Posted in Words!

Father

The 3-season room at the back of my mother’s house boasts a sign with a clock in it on the wall. The inscription there reads “Jack’s Room,” with a jaunty green Irish chapeau at the top of the J, and a shillelagh playing the role of the apostrophe. It was placed there in honor and memory of Dad by my good brother-in-law. Dad chose this room, looked forward to spending time here, but was called to eternity before he ever could.

To my right at a distance of 150 yards a father is instructing his son on the courts on the mysteries of tennis. “Bend your knees.” “Backhand.” “Take your time.” “Watch the ball.”

Many of this father’s words, continuing at this moment as I write, could become aphorisms for living an attentive and good life. But one encouragement he has called out several times would be less likely, in my estimation, to lead to joy in this life.

“Power!” he has called out. “Come on! Power!”

Today we would be celebrating my Dad’s 86th birthday if he were still where we count and measure time. We haven’t needed to measure its passing for Dad since he turned 72 in the year 2000. He wasn’t perfect. We all inherited that from him, as he did from his parents. He got discouraged sometimes. He worried. He could be pessimistic. But he carried on. Always, without cessation. When I think of Dad, I think of faithfulness. I think of commitment. I think of walking on in the path he recognized as his own, and God-given, to its end. Or in faith, rather, to its next gateway.

He called us to faith, to doing our utmost, to walking on always as best we can, to turning to the Heavenly Father for strength. But in my memory he never called us to seek power, nor to know it as an avenue to life.

Right around this date, fourteen years ago now, I was with him in his room at the hospital. We were just over a week from his death. He was standing by his bed, admiring creation in the form of a gift hibiscus gloriously blooming in the sun by the window. And he spoke simple words then, words that both summed-up life and spoke final appreciation for all of it. “It’s been a good run,” Dad said. “It’s been a good run.”

His last words, only a few days later, were quietly whispered to one of the nurses: “Thank you.”

However long life continues, I want only to echo the same.

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Posted in Words!

Welcoming 2013

Dear Lord,

I suppose each and every moment is an invitation from you to consider life and love and light and all the big questions. If so, I must plead guilty to hardly ever hearing the invitation, let alone responding to it in a meaningful way. So let me stop here, and begin by thanking You for continually inviting this deaf and mute and blind servant of yours to become more attentive, more open to hear and see and say what is really right here. Thank You for that constant gift.

Somehow, in the midst of that blessed and ongoing invitation, the end of a year as we measure it, and the advent of another, seems more to get my attention, to help me actually to hear You opening the opportunity for me to take the measure of life and to see You alive within it; indeed to see you as the reason there is life at all.

Thank You for this moment then, and for those that have preceded throughout 2012, and for those about to follow in the time that we will name 2013. I have to say that over the past 12 months I have rarely valued the moment, so caught up have I been in responding to what had just transpired, or in anticipation of what I thought was about to happen. Caught between past and future, I most often neglected the present.

Further, with television and internet and myriad means of communication all around, I often neglected my immediate context so caught up was I in the big world around me. This is a conundrum. I am a part of that larger world, and I believe that with all others I share a responsibility for the totality of this human world. And yet, if I focus there almost to the exclusion of the reality closer at hand, what do I fail to see, to say, to note, to learn from, to appreciate, to savor, to love? So caught again between macro and micro, I often failed to appreciate what was directly before me.

Every year during this Christmas season I am reminded, along with all Christian brothers and sisters, that you are Emmanuel. That is, that you are God-with-us. And this means that You are God with us principally in this present moment, In this time and place. Yes, it is blessedly true that You have been with us through all the moments that we now experience as past. When I dwell on any part of that past, I gain a deeper sense of your faithfulness and love for me. And it is true, as I heard it said recently, that You come to us out of the future, that all that is to come is Yours.

And yet, the moment that I have to spend with You, the moment that I have to be with You, the moment that I have to realize that You live and speak and love, is this moment. This moment. Right now. And right here. I have only this moment, each one as they come forth from Your heart. And that is enough. Much more than enough.

I cannot know what the year ahead will bring, in any of its moments. I can guess from those that have gone before that it will include all that we have yet experienced, both those things that make our hearts sing and those that bring us near the abode of despair. I can guess too that it may bring us to extremes that we have not yet seen. Our times seem more and more to be extreme times. But all the details are hidden from me. And I am glad that they are. Life, death, and all in-between is coming down the celestial highway. I am content to meet each part in its own time.

But in it all, help me to listen more often and carefully for your gentle invitations. Allow me to greet the succeeding moments with more confidence than fear, with more expectation than dread. And grant me in doing so to be for others a source of comfort, of encouragement, and an inspiration to live joyfully.

Bless this world as You wish, Lord God, in the coming days. Help us to be a people more willing to embrace Your good gifts, or rather to allow ourselves to be embraced by them. Every moment is a new creation, and at each new creation I hear Your voice again: “It is good. It is very good.”

Thank You, Lover and Giver and Savior, for the invitation into a new year.

Amen.

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Posted in Images, Words!

Good Times

The farewell gathering at BC yesterday for Alanna, C21’s administrative assistant, and myself, was a wonderful moment.  Bittersweet, but wonderful. A good number of the very good people with whom the C21 Center collaborates at BC were present.  The President of the university, Father William Leahy, SJ, was there and spoke.  Bob Newton, special assistant to the president and chair of the C21 Steering Committee, served as master of ceremonies.  There was iced tea and lemonade, a huge cake and other goodies, and a general good spirit.

I would say that the air was light with a sense of thanksgiving.  I love that. I certainly felt it in myself, and I heard it in the voices of the others who spoke.  There is no better foundation for mutuality and a sense of bondedness than this: to be grateful to and for one another.

Boston College seen, as soon I will, from a distance