A conversation with Mary K. Meyer – Part II

To hear an audio and expanded version of this interview, go here.   

A few days after the initial interview with Mary K. Meyer, she called me to say she had something else she wanted to share. The beginning of Part II is that statement and then more from the initial interview.

— Michael Humphrey


MKM: What I thought of was in the area of spirituality. A scripture that is very important to me and has been for probably 20 years. It was the Gospel just a few days ago, from John 1:47: “Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said of him, ‘Here is a true child of Israel, there is no duplicity in him.’” Other versions of the scriptures say it differently: “There is no guile in him.” And for a long time that scripture has been very meaningful to me and given me the desire to be like Nathaniel. Transparent, so that there’s no guile. That’s a lofty goal, but it’s one I work toward.

MH: It seems like that’s one of the ways we can relate to people who don’t see the world our way, if we’re not trying to be duplicitous or hide ourselves, or try to win.

MKM: Yeah, I don’t want to play games. What you see is what you’ve got.


MH: One of the stories that I think has had the greatest impact on me comes from your childhood. It seems like one those times that maybe explains you a little bit. It’s the story of your priest and his shoes.

MKM: Yeah, Fr. Matt’s shoes. We had this priest and his name was Fr. Matt. He was craggy man and brusque, but we knew that he loved us. And every Saturday he would gather all the children — which was about 20 — and we would sit around in a circle. And Fr. Matt had the worst shoes. They needed polish and the toe of his right shoe was bent up from genuflecting so much. They were cheap shoes and, you know, these were Depression years, just after the Depression. And then one day Fr. Matt had new shoes. We were so excited. We went home and told our folks, “Guess what? Fr. Matt has new shoes.” And we were all thrilled to death. Well, he had those new shoes maybe for a month and then he was back to the old shoes. And we all knew where those new shoes went. Somebody came to his backdoor and needed those shoes and he gave them to him. And that stayed with me. These 65 years later, I can still in my mind’s eye see those shoes with the turned-up toe. And we knew. Children know what’s valid. They know what’s real. We knew he was real. He didn’t have all the polished techniques for childhood evangelism, or any of that stuff, but we knew he was genuine.

MH: You’ve always been interested in youth and thinking about how young people could change the world.

MKM: Oh yes, yes.

MH: What do you think about youth right now?

MKM: I am very hopeful. I think — and this is just coming to me stronger the last month or so — but I think that the Holy Spirit moves in different ways, through different people in different times. And I’ve had my antenna up to see, “Holy Spirit, where are you?” And I see an awful lot of good children. Good children, good youth, good high school kids, good college kids. They give me a lot of hope. And if they’re some good leadership that rises up among them, I think they’re going to change things.

MH: Well, okay, you brought up the Holy Spirit. Talk a little about your prayer life.

MKM: I seek the Holy Spirit a lot, I have great confidence in the Holy Spirit. I think the Holy Spirit’s job is to show what’s right and what we need to do. So I pray that a lot, “Holy Spirit, this is your area of expertise.” (Laughs.) “Exercise it.” So I call on the Holy Spirit a lot. I love the Word, the Word is powerful. I love the comfort of the Word. I love, you know, what the Word calls us to. Not that I follow it the way I should, but it stirs my heart. I love the Trinity concept. I think if for no other reason, I would be a Christian for the Trinity concept. I love the Father. I had a father who was a very good little kid’s dad. Because of that, we knew his kindness, and because of that it was easy for me to visualize a loving Father God. So there are times when I pray to God as a child would to her father. I love the concept of Jesus. Living the life that we live and walking the walk that we walk and struggling with the same kind of stuff. Jesus, you know what it’s like. My brother sent me a prayer that says, “Jesus, slip your shoulder under my cross.” And I pray that every night. “Jesus, slip your shoulder under my cross.” I’m grateful for that realization, that Jesus is alive and well today. And that Jesus does slip his shoulder under our crosses. So the Trinity concept is very rich and real to me. I love it.

