"I’m all right; I know where he is,” said his mother as we visited after church one day. “He’s home with God today,” his mother assured me. I wanted to share with her my condolences after her son’s death and instead she comforted me with her witness of strong faith. Her son had lived a faith-filled life and was fondly remembered as one of God’s greatest cheerleaders and ambassadors. He could always be found visiting with folks at church with a smile and the words, “God bless you” that would end each conversation.
It’s spring! For those of us who live in Michigan, the easing of bitter cold, the lengthening of days and the hint of green’s return are reasons enough for joy and thanksgiving. We rejoice at the release of winter’s grasp on our lives, and anticipate the warmth and color of summer.
I was presiding at a wedding recently – a middle-aged couple who were each entering into marriage for the second time. During my homily, I asked the congregation to tell me what came to mind when they thought of the word, “love.” There were many responses – affection, hearts, unity – but I suggested another that does not always come to mind: risk.
One of the great benefits of having attended Mundelein Seminary in Chicago is the wonderful diversity of chapels that were available to us for prayer throughout any given day. As I recall, there are roughly a dozen chapels of various sizes sprinkled through the many buildings that comprise the seminary. Among all of them, my favorite is the one called the Deacon Chapel, which happened to be located in the residence hall in which I lived for my five years of seminary.
It was Saturday, June 14, 1997. Bishop Mengeling ordained four new priests for service to the people of God in the Diocese of Lansing. I am one of them. Several months earlier, as we put the final touches on the plans for our ordination Mass, my three classmates suggested that I be the one to offer words of thanks on our behalf at the conclusion of Mass. I accepted their invitation. I took some time to think about what I would say and came up with the usual expressions of gratitude to God, family, Bishop Mengeling and the people of the diocese.
I have a couple of friends – a husband and wife – who have a very supportive, loving relationship with their two sons. It has been fun for me to watch all of them (dad, mom and the two sons) grow during the years I have known them. One rule in their home has always been, “If you don’t want to know the answer, don’t ask the question.” In other words, they always strive to be very honest with one another. This family’s mind-set is, in large part, the very reason that they are so loving and supportive of one another.
A week-long visit by an archbishop from Africa has had a profound impact on our parish community of St. Jude. Word of the archbishop’s visit came months earlier, as part of a letter informing me about who would be making our annual mission appeal. The reality of Archbishop Simon Ntamwana’s visit began with a simple, heartfelt greeting as we met in the parking lot in front of the church: “Hello, I am Simon, your brother.” Not exactly the sort of greeting I had expected from an archbishop.
Looking out my window it seems as though the world is slowly, gently going to sleep. The gardens of spring and summer, with their bright array of blossoms and flowers, have once again been tilled in preparation for several months of rest. The trees, whose leaves we eagerly anticipated, and whose gorgeous spectrum of colors we have celebrated, are now largely bare of their shady canopies. They seem to have gone to sleep even as they stand proud against the chill and wind of late autumn. The world seems prepared to take its rest for a time.
Before we wish anyone a Merry Christmas this year, we should be wishing each other a good Advent. Even though Christmas decorations began popping up well before the end of October this year and circulars with the festive green-and-red colors began slipping into our newspapers, we should stop for a moment – actually for four weeks of moments – and simply bask in the simplicity and challenge of Advent.
In the summer of 1993, I was fortunate to be able to visit a seminary classmate who lived in southern Illinois. One afternoon, we visited a national forest not very far from where he was working. We hiked our way into the forest some distance and eventually found ourselves standing on an impressive rock outcropping that overlooked a beautiful valley of pines, not far from the Mississippi River. While it was my first time visiting that place, my classmate had been there many times before.