Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Of Prayers, Platters, and St. Patrick's: My Talk in Tampa

The title St. Patrick's Parish chose for my talk pleased me. Indeed, "Breakfast of Champions of Faith" seemed one that both Jesus Christ and the Wheel of Fortune would enjoy, so as I bid goodbye to my son, Patrick (who would be back at the University of Illinois by the time I arrived home Saturday night), and boarded my plane to Tampa, I began to look forward to the warm and friendly faces of Florida.

Rick Fueyo, my host for most of the event, picked me up at Tampa's state-of-the-art airport, and we headed straight for dinner. There we were joined by the charismatic Director of Lifelong Faith Formation Jackie Mallory, Kathleen Doyle, St. Pat's PR person (as well as the mother-in-law of Chicago Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild), Music Director Marcia Seheult and her husband (and former soccer star) Tony, as well as Rick's lovely wife, Mary Ann.

The table talk (the sadness over St. Pat's grade school closing, their hope for increased Eucharistic Adoration for the parish, the excitement about my appearance) and meal was all going very well, when suddenly a passing waiter lost control of his carrying tray, and the platters rained down upon us. At least we had all finished the better part of our meals (personally I had only a few fries and half a Heineken left) but then we all called upon the Lord (and Rick, the paramedic) when we found out Ms. Doyle had been hit.

It turned out Kathleen, save a slight bump on the noggin, was indeed okay. I hear that legend is already spreading that my gracious hosts, having realized that next day's Florida Gators National Championship gathering had stolen some of my thunder and that attendance (and profits) from my breakfast were down, bunched up the carpet and caused our waiter's untimely mishap. While I cannot attest to this tale's truth, I do know that the Irish are a (often) poor but always resourceful people, and that the meal was free and the event did finish in the black.

After Kathleen took one for the team, I stayed over at Rick and Mary Ann's place not far from the picturesque nine-mile-long ocean walk. There I met their darling daughter, Kate, and their endearing mutt, Buttons, who both made me feel at home, Kate by discussing literature and movies (Harry Potter and Star Wars are her favorites) and Buttons by licking my hand.

After Mass (indeed ALL Catholic talks should begin with Mass), my Saturday morning talk and breakfast commenced.

As Jackie introduced me with a long flattering bio that compared me favorably to St. Patrick himself, I began to wonder who could have written such drivel ... when I realized it was me, and Jackie had pulled it straight from my website!

I opened with a St. Pat anecdote (the time when St. Patrick while baptizing an Irish king accidentally drove his crosier straight down into the king's foot, and when the embarrassed saint asked why he didn't protest until the Sacrament was finished, the king replied, "I thought it was part of the ceremony!") and ended with a rousing rendition of "The Chicken Runs at Midnight" story. Apparently the stuff in the middle went well too, because everyone clapped and said nice things – everyone that is except a young boy at the front table who when he realized I was finished, burst out "Finally!"

Another good sign was that the stack of my books went almost as fast as the hotcakes they had served, and many of the St. Pat's promoters talked about making it an annual event. "And if you agree to come back, I promise you'll have no 3-1/2 hr. layover!" stated my way-back escort Carl Longnecker who tipped the airport porter for me as I prepared for the first leg of my return home flight.

Actually, my aforementioned layover in Atlanta was fine, turning out both peaceful and poignant. I watched the Colts-Ravens game with hundreds of servicemen, and when I saw them filling flight after flight, I began to wonder if all the recent deployment was coming out of Georgia. I ALSO wondered why they were not calling MY flight, but after one attendant told me "don't sweat," another more diligent employee told me my flight had been moved and I arrived in time to catch my plane (and later a cab) back to my sweet home [in] Chicago.

Once again, my thanks to the people of St. Patrick's. Your faith is greatly evident, and your kindness will not be forgotten.


Rick Fueyo said...

Thank you for you kind comments. Tom's speech was indeed inSpirational, in the truest sense of the word. We hope to have him back in Tampa soon, and think all who follow the Catholic faith would enjoy his remarks

Tom O'Toole said...

Rick -- Thanks for your help and kind comments. I found especially touching your new profession of faith, to root for Notre Dame even above your alma mater. Well, please know that all of Chi-town is hoping your ex-Gator Rex Grossman will lead Da Bears to its first post-Ditka Super Bowl. Say hello to Mary Ann and Kate.