Sunday, September 16, 2012
Time to Go
Summer is waning. Changes occur imperceptibly except for the one who slows down to take in the sensory world. A cool front has swept over New England giving hints of the chilly nights and warm days ahead. This morning’s sky is deep blue due to the absence of clouds. A mild breeze washes over the deciduous trees whose leaves are beginning to blush. Near the pond’s edge small trees display its mild yellow and orange serving notice of the splendor yet to be unveiled.
Sitting inside the courtyard of Campion Center in Massachusetts, I take time to prepare myself for my upcoming journey. Campion houses a retreat center, a health-care facility for elderly and infirm Jesuits, and an active Jesuit community. I’ve often enjoyed visiting this place before I entered the Jesuits because of the stillness that pervades the inner and outer spaces. This afternoon the Jesuits will honor their jubilarians for their dedicated service to the people of God over the years. Seasons change. Some priests are celebrating the end of their ministry while I am entering into the heart of mine.
I pause to catch my breath before I enter the vigorous transition of moving to an ancient part of the world. I sit in the courtyard created by Brother Jim McDavitt who forged strong relationships over the years in the development office. I sit on a bench dedicated by Linda and Liz, colleagues of Jim’s and friends of mine. The sun warms the early morning breeze. The smells and bells of a just-completed Mass fills the courtyard. Subdued sounds of insects give way to the more pleasant chirping of a few orioles. The edges of summer flowers are browed while hardy autumn petals persevere. White Rhododrendra show promise of an autumn bloom. The stone fountain at the center bubbles away. It is a simmering percolation that can go unnoticed as it periodically spills water down its stone base. All feels still, except that somehow everything knows that change is coming. Summer has ceased and life continues in a hardier way.
Like the Jubilarians who look back on their life’s work, I’ve spent this summer assembling the pieces of my life and getting new pieces of the puzzle. Yesterday I was at a party given to me by my family. It was a festive time reminiscent of the days when we were young. I also drove by my old school and revisited roads that once housed childhood friends. Memories upon memories percolated like that fountain in Campion’s courtyard. I recalled those autumn days when I walked home from soccer practices along a four and a half mile stretch along the state forest that contained barely ten houses. I was always drawn deeply into myself when I was immersed in the colorful foliage. Words fail when I try to capture the transcendent feelings. All I know is that I feel glad to be alive. All manner of things are reoriented to their proper place when I allow myself to sense the world around me.
I have been undeservedly awash in care and gratitude this summer. Meals, visits, walks, and meaningful conversations have prepared me for my imminent venture. As I stripped away my life’s possessions, these acts of kindness have filled the space. I treasure the cards and thoughtfulness I received from many loved ones. I wish I were able to repay them for their inexhaustible good deeds!
I’m prepared to leave. In Ignatius’ Suscipe, his prayer of offering oneself to God, he petitions the Lord to take his liberty, memory, will, understanding, and all that one has and possesses. It has inspired many Jesuits and friends for centuries, but it is harder to do than one imagines. I want to keep my will because I want to be able to choose. I want to keep my freedom because I have worked hard for my own personal freedom and I’m thankful my country protects my civil freedoms. I want to keep my understanding because it helps me to become enriched, and I want to keep my memory because they contain memories of you, friends, and loved ones.
To rid oneself of possessions is not easy because we collect things that will be useful in the future and remind us of meaningful times, places, and people. Intellectually, I recognize that all is God’s. All is gift. Emotionally, I find I am attached in ways that need more freedom to enter. However, Christ has told me he will save those important memories for me better than any object can, better than I can. I have to keep moving in the direction of trust. His presence is the best gift to me because we will move through this journey together. In my prayer, I see him talking with Ignatius and they assure me of their brotherly solidarity with me. I find this is a real test of who I am. I feel secure in the line of many Jesuit missionaries dating back to Xavier to the East and to the many who discovered the New World. I am proud to be a Jesuit and I pray that Christ and Ignatius are proud of me.
My prayer is that I remain open to God’s graces. I want to experience the abiding presence of Christ and Ignatius each day. I want to ask, “Where are you, O Christ, in my life today?” I know I will be preoccupied with the transitions’ trial. Therefore, I pray that Christ be the pervading stillness that reorients everything in my life. I pray that Christ looks after my family and loved ones and that he keeps us connected to one another. I pray that everyone continues to move towards greater freedom and a healthy, happy life. I pray for the individual intentions that many have brought to me. I pray that we come to know Christ and the power of his resurrection. Seasons change; Christ remains eternal.
It is time to embark on a new adventure. Lots will unfold before us. I simply ask Christ to help me go in the direction of his embrace where there is singing and rejoicing and where tears are dried and weeping has ceased. He makes all things new. Let’s behold the many graces given to us. Let’s go forward carrying each other in our hearts.
For the Greater Glory of God.