Thursday evening I attended the Saint Benedict’s Prep Hall of Fame dinner. We honored athletes from all various decades, from the 1950s to the 1990s.
At these school events I’m one of the lucky ones for whom the evening is not simply one of nostalgia, not a matter of suddenly jumping back over a chasm of twenty or forty years to revisit some golden bygone days of ghostly schoolboy glories. For me these banquets are not homecomings at all -- I’m already home after all --rather they’re celebrations of community and continuity.
On Thursday night as I moved around the huge banquet room saying hello to people I hadn’t seen in decades, I was gliding back and forth along a single unbroken strand extending back in time, along which the years and the people flow together to form one single plot, one story from my days as a freshman in 1956 through my returning to teach in 1969, the closing and re-opening of the school in the early 1970’s right up until 2011. I experienced a feeling of wholeness, a sense of being carried along by the dynamic life of a beautiful community.
We also have an annual banquet at which we honor people who have contributed in various ways to our school, while the Hall of Fame Dinner, which happens only every few years, is pretty much restricted to athletes. The printed program of the latter always includes a list of the impressive athletic accomplishments of each inductee to show why the committee chose them to be honored.
But later on as I flipped through the biographies in this year’s Hall of Fame program I wondered what God sees when looking at my life. What are God’s criteria for success? I already knew the answer, of course, so last night I started perusing an old copy of Ernesto Cardenale’s Vida en el Amor (1970) (translated into English in 1972 as “To Live Is to Love.” ), looking for a good way of expressing the criteria needed to get into God's Hall of Fame. After just a minute or two I found the following few sentences that seemed a pretty good summary of the criteria that are important to God [my translation]:
Man was created for love, only to love his creator. And whatever time he does not spend in this love is wasted time.
Love is the single law that governs the universe. That law that moves the sun and the other stars, as Dante says, because it is the law of cohesion uniting all things. The material out of which the universe is made is love.”
I sensed this love present in the vast banquet room as I shared stories and jokes with dozens of people. Love was the single thread "uniting all things:" God’s divine love uniting teammates, athletes and coaches, and also uniting the years and the experiences of my life, the triumphs and the trials (mine and those of my brothers and sisters), helping make sense of everything.
I came away as I always do after one of those dinners, thankful to be part of a monastery and a school community that has provided the possibility for this much love to pour itself out on the earth among so many varied people. “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”