This weekend I drove out to Philadelphia to spend the Easter triduum with my uncle who is a Jesuit priest. I stayed with him at his community’s home and spent time reflecting on scripture, learning about Ignatian contemplation, Ignatius’s steps for making a sound election (good choice), and simply enjoying my uncle’s company. My uncle extended the offer to me to come out and take part in a sort of “mini-retreat” with him in order to reflect on my choices using the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. Four months ago I lost my teaching job under circumstances that threatened to destroy what confidence I had in myself and derail my spirit as well as my career. In addition to his love and support during this horrible ordeal, he wanted to help me find my own path forward out of this mess. It was my idea to do it during the Easter holy days and he enthusiastically agreed and made the preparations. I was welcomed by him and his fellow priests and brothers into their community for what was a productive and soul enriching experience.
The idea of service is usually framed in our minds by rendering kindness to other people, any people. I don’t usually think about service when I consider doing something loving for my friends and family but it qualifies just as much. What my favorite uncle did for me was more than an expression of love, it was a corporal act of mercy. The events which predicated the loss of my job have been devastating in ways I can’t begin to calculate and I would be utterly lost to despair (or in a hole in the ground) by now if it were not for my loving family and my steadfast friends’ support. What my uncle proposed, however, was more than loving and consoling; it was productive and meaningful. I now have tools, real tools to use in my discernment and to strengthen my spiritual life.
I left for Philadelphia on Good Friday morning, but the night before I attended the Holy Thursday Mass at my home parish. There, a young man named Matthew, an eighth grade student I’ve known for many years now, approached me after Mass and asked if I would be his Confirmation sponsor. Accepting enthusiastically I asked him to keep me informed about dates and times of rehearsals and such. It is an honor to be a young man’s or woman’s Confirmation sponsor and it is a privilege I’ve been bestowed with twice before: once for a young man named Robby who was a Boy Scout in the troop for which I was an Assistant Scoutmaster, and again for a young lady named Caroline, who is a family friend and like a little sister to me. Both times I was blown away at being asked and received great joy from participating in their special days.
On my way home today, I was thinking about the service my uncle had done for me and realized that being asked to be the Confirmation sponsor for Matthew was more than just an honor. It is a form of service that he is seeking from me. I need to try and provide him with the benefit of my wisdom (what little of it there is, I know) and experience as well as my insight into our faith. I had counseled Robby and Caroline both before and after their Confirmation, it is true, but could I have done more? Could I have reached out and taken the time to talk to them about what Confirmation into the faith means to them and what, if anything, they might want to know about it from me? Maybe. Jesus emulated the model of service for his disciples by washing their feet. He did not want them to have an inflated sense of their own self-importance; he wanted them to realize that they are called to be humble servants for each other and the rest of humanity. I too must not allow my role as Confirmation sponsor to remain an honorary title. I must seek out ways to serve Matthew and thus emulate those Christ-like tendencies that he must adopt as a member of the Body of Christ. Service is more than just kindness to strangers; service means aiding those we love and those who love or admire us as well. My uncle has always had my admiration and love; he did not need to do anything to secure them from me. It was his love for me and concern for my well being that moved him to serve me in my struggle. Thank you dear uncle and friend. You have often said to me that “I am well if you are well.” You have helped to make me very well, indeed! AMDG.
Stay thirsty my friend!