Monday, August 04, 2008

How Have You Done It For So Long?

Once again it was a very full but relaxing weekend. I spent much of the weekend with my friend, Father Dennis. We met for breakfast in Louisville on Saturday morning and then I followed him out to his home in Bardstown. Dennis lives in a somewhat secluded home on a hill near the monastery. My plans were to spend the day with him, stay overnight, and then do my usual monthly activities at monastery on Sunday. Part of my Saturday afternoon was spent driving around the countryside looking for a couple of small Catholic churches where Dennis would be saying mass for another priest next weekend. I enjoyed this as I love small country churches and I had never been to these places. One was called St. Francis Xavier and the other was called Holy Rosary. Both were near where my mother grew up as a child and where I attended a family reunion a few years ago. I met the local priest who was very nice and welcoming. We had some great conversation. He told me he remembered meeting my son and that he will pray for him as he continues his studies for the priesthood. Dennis and I also had much conversation over the weekend. He is a gracious host and always makes me feel very welcome. I feel very much at home in his house. He has a basement that is an introvert's dream. It is full of his very large CD music collection and tons of books. If I die and go to heaven and I wake up in Dennis's basement, I will be happy.

On Sunday morning I met with my lay group and one of the monks at the monastery. Among other things, we discussed the question "What is the experience of God?" It is a simple question that has no simple answers. Fr Michael, one of the monks, shared a story about a meeting of monks at the monastery where this question and the many answers given created much tension between people. The experience of God is many things to many people. We also discussed the challenge and difficulty of describing the experience of God. One of my former teachers believes you can't really describe it. You can only talk about it in analogies. The experience of God is like.....

What is the experience of God for you?

I got home as soon as I could on Sunday because it was my 34th wedding anniversary. Everything in my life is now measured in decades. I am in my sixth decade of living. My marriage is in it's fourth decade and my employment for the same company is in it's third decade. My children are no longer children and my parents are elderly. In today's world, people, especially young people, often look at me in amazement, like I am a super hero, when I share how long I have been married to my original and only wife or how long I have worked for the same company. They say, "O my God! How have you done that for so long"? The easy answer is "One day at a time". Some days it was easy. Other days it was difficult. Sometimes I was happy and content. Other times I felt trapped and restless. There were days of deep gratitude that my life was secure and balanced. There were other days of resentment when daydreams of adventures I was not having filled my head. Occasionally I wondered how I ended up in such a life. Being married, having children, and working much of my life for an insurance company was not part of my youthful dreams. I am too much of a romantic to dream of such an ordinary life. All of this makes me sometimes wonder if we truly choose our lives or if they choose us. I say this because my rather ordinary and sometimes boring life has actually been quietly filled with adventures big and small that often had deep meaning and, in retrospect, show me that my life has had a sense of purpose. These experiences have weaved my life into a tapestry that will one day tell the story of my life. This really hit home last week when, as part of a team building exercise, we were asked to share one interesting fact about our lives. I though to myself, "Just one? I could give you a whole list". Without the foundation of a long marriage, good family, and stable employment, my life could have been nothing more than a lost soul wandering in the wilderness. There's a Native American saying that goes, "In old age nothing is better than a warm fire". Even though I probably don't always appreciate it, the stability of my life has provided much of the "warm fire" that we all need and want.

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