Saturday, October 25, 2014



I was standing in the entrance foyer at the end of school earlier this week waiting for one of my kids who said he needed to talk to me after school about something that was bothering him. Frankly I was pretty low on energy at that time of day, but of course I went downstairs to meet him. As I was scanning the crowd of teenagers for him a student who I didn't recognize walked up to me and said "Fr. Al, can I talk to you for a minute, please? So we stepped into a relatively quiet corner of the room. As soon as he started to speak I recognized him as the kid whose ID card I'd turned over to the Dean of Discipline (see last week's post) for being snotty to me.

"I want to apologize for being disrespectful to you the other day." He was obviously sincere, even if the apology was being made under orders from Mr. Rowe. But after I accepted his apology he continued, "You know how they say there are angels that watch over us and help us all the time? Well, the other day when you took my ID card I guess you were sort of one of those angels. I was having a hard time dealing with some stuff and holding it all inside; but as soon as I sat down with Mr. Rowe it just started coming out. If you hadn't taken my ID card that wouldn't have happened. So, thank you! I'm going to my first meeting of 'Unknown Sons' tomorrow morning." His big smile was enough to pump my energy level back up to "full."


The next day I came across a passage in a book by Fr. Michael Casey entitled "Seventy-Four Tools for Good Living" that happens to fit in with the gospel for Sunday Oct. 26 (the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor in Mt 22:34-40). I really sat up straight when I read this sentence about Christ's command to love ones neighbor:

"The distinctive love by which Christians are recognized is not merely the result of an affectionate nature or the acquisition of skills or a suitably nurturing social situation."

A humanistic atheist would explain everything that we monks do in our school, including what had happened with that kid the previous afternoon, as a collection of humanistic deeds of altruism "based on our personalities, our training and the supportive school environment we've created." It's true that all of these are present, but actually the student himself had hit it on the head when he said "I guess you were sort of one of those angels."

Once again I see why the Bongiornos, when making "The Rule," the documentary about the monastery and school, (see top of the left sidebar) inisisted, with their documentarians' love of "full disclosure," on including so much about our prayer life in the film. They felt that a story that portrayed us as simply altruistic humanists would be leaving out a central part of the story.

The passage from Casey continues:

[Love] is a gift of God which both fulfills and simultaneoulsly surpasses our nature's desire to be loved and to love. Christian love (or agape) is the infusion of the divine loveableness and love into the himan spirit, repairing the damage which love's absence has wrought and lifting up the human to the level of the divine. Simultaneously, it is an upgrading of our perception so that we are able to see just how lovable our neighbor is. This gift enables us to see through the objective failings of other persons to reach the inner core of their being, where everything is beautiful. This is not a human quality or skill but a gift of God that is both sign and guarantee that we are already living on a supernatural plane.

Such love is a gift because it cannot be self-generated. It arises out of an encounter with God.

When I got to speak with that second student, the one who'd asked to see me, it turned out that his father is nowhere around, and didn't even phone him on his birthday.  As I sat listening to him, I was really aware of Michael Casey's reminder that this little encounter was primarily a privilege, a gift from God, repairing the damage which love's absence has wrought and lifting up the human to the level of the divine. 

Made me feel "sort of like one of those angels."

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