In this illness, the natural, I guess, way to pray was, “God I want to live until I am maximally ready. As ready as I am going to get in this life.” And then just recently, in the last week or ten days, I thought, no, Meyer, that’s not right. Pray that when there is nothing else that you can do, that God wants you to do in this lifetime, there’s nothing else, then take me home. But see that moved from me and God to what God’s plan is, what God wants.

MH: I was going to ask about your hearing this diagnosis. One, you spend a lot of time comforting other people about this.

MKM: (Laughs.) Please don’t cry.

MH: Also, it hasn’t kept you from your work.

MKM: No, I am so grateful for that. I want to do what I can as long as I can do it. I don’t know if that has given me energy. I’m happy getting up and start washing at six o’clock. Usually, I don’t want to get up. But I’m happy that I can do it. And I’m happy when I can put in a pretty good morning here. When people say, “Are you going to stay here.” Yeah, where else would I go. I don’t want to just go off somewhere and wait to die. That’s no fun. (Laughs.) It’s seems like dying is no big deal. You just kind of go through your daily life and then one day you are on the other side. It’s natural; it’s what’s ahead for all of us. I do think there’s something to be said for dying slowly. I never would have thought that. I always thought I wanted to die quickly, die with my boots on. But there’s some pluses in dying slowly. You get to see folks you might not have seen otherwise. You’re reminded of stories that you have forgotten.

MH: When you heard or when you were sick last year, did you have a little bit of anger.

MKM: No, I have never felt angry. Who would I be angry at? Not God. God’s been too good to me. No, no, no. I’ve had a rich, wonderful life. Wonderful people in my life. Wonderful relationships. Yeah, good long life.

MH: You’ve seen this country from perhaps one of its most noble times in the Depression years all the way to this time. What does it mean to be an American to you, having seen that range?

MKM: I guess I’m happy to have been an American in those times, in a lot of times. And for what in this country what we’ve stood for. I’m glad to be a part of that. But as far as being proud of being an American, I was born here, grew up here, inherited the traditions and everybody’s got to be from somewhere. (Laughs.)

MH: How about the Catholic Worker Movement?

MKM: To me, it’s the most radical way to the live the Christian life. It’s all-consuming. But it also eliminates a lot of decisions, because the decisions are already made for you. You know, the corporal works of mercy, the spiritual works of mercy. That’s your life. It stretches you, everyday it stretches you. But I’m really glad I found it. It’s radical.

MH: How do you see yourself as a Catholic?

MKM: I love a lot of traditions of the church. Being a part of the universal church. I like that. I’m very grateful for the Eucharist, very grateful for Vatican II and the changes that I feel it brought about. Like freeing us up to enter into the Word, freeing us up to worship ecumenically, freeing us up for a lot things that are better. I think these are hard time, these are not good times. I think they are times that we have to move through. Being true to what we know. I think that’s very important for us, being true to what we know.

MH: What does it mean to you to be a woman in this time?

MKM: I’ve come to a new appreciation of women and their role in the world and society. I am happy to be a woman. That hasn’t always been true, because I grew up at in a time where men were worshipped and everything centered around men. But now I see that women are the power beyond.

MH: How about a pacifist?

MKM: I’m grateful that I discovered it. It means we choose nonviolence in every way. Not that I do that perfectly, but that’s what I aspire to.

MH: I’m sorry for asking this, but too many bring it up. You’ve been called a holy person. What does that mean to you?

MKM: I hope it means that I know God. That God is my friend. I hope that’s what it means. And in a more formal way, I hope it means I’m whole.

Return to http://www.kcolivebranch.org/





  1. Sarah Hotzel said

    I am so grateful to you, Mary Kay. Your inspire me as you teach me how to live and how to die. Peace be with you.

  2. Margaret Mayce said

    Thank you, Mary K…….for your words of wisdom, and peace. Please know that you are in my prayer as you journey these days, ever closer to your God.

    With Affection,

    Margaret…..a friend from Circle F……

  3. Deborah Kemler said

    I was blessed to know Mary K…I came to Shalom House to help and found something that helped me as a person more than I could ever have helped them. I grieve for her passing, not for her because she is with God, but for those that are left behind. We will truly miss her.

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