Do you have a favorite painting or photograph or icon in your home that reminds you of what is good and beautiful and true? Chances are you have many. They are companions, soulmates, expressions of spiritual values.
"All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful." -- Flannery O'Connor, The Habit of Being
Many years ago the painful truth that I was more interested in being "a nice guy," a people pleaser rather than the kind individual I thought I was, came to my attention and was killing me. I didn't want to face it. I didn't want anyone to know it. I was at a crossroad and could either stay asleep or awake from a bad dream.
Jennie and Darlene are arranging name tags on a folding table in front of the church. "Be my first?" I ask them. Mom and daughter beam. I take my first picture on this special day at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Glenville, N.Y. I'm Fran, the church office manager. It's a madcap job, but somebody's got to do it.
We were on the 19th hole of the Paris Country Club, Morrie and me, slurping our third iced tea.
"I hate golf," my classmate said. "It's not fun."
"That's because you're not good at it," I said. "You're good at other things."
I read an essay in the spirituality journal Sacred Space by a woman who sees God's presence in the oncology ward where she works. It reminded me of the times I spent in a radiation lab after my breast cancer operation. I'll always remember the kindness of the nurses, how gently they treated me. They moved around like angels who had chosen to become human for those of us who needed them.
Paris, Kan., is one of the smallest dioceses in the U.S. You won't even find it on a map. My classmate Morrie (name changed) has been a bishop there since (can't say that either). But I can say that in the seminary Morrie was a nice guy who never hurt a soul or ever made waves or rocked the boat. While some of us survived the stormy seas of seminary life on leaky lifeboats or in subversive submarines dodging depth-charges, Morrie was like most guys, a dutiful passenger on the Ark of Peter who made it with little fanfare to the end. No one expected that one day he would be an admiral while the jet-ski guys who buzzed around with unexpected initiative and derring-do would someday be insurance agents.
Several weeks ago I made a trip to Kansas to visit a friend who has lung cancer. We had little contact with one another for a number of years and I sensed our visit would be a special one. Little did I know how special. When I arrived in Topeka I learned that Ken's wife, Bibi, had taken him to the emergency room that morning because of severe chest pains. I hurriedly drove to the hospital, hoping we could have some quality time together. Indeed, we did. I found Ken to be as I remembered: gentle, optimistic, loving and faith-filled. Fortunately he had not lost his sly sense of humor either.
Aunt Mary and I were the same height when I was 12. She was as wise as Yoda and her charity reached the stars. She helped raise me.
God looked at Aunt Mary and beheld devotion and generosity. The church looked at her and saw a divorced and remarried woman who was unworthy to receive the Eucharist.
Something unexpected is happening to me in this spring’s Senior Center yoga classes. Something over and above the shock of finding myself at 79 in the “old-old” category. There’s no denying it: I was born in 1933, the year Hitler took power, the banks closed and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
Who could have imagined that someday we’d all be living so much longer?
“Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. And what’s wrong with that?” -- Paul McCartney
Twenty years ago my colleague Frank and I were having a smoke on the fire escape of our Crossroad offices in midtown Manhattan. Frank was challenging the arguments of churchmen who were fuming at the new phenomenon of gay couples trying to adopt children. “What’s so bad about that?” he wanted to know. “Why can’t gays have families like everybody else?”