Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Brethren, Part 2 (reposted from Dec 30)

I'm up, still feeling sick, and I touched on something earlier that I really am burning to write more about.

I was reading my journal and came upon this entry, 11:27 pm 24 Dec 2006: 'Early Christmas present. I saw Fr Mike today. Wait, back up. I sent him a note last week, talking about how I didn't know what my place in the world was. When I saw him today, he grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Liz, I'll tell you right now, you are important to me, and your boys, and your place is to BE HERE, RIGHT NOW. I see an amazing amount of good in you, and I can't believe you can't see it in yourself."

I totally needed to hear that. I have value. He actually made me cry.

Merry Christmas to me.'

Present time: There is a certain strata of folk in my life--very few they are--to whom I have to explain nothing. I can speak in a sort of shorthand they just 'get it.' These are the people to whom I refer as The Brethren, and Fr. M is undeniably of the brotherhood.

We met in October of 2002 when Nic and I showed up at the rectory to register at the parish after we moved here. As soon as he opened the door and introduced himself, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. And as we got to know one another, it became abundantly clear that I was in the company of a holy man, family member, and friend all rolled into one.

He's of the same generation and neighborhood as my parents (he graduated two years behind my dad from the same high school); we both delivered the now defunct Philadelphia Bulletin as kids; we're both from large Irish Catholic families, raised in those little row houses. And as a man who in another life might have been a family man, he found in me a daughter, and I in him a father.

It's a connection, a mutual recognition and respect, tempered with love.

Which unfortunately looks a certain way to people who look for trouble. I'm thinking of a meeting wherein we sat next to one another, and although our interaction was minimal, everyone in the room was looking at us. And you could see the wheels turning. And everyone arriving at the same--wrong--conclusion.

The net result is a reserve that I resent--because I know it's a command performance. And I'm not a fool--I keep a respectful distance now because the last thing I want is to cause him even more grief and aggravation.

We went out to breakfast a few weeks ago with a visiting sister. She spent maybe the first half of the meal looking askance at us both, but by the end of the meal, it was clear she understood that there was no chicanery involved--we're just a couple of people who 'get' one another, can speak to each other on multiple levels and say so much more because we understand each other's shorthand, and--as simple as it is complicated--we love each other. We have each other's back.

Why does love have to be an admission? Why can't it just be? Real love is such a beautiful thing, but the crass overuse of the word has cheapened the concept and turned it into the stuff of romance novels. I need some help here, so with Wikipedia's assistance once again:

Love is any of a number of emotions and experiences related to a sense of strong affection.[1] The word love can refer to a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes, ranging from generic pleasure ("I loved that meal") to intense interpersonal attraction ("I love my girlfriend"). This diversity of meanings, combined with the complexity of the feelings involved, makes love unusually difficult to consistently define, even compared to other emotional states.

As an abstract concept, love usually refers to a deep, ineffable feeling of tenderly caring for another person. Even this limited conception of love, however, encompasses a wealth of different feelings, from the passionate desire and intimacy of romantic love to the nonsexual emotional closeness of familial and platonic love[2] to the profound oneness or devotion of religious love.[3] Love in its various forms acts as a major facilitator of interpersonal relationships and, owing to its central psychological importance, is one of the most common themes in the creative arts.

Bingo, two and three sum it up neatly. You see 'love' and everyone assumes the first definition. And having said that, I don't think it's an accident that I've become a much more spiritually connected person since I've known him. He has been a tremendous influence and guiding force in my life, and he's taught me much just by being the amazing steward of his flock he is. He is as gifted as he is humble. And I am tremendously honored he finds me worthy of his friendship.

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