see a clear sky.
"Come over to the edge," Maureen said.
"You know I don't like heights. The edge makes me scared," I protested.
"Don't be a baby. I will protect you."
Good grief, I thought. All that is between me and certain death six floors below is my wicked sister.
"I will show you how not to be scared," Maureen assured me.
Slowly I moved toward the edge of the roof. The wall was very low. Maureen came behind me and put her arms around me. She held me as I approached the edge.
"Now, look down," she instructed me. "And don't close your eyes. I am holding you."
To look down was a supreme act of trust or insanity. Maureen loves me or is the evil empire. Many of our life decisions come down to these two choices: trust or insanity. I chose trust. I looked down and almost soiled myself!
"Hold me Maureen!" as I tried to ward off panic.
"If you keep looking down and around you will get used to it. That is the secret of overcoming fear."
I began to relax, just a tad, fear ebbing away slowly. But Maureen was to show her wickedness yet.
"Did you know that if you are holy, like the saints, you could fly?" she said
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Holy saints levitate, or rise up off the ground. Sister at school told us of some that did. But if you become a priest you won't become holy."
"I thoughts all priests are holy," I countered.
"Oh, no. Sister says priests aren't holy because they are full of themselves and too bossy to the nuns The priests lack humility."
"What is 'full of yourself' mean?" I asked.
"I am not sure, but it does not sound good."
"Well, you are bossy," I challenged my big sister.
"Do you want me to let you go so you can fall to certain death and never receive First Holy Communion?"
"No, no, Maureen, you are not bossy, never bossy." It would not be the first time I would lie to save myself from peril. There we were, siblings under the stars on the roof's edge. Overall it was a very memorable night.
Year later, now a priest, I know what "full of yourself" means, and what my big sister was trying to teach me long before I entered the seminary. Humility is the way to keep from falling into peril of soul. I am a better priest when I practice humility. When I look up at the stars at night I remember my first moral theologian. Miss her.