Standing Watch in Morristown

Mother Therese Katulski, O.C.D.,Prioress of the cloistered Carmelite Nuns in Morristown, New Jersey

Mother Therese Katulski, O.C.D.,Prioress of the cloistered Carmelite Nuns in Morristown, New Jersey

By Charlie Johnston

On July 17, 2015, I pulled into Newark, New Jersey on a Greyhound Bus. (Hopefully it will be my last bus ride for a while. Mary, who schedules everything, had been trying to get me to fly. I finally agreed because of growing time constraints. But once I did, I have to concede I arrive a lot more ready to go than I do after 20-24 hours on a bus). Karen and Andrew Dembia were the coordinators for New Jersey – and Andrew was waiting there to get me and

Looking out over Morristown from Fort Nonsense with Andrew Dembia.

Looking out over Morristown from Fort Nonsense with Andrew Dembia.

take me back to Morristown, where my presentation would be made at Villa Walsh Academy, a Catholic College Preparatory School for girls.

After settling my luggage into my hotel (which had one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in) I went to dinner at the Dembias along with some of the team who had arranged things for the visit. They served fabulous homemade lasagna and meatballs and sausage with a homemade sauce. It was authentic Italian stuff (one of my dearest friends in Chicago comes from a family that had several restaurants. I know – and love – authentic Italian food). One of the women in the group sounded just like Fran Dresser from the old TV Show, “The Nanny.” I mentioned it and my hosts said, matter-of-factly, “She’s from Brooklyn.” So for all you non-Easterners, they really do talk that way. It was at this lively dinner and discussion that one man responded to a comment I made by saying, “We have to let go and let God. Bada-bing.” I laughed and said I did not know if that was actually considered a prayer

Andrew Dembia and me at the Morristown Village Green with statues of Washington, Hamilton and Lafayette.

Andrew Dembia and me at the Morristown Village Green with statues of Washington, Hamilton and Lafayette.

outside of New Jersey. The thought of it still tickles me.

The bus ride must have truly exhausted me, for the next morning I slept through a wake-up call and my alarm, missing Daily Mass. I finally woke up and went over to the Dembias for some coffee and to begin the day. It was while having my first cup of coffee in their sun room that I got the terrible call from George Cronin, that young Joey had died when a nurse tried to do a two-person changeover in the middle of the night instead of waiting for the second nurse to arrive at seven a.m. – and tragically erred. George was wailing in agony, and I started doing the same at the news that, after all this time, Joey had died the day before I was to meet him. Realizing something was terribly wrong, Andrew and Karen left the room until my call was finished. George re-iterated he wanted me to come the next day anyway – and I re-iterated that that was exactly what I intended to do. I had to sit and recover from my shock for a bit, though the agonizing grief would stalk me throughout the next week.

Once I got calmed down, we settled on some things to get to that day. George Washington’s Continental Army wintered in Morristown in the bitterly cold winter beginning in December of 1779, the coldest ever recorded there. It was colder and snowier than at Valley Forge, but they got a huge number of small cabins built in nearby Jockey Hollow to weather it. I did not feel as sociable as normal, so I opted to spend most of the afternoon visiting the historical sites with them. We started at the Village Green with statues commemorating the meeting of Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and the Marquis de Lafayette met.

andrew and me with cannon, ft. nonsense

Andrew and me at the cannon at Ft. Nonsense.

We drove up to where Fort Nonsense had once been, a fort high upon a hill overlooking Morristown where soldiers could easily espy any approaching British troops. No one knows exactly how it got its name, though the legend is that General Washington ordered it built in 1777 to keep the troops pre-occupied and out of trouble. Whether it was originally erected as nonsensical busy work or not, it became a useful defensive fortification.

Perhaps the most impressive of the sites for the winter was Jockey Hollow, which became a bustling neighborhood of 1,200 small wooden huts in which the soldiers holed up for the winter. With the lush greenery surrounding the area, one might think they lived well off the land, but the brutal winter killed off much of the wildlife. Snows were so deep and foraging so scarce that soldiers were often reduced to eating shoes. The nearby Ford Mansion was let out by its owner as command quarters for Washington and his top staff. During that horrible winter, it became the diplomatic headquarters of the fledgling United States as various officials, foreign and domestic, came to visit and take counsel with Washington. While walking through, Karen and Andrew greeted everyone by saying, “How ya doin’?” After a bit, Karen said they must sound like a Sopranos stereotype. Knowing I was mainly from Chicago,

Karen Dembia and me at the Ford Mansion, Washington's Headquarters during the terrible winter of 1780.

