For most of the over forty years I was working, I had no plan to retire. I was “mission-driven.” I worked for nonprofits that were committed to changing something; I embraced and lived for that mission. First, was a community organization in Baltimore working to stabilize the northeast part of the city where there was racial blockbusting and instability due to the racist practices of realtors and investors. Next, I worked in neighborhoods revitalizing aging and deteriorated housing. That led to working on neighborhood development nationally which required travel. And then, I assisted non-profit executives with their career transitions.
I have had limited interaction with transgender people. I became more aware when personal pronouns became more present in communications. Over the past couple of years, I have come to know people who have changed their gender. I have heard maternity ward nurses say they could tell at birth that a baby’s given gender and intended gender were not aligned. Friends who are parents have shared of having their teen transform grief and self-destructive behavior into joy and relief when their gender affirmation was complete.
How does one measure a life in ways other than a year? The annual journey of the earth around the sun is the accepted standard way of counting out time. But along the way, there are many events that colour our vision backwards into the passages of time. And a lot of living and loving. And now nearing 75, birthdays come and go with such increasing regularity that I seem to have lost touch. Still, it is so good to celebrate life and reminisce now and then.
No one can read the horrific stories of sexual abuse of children by priests, ministers and others in authority and not be appalled. The betrayal of a sacred trust is unfathomable and repulsive. The Sun, my hometown of Baltimore’s newspaper, and the Washington Post have both provided extensive coverage of the April 2023 Attorney General’s Report on Child Sexual Abuse in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. carried. The Sunday, May 7, 2023 headline story in The Sun – “Church leaders identified in cover-ups” broadened the focus from the clergy abusers to those in power in the Archdiocese of Baltimore who minimized or covered up the abuse, allowing more children to be abused. I’d like to reflect on two missing pieces of this coverage and discussion –an acknowledgment that sexual addictions exist and do influence behavior and the need for compassion for all involved.
I just completed a 3-month sabbatical program–from January 9 to April 3rd in Rome Italy. I am a retired priest so a sabbatical is a little unusual. I was excited to return to Rome which I had visited before. The sabbatical combined theological courses offered each week -Monday through Friday and tours to various museums, churches and other sites in and around Rome. On weekends, I and the other participants traveled to different parts of Italy and Europe. On two weekends, I was able to go to Florence and Venice – two of the cities I most love in Italy.
Love as powerful as a river’s current flows through my life. I love. I am loved. I am in love. But a simple paean to love falls short of my very real experience of love as I age, especially as two love-related challenges seem to be sprouting like weeds in my garden of well-being.
A recent weekend was rich in experiences that reminded me of another element of love – courage. Last week’s post reflected on the many ways that we can look back at a person’s life when they die and see all the love that was present. I shared about the life of Rudi Rudran and all the good that came from his life of service. In his story and for many others, the daily acts of loving require courage fueled by faith of some kind.
As we continue to explore the topic of love and what it is and isn’t, I was reminded about how death helps us to see more clearly the big loving hearts of friends and family. Geraldine and I received calls about the deaths of a family member and of Rudy Rudran, the spouse of a friend on the same day recently. Being part of the communities that came together for both reminded me of the power of love over a lifetime. Our family member was 93 and our friend 92. Both gatherings overflowed with stories of love and service and reminders that love is possible and even essential even when life is tough.
God is unconditional love, uncaused love, pure gift love. God’s love is God emptying God’s self for the sake of creation, into creation. God is unconditional love, self-giving love.
I recently had a conversation about the idea and ideal of unconditional love. Someone was struggling with whether they would ever experience truly unconditional love. Reflecting on a series of challenged personal relationships, this person was feeling despair and wondering if they were irrevocably broken. I found myself considering our cultural conditioning and proposed that perhaps the problem was with American cultural assumptions rather than individual brokenness.