On the way home

I’ll be on my way in an hour to the ordination at Garden City.  Five men and women, each of whom I have worked with to a greater or lesser extent on their way toward ordained ministry, will kneel before the bishop today and begin that good work.  Their personalities are different.  Their backgrounds are quite diverse.   I suspect that their understandings of what might lie ahead differ as well.
But all of them have met Jesus Christ and have been attracted at depth level to him, to his mission.  In there they see something of what their life can mean, where their lives can find and transmit meaning.  It has to do with service.  It has to do with availability.  It has to do with love.
That last is spectacularly important.  It is the central means and mystery.  Is there life at all without love?  Is there such a thing as a real human life that is not touched and embraced and colored and enhanced and energized by love?  Even those lives that seem the most bereft of that blessing, who seem most alone, find their origin – or if not even their original, at least their goal – in love.
What was his name, the young Philadelphia Jesuit who taught at the Gregorian when I was a student there.  Phil was his first name.  Ah yes!  Phil Rosato I am reliably told! He was one of the young faculty then.  I found out last year that he has died.  How silently the years and our lives pass on from us.  But Phil presented to us a marvelous vision, perhaps not devised by him, but passed on by him to us effectively, of the great circle of life.  I suppose it later was set to music in the Lion King!  We come from God.  Our lives are at their best when they are a learning of our origin and a yearning to return to that beginning point and to arrive at last (thank you TS Elliot) where we had begun.
Just yesterday I was reading Frederick Buechner’s book on midlife that he wrote in his early 60’s.  It opens with a beautiful reflection on what ‘home’ is, where in our memories our first home was, and how the greatest depth of home is at the last not found here at all.  The ultimate home is in the presence of that One whom – receiving all our tradition and doctrine and attempts at elucidation – we cannot see or name or domesticate in our presence.
This morning these five at the cathedral will take a big step toward home.  Both for themselves, and for all who will look to them in effect to say, “Can you point the way home?”
The best response of all to that deep human question is something like, “I cannot point it out as well as I would like, but I will walk there with you.”

Giving Thanks and Going On

On Thursday the northern tier of the family near enough to do so gathered at Mom’s home in Hudson, New Hampshire.  The house was built and completed in the year 2000.  Dad was eager to move in.  He came as it was built and took photos of the builders’ progress, even when the home-to-be was only a hole in the ground.  He could see it in his mind’s eye, or perhaps rather in his heart’s hope.

But Dad never lived here.  Two days following his death in August of that year the town granted an occupancy permit.

But for Mom, this has been home now for between fourteen and fifteen years.  Succeeding 75 Eastern Avenue in Lynn, this house on Barbara Lane became the de facto center of the McGinty universe.  Visits, phone calls, holidays have centered here.  Innumerable meals have been prepared and served with love. Summers and winters at special seasons have seen this home house more people than ever it was designed to hold.  It not only held them.  It embraced them.  People of three generations, linked by blood and linked by love. Conversations, debates, loud comments directed toward the television screen during football and baseball contests – all these have happened here more often than could be numbered.

Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, we gave thanks – along with all our blessings – for all of this. It was the last holiday here.  Anointed by snow and nourished by two turkeys and several pies, it was last Thanksgiving for us in this place, made sacred by all the events of these past years.

Fragments of so much rise up in heart these days: joys, wonderments, sorrows, moments of warmth and blackouts of cold; the planting of trees and roses; children playing in the grounds around, growing bigger year by year; guests received and loved, until they could come no more; prayer offered from one heart and from a family together; dogs and cats bounding across the house; photos displayed and new photos taken; new photos becoming the old.

All these and more, although I at least cannot retain them all, are together the constant fabric of grace in this place.  They are the moments when you catch the fragrance of God’s loving presence. They are the instants when you swear you hear the constant breath of God.  They are the instants when you know the eye of Jesus looks with love on this place and  its people.  They are the nanoseconds when the passing instant of the Spirit’s wing brushes your cheek.  They are blessings, sacraments pointing gently and constantly to the ‘more’ that life together is.  More than is seen,  More than is expressed,  More than is expected.

This coming Tuesday Mom is moving, with emotion but by her own realization and desire, to the community of God’s own at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor.  There new memories will be made, and new friendships,  There old friends will grace the doorway and sit to share stories.  There the Fragrance and Breath and Loving Look and Brushing Wing will be as present as ever.  Because there too we continue to live in the grace that is the presence of God.

Somehow the epicenter of family life will shift again.  I cannot quite see how it will all fit together.  But I know that it will.  Because the fitting is only partially up to us.  There is another Hand and Heart guiding the way.

It remains only – and constantly – to say, thank you.