Karen Dembia and me at the Ford Mansion, Washington’s Headquarters during the terrible winter of 1780.

she asked me how we normally greet people. “We usually say, ‘How ya doin’?” I responded as she and Andrew both chuckled.

Wonderfully, later in the afternoon, I was taken for a tour and visit of the cloistered Carmelite Monastery in Morristown. We met Hattie there, who had been at the dinner the night before and helps take care of things for the nuns. So that they always have fresh flowers there, one of the local chains give all of the flowers they are going to discard to the Monastery. That day, they gave six boxes of beautiful roses, the biggest single delivery they had ever gotten. Hattie had given some of them away because the sisters couldn’t use all of them. Then Karen held some back to make an arrangement to send with me the next day to the Cronins from all the Next Right Step Community. She is a lay Carmelite, so she also made arrangements for a Sunday Mass to be said for the Cronins – again with a Mass Card to be taken on behalf of the Next Right Step Community.

Karen and Hattie took me into a room where lay helpers go inside the Monastery.

With Karen and Hattie outside the Carmelite Monastery.

With Karen and Hattie outside the Carmelite Monastery.

Once we were in, they rang a bell. After a bit, Mother Therese Katulski, O.C.D., the Prioress, opened the back cover and we sat and chatted with each other through the gate for about half an hour. I kept calling Mother Therese “Sister,” as she had to be nearly 20 years younger than me. She originally came from Poland, but was moved to Morristown as some of the older sister had passed on and the order thought it needed an infusion of younger blood there. She was an absolute delight, speaking of their call to prayer and intercession on behalf of the world, their love of Christ and devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Karen and Andrew help make sure they have the things and the maintenance they need. It is a vibrant community. At the end, Karen gently asked Mother Therese if she minded if she took a picture of us. To my surprise and delight, Mother Therese gave Karen an enthusiastic yes – and said she wanted a copy of the picture for herself.

I stopped briefly at the hotel to prepare for the presentation that evening. I was driven over to the Villa Walsh Academy and met by Sr. Catherine.

Sr. Catherine, the Filippini Nun who greeted me to Villa Walsh Academy, where I made my New Jersey presentation.

Sr. Catherine, the Filippini Nun who greeted me to Villa Walsh Academy, where I made my New Jersey presentation.

They are Filippini Nuns, a teaching order founded in 1692. I was taken up to their beautiful chapel, where I was left to pray for a bit. I must confess, my memory is a little foggy. I was still in shock from the news about Joey Cronin earlier in the day. I rarely get stressed, but when I do, my pain levels from the neurological damage skyrocket and I have to concentrate deeply to get through without betraying how hurt and foggy I am. I prayed for a time…for the Cronins, for the repose of Joey’s soul, and that I would do a competent job that evening of explaining what my message was. I would like to tell you about the highlights of the presentation, but my memory is extremely fuzzy until the next morning. I don’t think it showed. Karen and Andrew were enthusiastic about how well everyone received it and I was told about 60 people came. Sorry, I didn’t fully come out of the haze until after Philadelphia when I was in Hyannisport, but at least my memory is fairly clear the rest of the way.

Sunday morning we went to Mass at the Monastery, a traditional Latin Mass at which two of the Dembia children were Altar Servers. I have a brother who absolutely loves the Latin Mass. I certainly find it awesome, though I like the Mass conducted in the vernacular very well when it is done with reverence. I was at two Masses during this trip where a Mass in the vernacular borrowed two features of the Latin Mass that I am very enthusiastic about.

Chatting with some of the guests from the presentation just before I left for the evening.

Chatting with some of the guests from the presentation just before I left for the evening.

I prefer it when the priest leads the assembly in worship by facing the altar (with his back to the people) and I absolutely love the use of communion rails. Another feature of the Latin Mass I love is the use of incense. With music rising from the nuns behind the screen, the incense filling the church, and the formal sound of Latin prayer, almost all your senses are lifted up in deep worship. Your heart truly lifts up to the Lord in such a setting.

I went back to the house and we had some refreshments. Paul Rumley of the Philadelphia suburbs had graciously offered to pick me up and drive me down, so when he arrived, we all visited a while before heading out.

The faith that sparked the patriotism that made a great nation and changed the world is alive and well in New Jersey. And it will rise to do it again in the fullness of time.

