Some months ago, I read My Beloved World, the memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. She recounts growing up in a Cuban-American family in the Bronx. When she was 7, she was giving herself insulin shots for diabetes. Her life had challenges, but was still beloved.
More recently, I enjoyed a weeklong, private retreat with a lot of time to pray and reflect. Before I went on retreat, the realization kept popping into my mind that the world—especially the Church world as I knew it—was passing away. People I loved and who were very important in my life had died. I visited a cemetery where Franciscans I had lived with are buried. Seminaries I attended have been sold. I’m sure you’ve experienced the closing of schools and churches that you’ve attended. Neighborhoods you grew up in have changed. Suburban parishes are thriving, but beautiful, old churches in the city are without people.
On retreat, I pondered my feeling of loss and came to a sense of peace. In reviewing my life, I saw that God was with me every step. I concluded that I was blessed with not one but three beloved worlds!
A Future of Hope
The first covers my life from a happy childhood in a large family and many happy years as a Franciscan. As a teacher, editor, administrator, and now associate pastor, I met many good and gracious people. In moving from one assignment to another, I don’t minimize the heartache of leaving people I had come to know and love. Fortunately for me, though, there was always another loving community to welcome me.
My retreat reflection gave me the insight that my world was not falling apart if I acknowledged that a chapter of my life had come to a good conclusion. Those people and my previous work were precious, but I could not hold onto them. I could peacefully accept that I am called to live in the present.
In the parish, my second beloved world, I like the people I am sharing life with. They are gracious and responsive. I’ve made new friends. I enjoy my Franciscan community. I want to be fully engaged here and not miss any opportunities. I’m happy. I have good memories, but I am not living in my earlier world.
And whenever it happens, I look forward to my third beloved world. The Psalmist says, “Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart” (90:12). I have a future to hope in. To be embraced by the God of love in the midst of the community of saints is truly something to look forward to. My coming to peace with change, of course, is only possible because God has been real and present in all my worlds.
God’s love is constant. “I could not understand,” Psalm 73 says. “I am always with you; you take hold of my right hand.”
Dear Friar Jim: I have a humble request: please pray for me, my wife, my eldest son, his wife, and in-laws as well as my second son. Thank you for the good article on God of the Old and New Testaments. Vincent
A: Dear Vincent: Your loved ones are on my daily list. God bless you all. Friar Jim
Dear Friar Jim: As a mother of nine children, I can testify to the reality of God. Having been to hell and back, I personally know the saving power of God through the Church. When all seemed hopeless, I found that God always sends someone if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. I won’t go personally into my story, but this is true: when things get horrible, hang in there and look to whomever God sends to help you. You are never alone! God loves each of us. Elaine
A: Dear Elaine: With nine children to care for, I’m sure you know what Jesus meant by “carrying your cross.” But as you said, it is in those moments when the Lord is closer to you. And it is in those moments when we feel like we have no faith that it is actually deepest. That was true of Jesus on the cross, and is the same for all those bearing their particular crosses. Friar Jim
Dear Friar Jim: I think there is a true division, which can still be seen today, as the chosen tribe has decided to show that Old Testament style wrath and flex their muscles against their neighbors. We as outsiders and believers in both the Old and New Testaments are generally appalled by the sheer violence and lack of forgiveness being applied. I like your articles. They are very nicely written and provoke thought. Rich
A: Dear Rich: You are correct. I realize more and more that those Old Testament times have not changed, and that wars are bigger and more violent. Human nature always remains the same: fallen and wounded. We talk about learning from the past, but that never seems to happen. We are blessed to have heard the words of Jesus and how to live in peace, but guess what? Jesus was put to death in the most violent way, too. Friar Jim