The first tune which popped up on my iPod, as I was doing my 30 minutes on the treadmill, fittingly turned out to be Gerald Finzi's arrangement of the Magnificat: "My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior..."
Though I'm finding it hard to relate to it, my thoughts turn back these days over the past 3/4 of a century since that February 27th day in 1937, two years before the start of World War II, when I emerged in the delivery room of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Dayton, OH. In past retreats I've used the introduction line: "I was conceived in grace and born of grace, since my mother's name is Grace!" Mom has since gone on to her reward, in 2003, at the age of 88. I can only hope that perhaps I'll have the "grace" to live that long, or beyond.
I think it's not by accident that, over the past few weeks, I was led to pick up and read The Duty of Delight: The Diaries of Dorothy Day, edited by Robert Ellsberg. During my seminary days and early years in the priesthood, I was a great admirer of Dorothy and a loyal subscriber to the Catholic Worker. At some point I also read her book The Long Loneliness, which, she insists in her diaries, wasn't an autobiography, but rather a story of how she came to conversion in the Catholic faith. As I was reading the diaries, and now that I'm close to finishing them, I realize how similar a view she and I had/have about life, religion, people, etc., even though she was 40 years older than I. It's a regret that I never had the opportunity to meet her, though I remember that my spiritual director at college, Fr. Bob Lechner, had met her and spoke to me about her. She was a remarkable human being and Christian, who had an uncanny realization of what life was all about.
What have I learned in my 3/4 of a century of living? To name but a few things:
- That of all the books of Scripture, the Psalms express most articulately what I feel in the depths of my being.
- That God has created every human being good, even though one is challenged at times to seek and find that goodness.
- That, as Scott Peck has written and as I and others have experienced it, "life is difficult".
- That, if one allows it, hope, indeed, springs in the heart eternal.
- That the beauty and occasions for wonder in this world of people and things is endless.
- That love, which I've never truly understood and, perhaps, have rarely experienced or given, is still possible.
- That it seems to be an unfortunate characteristic of most human beings that they really don't want to know the truth as you perceive it.
- That I have an intense dislike for ants, pit bulls and leaf-blowers, and comprehend no reason why God created them.
- That things are usually never quite as they appear to be, whether for good or ill.
- That I've frequently made life far too complicated than it needs to be.
- That I've been abundantly blessed in the friendships and acquaintances that have come my way.
- That my two best human accomplishments so far were fathering my daughter and son.
At this point in my life, my health is good, my energy level high, my interest in learning and experiencing the world and people about me is ongoing, and my need for inward spiritual growth is vast. 25 more years doesn't seem unreasonable as a goal, but life turns on a dime, so who can know? It's enough to humbly accept whatever days the Lord allots and to try to use them for the best benefit of my fellow human beings. For now, the words of Psalm 90 are as good a prayer as any: