Monday, June 02, 2008

The Good Stuff

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
- Philippians 4:8

Spending time two weeks ago with my friend Fr. Kauth down in North Carolina was pure grace. It was a blessing to meet the young people and to wander through the mountains with them, to pray a little, laugh a lot, ponder some deep thoughts, and at the end of the day, to slide under the tree branches that set apart the rectory garage (the Bat Cave, as Father affectionately calls it) and just BE with an old friend.

We cooked up a delicious dinner, talked about the paths our lives have taken, and dove into the topics we love: faith and culture, good books, philosophy and theology... the things that have always wheeled us around the Son in a gravitational pull since the seminary days we shared 13 years ago.

Funny how distance or time or the thousand splintered fragments of life's crosses never seemed to throw us off of that orbit. When I wonder how it could be, the only answer that comes is Grace. What else? The years of 1993 to 1996 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary were like a golden age, and the oddest thing is, we knew it. Sure, there was work and study and much discernment regarding a call that for Fr. Matt continued on to ordination, and for me moved on to the vocation of marriage. But in those three years, the young men who were called together at that precise moment in time had a strong sense of synchronicity, of a Guiding Hand that was shaping our hearts and minds for tasks to numerable to imagine. Even now as I look at my classmates, those ordained and those who left early and discovered another call, the tasks spill out in tiny rivulets like incense from a golden thurible, filling the world with that fragrance of the Eternal that caught and captivated us.

Somehow we few, we happy few were given a glimpse into the Eucharistic Heart of the Hidden God, the God Who loves to play hide and seek with His children. And that Hidden God captured us, heart, mind, and soul.

I remember one morning, on a walk through misty shadows, I made my way to the Chapel for morning prayer. I was part of the "Vampire Club" as we called ourselves (Picture the Dead Poet's Society with cassocks and prayer books. We would find our dark corners of chapel and make our holy hour before the red glow of the sanctuary lamp). I found the now Fr. Matthew walking the same way in that pre-dawn darkness, but as we turned towards St. Martin's, a pale rosy glow in the east caught our eyes. Wordless, we both headed for a massive elm tree and stood beneath it's dark boughs. For what felt like a few minutes, we stood "like sentinels awaiting the dawn" - and it came. Pouring out fire over the green fields, stirring the birds into song and the bells eventually to peel and crack the air with a call to celebrate another Day.

It was contemplation; a deep gaze into the heart of things, a letting go to the pull of Beauty, the irresistible attraction to wonder that to this day takes only a few words to reactivate and rekindle. I praise God for friendships like this, for kindred spirits.

When we turned away from the sunrise to head into chapel, we discovered that nearly an hour went by, and the chapel before us was now bathed in light! Isn't that what Grace so often does? Light up what lies ahead of us as well as what lies behind?

A glass of wine with some friends
Talking to the wee hours of the dawn

Sit back and relax your mind

This must be, this must be, what it's all about

This must be what paradise is like

Baby it's so quiet in here...

- Van Morrison
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