 

 

About charliej373

Charlie Johnston is a former newspaper editor, radio talk show host and political consultant. From Feb. 11, 2011 to Aug. 21, 2012, he walked 3,200 miles across the country, sleeping in the woods, meeting people and praying as he went. He has received prophetic visitation all his life, which he has vetted through a trio of priests over the last 20 years, and now speaks publicly about on this site. Yet he emphasizes that we find God most surely through the ordinary, doing the little things we should with faith and fidelity. Hence the name, The Next Right Step. The visitations inform his work, but are not the focus of it. He lives in the Archdiocese of Denver in the United States.
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30 Responses to Standing Watch in Morristown

  1. Donette says:

    I hate to be an old “I told you so, Charlie,” but I told you so. I questioned the wisdom of only traveling by bus when you first were planning to make all of your visits. If you don’t believe me, you can go back and check my postings to you. And something else, Charlie, you are loosing weight. I can see it in the pictures you put on your posts. You better be taking care of yourself. You have to get us through this storm.
    You must be having a wonderful time meeting all of the Lord’s people. I wish I was there, especially when you were with the Carmelites. Take care, and keep the posts coming..
    Fiat!

    Liked by 1 person

    • charliej373 says:

      Ha…if I am losing weight someone ought to let the scales and my waistline know. Right now I am about 15 to 20 pounds heavier than my normal weight and trying to get some sort of light exercise regimen going so I don’t blow up. I don’t carry extra weight well.

      Like

      • mmbev says:

        You stand like my husband and the extra weight is a killer for pain. He, like you, knew how much even the smallest gain increased it. I will pray that you maintain your weight, knowing slightly what it costs you.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Donette says:

        It must have been the dark shirt you were wearing in the picture that made you look skinny, Charlie. Now that you mention it, on the video, it does appear as if one of the buttons on your light colored shirt looked unbuttoned or stretched tight. Maybe you did gain weight. Maybe we all can go with you on your next walk-a-bout. Who doesn’t need to drop a few pounds.

        Like

        • charliej373 says:

          Well, I did some sit-ups and push-ups this morning and some light walking this afternoon. I have to adjust to a different situation, being on the road and building a good, healthy routine in the midst of it. I struggled a bit on the first leg…but I struggled a bit the first month and a half of my pilgrimage. There is always the disorientation when you are doing something new, but keep at it and you will get it down.

          Like

  2. Charlie, your schedule is a hectic one, but I’m so grateful for your mission and that I got to meet and hear you when you came to the Boston area. Having discovered your blog just a few months ago, I have been reading a lot of your back posts. In one of them from last year, you mentioned in the Comments section that you were “working urgently to get the first group of a new renewal movement started and then distribute a rule for it to spread everywhere.” Have you finished putting this together? If so, I would love to know more about it. Thanks, and God bless.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      That has been revised. It was the way I started to try to do this, but I was re-directed after working on it for a bit…told that I would have no formal ministry, but was to be a spark to ignite a thousand ministries. Now there is a prayer group booklet that I have worked far too long on – and will certainly finish when I get back home in November.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pamela Nicholson says:

    Charlie, you have been in NJ then. You know, I would like to know more about your presentations. Can you tell me, besides a Holy Spirit-inspired talk, what else you do? Do you do a laying on of hands and blessing? Just curious. pam, from NJ.

    Like

    • charliej373 says:

      No Pamela, I do not publicly lay hands on anyone – and I rarely do it privately, either. I do not offer blessings or anointings…get those from your priests. I am not terribly enthused about people seeking them from someone other than a priest or one who has Holy Orders. I take full responsibility for everything I say. I pray that the Holy Spirit guide me. My message is simple…acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope to those around you. That is the simple way that will carry you through the Storm and all trials. My primary duties are to defend the faith, hearten the faithful and defend the faithful. I use the website and these visits to accomplish much of that. My message beyond the simple things I exhort you to do is that God is close at hand to YOU. He is as accessible to you as to me. I am glad when people cheer me for helping them find that God is right close to them. I have a horror of people thinking I have some special power they do not and treating me like a guru. The way of simplicity is the way to God – and He is ever close at hand. For now, exhortations through the website and the visits are what I do – and for other things you mention I heartily encourage people to see their priests, deacons and pastors.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Charlie , its good to read about genuine reverence a lot of people have for the Mass whether in latin or the vernacular or a combination. The last one really made me sit up, my own parish priest says the Mass here in that fashion, most prayers in French and the main ones , Sanctus, Angus Dei , Pater Noster sometimes the Gloria and Credo in latin. Being raised on the latin Mass from primary school it helped a lot when we first came here 13 years ago. I have often thought how great it would be if this form could take off throughout the world. Et voila ! The Holy Spirit is hard at work. The alter rails are also in place and our priest faces the tabernacle.
    Good Bless you in your mission, my prayers are with you and all this community.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mmbev says:

    I love what God has instructed you to do. God likes to move and lives in the simple and humble things of life. it’s a sure access to Him and I have found that whatever He leads me to do, it’s pretty simple.

