Nope, I’m not Father Clay.

My name is Katie Walter, and I’ve been a parishioner at St. Stan’s since 2005. My husband and I have attended St. Stan’s for a few years longer than that, but we didn’t officially “join” until we were preparing for our wedding and Father John Clay said we should probably join. When I asked why, he said so we could get on the mailing list. It was an awesome response, to me, because it felt like an invitation rather than a mandate, which sums up every interaction I’ve had with him and the parish in almost 20 years.

My husband Mike, son Will and me with Father Clay’s baptism in 2008

Today is April 7, 2020, and we’re nearly a month into extreme social distancing here in Minnesota. The news anchors are still saying that they are working from home out of an abundance of caution, but as this wears on that sounds more and more quaint. I have a third- and fifth-grader and my lovely husband at home with me. We’re working through lots of big feelings, enjoying more family walks and cribbage, but also keenly aware of the people we miss. And for an 11-year-old on the verge of flying into middle school, the loss of liberty is especially painful.

Social media and the news and my friends offer a lot of tools to deal with my big feelings and to ward off boredom. We have therapists and family and friends in our corner to help us manage the overwhelm, anxiety and excess energy. I have big tools like my breath and the love that lives in my house to help me stay grounded.

I’ve learned over the past few years of reflection and meditation that the most important tool that I have: my understanding that I am loved, that, as Father Clay says, I am surrounded by love, a love we name God. That love embraces me, cradles me, cares for me. That while there are no guarantees that things will be okay, it is always guaranteed that God’s love is there and will see me through the next hard thing.

Longtime members of St. Stan’s will recognize some of the language above from Father’s homily meditations. While he stepped back from the parish a couple of years ago, we can still tap into his wisdom on the regular: he has published four books and that transcripts and recordings of his homilies are available online.

I keep wondering what Father Clay would say to us now, if he were still saying Mass. I realized that it may be time for me to use the tools and wisdom he has already given me and apply them to the feelings and challenges of a global pandemic. So, I am committing to writing as a way to stay connected to God’s love, and to connect Father Clay’s wisdom to my own life in the present moment. And I’m doing it on a blog just in case others can benefit from it.

Will with Father Clay at his First Communion in 2017.

My intention is to include an excerpt from Father Clay in each post, along with a story or connection to my own journey. I’ll cite the books or online posts they come from. I welcome suggestions and submissions

I’m not Father Clay, but I carry 15 years of his love and support in me, and I am using it to connect to the love that is God. I will work to trust that God’s will will be done and to stay grounded and love-filled as much as I can.

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