Pride of Place

At our weekly Miraculous Medal Novena, the loudest and most impressive singer of the Novena song was Mamie Ounan. I used to hold on to my kindergarten beanie for fear Mamie’s contralto would blow it off! I wrote a little reflection about her a few years ago and thought you might enjoy it today.



“Pride of Place”.  That’s what my Dad called it.  I asked him one Sunday when I was about six years old, “How come Mamie Ounan always sits all alone up in that front pew?” Mamie was an elegant old woman, a little like Madame Belvedere in the old movie, “Mrs. Miniver”.  Each Sunday, Mamie Ounan processed up the aisle to commandeer the entire front pew in our parish church.

Flag of a Gold Star Family who lost a member in service to the USA. Such a flag hung in my family home when I was child. It changed all of us!

““Pride of Place””, Dad said.  When I looked up at him clueless, he explained.  “Mamie’s been sitting there every Sunday for forty years. She sat there the Sunday after her husband died in a shop accident.  She sat there every Sunday through the Depression when she struggled to keep her corner grocery open. She sat there the day her son was killed at Pearl Harbor.   All the while, no homeless person ever went away hungry from Mamie’s back steps.  She earned that pew and the rest of us are proud for her to have it.”

““Pride of Place”” isn’t always something physical like a pew in church.  More often it’s a moral or spiritual position that’s granted to us by others after we pay certain dues.  These dues include trustworthiness, sacrifice, contribution and wisdom.

kids table

All of us experience at least some ““Pride of Place”” passages in our lives.  Remember when you moved up from the kids’ table at Thanksgiving dinner?  Remember being a sophomore on freshman day? Throughout our lives, we advance through grade levels, job levels, armed services levels, even golf and bridge levels.

But earning real ““Pride of Place”” is very different from making it to the top of the heap.  We receive the first from others who recognize and respect us.  We take the second from others who may begrudge it to us. Mamie was given “Pride of Place”. She didn’t take it.  Otherwise, someone else would have beaten her to that pew each Sunday.

“Pride of Place” doesn’t come automatically with power or position.  Not every parent, boss, teacher, pastor, elder or champion deserves it.  It has to be earned and kept as a trust.  Even in hard times, its owner has to honor it and use it for others.  Jimmy Carter has “Pride of Place”.  Richard Nixon never did. I have my own feelings about Mr. Trump. I’m sure you do too!


We all have the potential for “Pride of Place” in our lives. We can discover that potential by looking at the things we have responsibility for.  We have kids, elders, employees, co-workers, customers and friends.  We have homes, neighborhoods and futures.  We can impact all these things for better or worse.

Do we dispense those responsibilities with love, courage and honesty?  Do we use the power we have for others, not over or against them?  Mamie Ounan, that little old lady in a tiny city neighborhood, had tremendous power.  She gave people hope and example by the way she endured, by the way she cared and by the way she lived.

If we haven’t begun to exercise that kind of responsible adult power in our lives, maybe it’s time to stand up from the kids’ table and walk toward our own “Pride of Place”.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Monday, July 16, 2018


Today, in Mercy, on this Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, we consider our devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.

Devotion is the honor we we offer Mary and the saints, hoping to imitate their holiness in our own lives. Devotion differs from adoration, which is the prayer we offer to God alone.

Some question the role or efficacy of devotion in our spiritual lives, feeling that the spiritual life is a relationship specifically to God. But for those of us who believe in the Communion of Saints, the power “mentorship” from the saints is unquestionable.

Devotions also play a key role in the early development of our faith. My own faith received abundant nourishment from my mother’s devotion to the Miraculous Medal, and my father’s unending novena to St. Joseph. Even now, in my mature years, I still return to these two devotions when faced with a critical concern.

mt Carmel

Like so many of you, my own young mastering of the Rosary gave me a loving awareness of the evolving life of Christ. And a host of beloved prayers deepened my love of God, including the Prayer before the Crucifix and St. Patrick’s Breastplate. You may want to remember your own favorite devotions – some which you may still use in times of difficulty or uncertainty.

Sacred objects can also support our developing faith – a precious medal, a special statue, a scapular, or a relic. Contemporary religious practice is less focused on these supports, but their value as simple devotional tools is abundantly proven.

What is important to remember is that the value of these devotions and sacramentals lies in their ability to lead us to relationship with God, not in any  “magic” they themselves possess.

For those of us with a special devotion to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, (the Sisters of Mercy included), this is a day to ask Mary’s maternal favor on our lives and world. Picture yourself wrapped in her loving mantle, your deepest needs receive by her maternal heart.

Departure from the Music today – a short reflection on Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and the Carmelite Order.