    On the rare occasion, which is really seldom, that I happen to read another’s alleged messages, I shy away immediately if it isn’t plain spoken, simple and pretty short. I find that’s a kind of key for me.

    I don’t mind the alleged messages from Mirjana because even with repudiative words, the message sounds like a mother “schooling” her little children.

    So, that means that fifty videos were linked up there, I would be listening over and over to every single one.

    And when the lights are out from the chaos, look up and see the stars. We will be like those in Abraham’s time, and a lot, a LOT more stars will be looking back, quivering as they do God’s will.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I once had a dream of Our Lady as a kindergarten teacher. She had one little pupil and was giving her every attention. She is that way with all of us. I once felt the Lord tell me to “learn from Our Mother, whose rebukes were as gentle as caresses.” Worth pondering…

      Liked by 1 person

    • DanSouthChicago says:

      Wow! I had never thought of that. Having spent my whole life in Chicago, it was a real treat when, several years ago, I spent a night in a cabin in the Rockies and was dazzled by the vast array of bright stars. Even when there is a meteor shower supposedly visible in Chicago, I would have to drive a couple hours from the city to escape even suburban lights to see anything. So, while I am not necessarily looking forward to the testing of the storm, I will try to remember to look to the heavens as one reminder that we are not abandoned. Thanks, mmbev, and God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. June1 says:

    This was such a moving post, especially around the part where you got that terrible phone call. I want to thank Hattie so much for taking that Mass card on behalf of our growing online community. That was beyond thoughtful and kind of made me think… what am I doing that is above and beyond for anyone? How much do I truly give of myself to others for THEIR benefit, without grumbling or complaining about how much it may cost me? This post has made me think. Thank you, Charlie. I am praying for your safety and well-being (physical, mental and spiritual) on this new pilgrimage.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. cathyg2015 says:

    The reminder about Joey’s passing and the grief you experienced brought tears to my eyes, Charlie. I didn’t realize it happened just as you arrived in New Jersey. I guess you know better than anyone that God put you in the right place at the right time and I’m sure you were of great comfort to the Cronins. Thanks, yet again, for your posts which help to keep my often distracted brain on what is most important. I am so inspired by the stories of like-minded and holy souls who are doing God’s work in their daily lives and never fail to learn something new whenever I come to your site.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. On my journey says:

    Hi Charlie,
    This was such a beautifully written piece. I am inspired by Hattie, how she serves as a woman of God. I was also struck by what you said at the end, that the faith and patriotism that changed the world at one time is still present in this country and it will rise and do it again in the fullness of time.
    That is so encouraging and I am going to keep reminding myself of that. God bless you. I will say a
    prayer for you today and for our country.

    Like

  9. jay g says:

    Hey Charlie. Great post on your visit to Morristown, NJ! The picture with you and your host standing next to the statue of George Washington and other revolutionary war dignitaries seems very appropriate. When I saw it, I immediately recall the leadership shown by our first president in guiding us through our breakaway from England and then as our first executive. We need only to contrast his great leadership to what we have now to see how far we have strayed! It also brought to mind an excellent book written by Janice T. Connell, Angel Power. Are you familiar with this book? I mention it because the author recounts a reported heavenly visitation Washington received while he and the Continental Army suffered through the winter at Valley Forge. Amazing is that the latter portion of the content of the vision Washington supposedly received is similar to your description of the storm we are now in. Since first reading of Washington’s vision in Connell’s book, I have read reports of it elsewhere on the internet. George Washington was a man of great personal courage and integrity. Doesn’t it seem as though he embodied your words of encouragement to us: trust, do, love? From all I have read on Washington he seemed to give hope to his men by his grasp of everything you have written on how we are to approach our perseverance through the storm. What do you think?

    Like

  10. L says:

    I am filled with joy all over again at each one of these posts. I have faith, and these stories of your visits give me a new injection of faith every time. I can’t describe the deep feeling of joy and faith I feel from being a small part of the NRS community of believers!

    thank you for sharing pictures, anecdotes , and descriptions of all these beautiful people you encounter and visit with at each of your destinations! It gives great hope.

    And to emphasise what June 1 said… Please thank Karen and Andrew Dembia for the Mass card and the flowers given to the Cronin’s on behalf of NRS community!

    Praised be to God from Whom All Blessings flow!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Karen says:

    Hi Charlie! We just got home from a week long vacation where we had no email and no cell phone service. (It was great!) I was so happy to see this post waiting in my inbox. We had such a lovely and fun time meeting you, even under the sadness over Joseph. I could feel what a shock you had, and I am working on getting a copy of the video of your talk to you so you can see how it went and what you said.

    I had two funny memories your post triggered. The first was of my husband as he arrived from dropping you off the first day at the hotel. I asked him, “Sooo– what’s he like?!” He replied with much evident relief, “Thank God– he’s not a wingnut!” High praise from Andrew! 🙂

    The second was of trying to wake you for Mass on Saturday morning. I knocked; I had the front desk call; I prayed. I figured you were completely wiped out from such a crazy long bus trip, but I was also worried something might be seriously wrong. I remembered you wrote a post stating that you were told you would survive the Storm. I prayed, “Please Lord, let him be right, and please don’t let him die on my watch!”

    You are always welcomed at our home. Any time. God bless you! Karen

    Liked by 1 person

    • charliej373 says:

      Ha ha, Karen…I think a secret to my success is the low expectations I often start with. Folks are so expecting me to be a spooky wingnut and are so relieved when I am just a plain fellow who likes a good laugh that I end up with a fairly wide latitude. When I woke up so late, I wondered why you hadn’t tried to wake me. When you told me you had, I knew I must have been bone-tired. Though it’s rare, if I get tired enough, you could set a cannon off next to me and I won’t flinch. What a wonderful time I had with you!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. anne ovari says:

    Thank you Charlie for continuing to share your trips. What a blessing you are to all of us.We have a cloistered Carmelite Monastery here in Tasmania. Our family has visited them a few times. Their joy is a wonder to behold and quite infectious. I have requested many prayers from them over the years and I know their prayers helped our youngest son,Joe, when he was so sick as a baby. It was a really joyful occasion when we were able to take Joe with us to see them!
    May our dear Lord and Mama Mary keep you safe and well on your journey. God bless

    Like

  13. donna says:

    here’s an interesting turn of events….I went up to hear Charlie talk in Morristown. I have been discerning various Carmel groups to become a third order Carmelite. One group is in PA (I live in NJ), and the other one is too small with only 8 members and one possibly leaving. They are struggling and it didn’t seem like a “fit” for me…..So I have put Carmel on hold waiting for the Lord to show me the way…..Once out of the car, I met Karen….after 2 minutes of conversation, she revealed she and Hattie are third order Carmelites and they meet in Morristown….It is a 50 minute drive from my home….I am going to meet the group as an Guest in September as a result of this visit to Charlie’s talk…..God sure works in mysterious ways……. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • charliej373 says:

      Hee hee, Donna…and sometimes God works in blindingly obvious ways. I have so many wonderful Carmelites praying for me that I am getting greedy about it. I want MORE! I say, along with Nike…Just do it!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. Lil Wild Rose says:

    Hello Friends,
    I do not know the Cronin’s but just could not imagine the suffering they must still be going through. So many in a crisis like this suffer from; great grief, sometimes guilt, the worry of medical bills, the stress can be so hard on marriages and every aspect of family life. Then I think about that they are going through all of this on the edge of The Storm. Maybe we could all remember them in our Sunday mass tomorrow and continue to offer them up in prayer- for consultation and strength, peace and guidance, beautiful memories of little Joe and for his repose and finally, for the Lord’s tangible LOVE to envelope and sustain them always.
    Thank you prayer warriors!

    Like

    • anne ovari says:

      Charlie, I’ve been thinking about this all day and have decided to ask you if it would be all right and possible to repost what I shared from Joey Cronin and his Mum, Susan, on your post “Bulletin, Tragic News”. I don’ t know if many people saw it but if you think it would be worthwhile putting up again, then please do. I found it very consoling and I hope you did too and all who read it. God bless

      Like

      • tim says:

        It was very saddening to hear about the death of Joey. I am praying for all the family, and for the Next Right Step community. But, since my wife is a nurse, and since I work with nurses a lot for my job, it occurs to me to pray also for that nurse who made the mistake that led to Joey’s death. She must be really kicking herself and needing some encouragement.

        Liked by 1 person

        • connie says:

          yes, Tim, I immediateley prayed for the nurse when Charlie told us of what happened. Maybe it was because i too was a nurse and could easily see what fallout she may be dealing with emotionally, spiritually, temporally.

          I thank You, Lord, that Charlie was so close at hand to the Cronin family at the time of their distress, and I thank you Karen and Andrew for being there for Charlie at the time of his distress. Thank You Lord for Your Divine Providence, as You alone know the timing of all events and orchestrate for all our needs when we trust in You. Thank you Lord. also for our NRS family and their prayers.

          Like

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