Monday, October 22, 2012

Eye of the Storm




Recently my Dad had a bad cough. Mom insisted that he go to the doctor, who dismissed the whole matter saying: you’re in perfect health; you just have a nagging cough. My Dad answered: “The cough isn’t as nagging as my wife. She insists that I have an X-ray of my lungs.” The doctor laughed and said: “To put your wife at ease, I’ll order the X-ray.” The X-ray came back with a spot on my father’s right lung. Mom never insisted on an apology from either the doctor or my dad.


The first moral of that story is the importance of listening to your intuition, even when experts mock you. We have an inner spiritual sense that guides us. It happens when we first meet a new person, we may feel an affinity or repulsion towards that person. Listen to that! A nagging sense that we need to do something, go somewhere, etc may well be the universe telling us that this is (in) opportune. Listen to that!


The spot on my father’s lung, we feared, might be cancer. Both of my dad’s parents died of lung cancer making this spot in the lung especially ominous. Intellectually, of course, I know that one day my parents will die. It is quite another thing to accept that truth on an emotional level. Mom told me shortly after the death of her mother: “The day your mother dies, on that day you become an orphan.”


Two days ago I officiated a wedding, it is how I earn a living these days, it is honest work and I enjoy working with the couples. This particular couple had set up a table with their deceased grandparent’s photographs. The father of the groom walked up to me, wiping away tears with a handkerchief. “All that is left are memories and sayings.” Your really are an orphan when your folks die. While they are still alive, there is always someone to turn to for orientation and advice. After their death, there are just memories and their sayings.


In this time under the shadow of my dad’s possible (inevitable) death, I thought of my late bishop. Bishops are referred to as the “spiritual father” of their priests. Well, my “spiritual” father dropped me from the diocesan health insurance policy less than 30 days after I made my statement of conscience on Prop 8. My real father offered to pay for my health care insurance. Due to the work ethic he inculcated in me, I politely refused. I’ll pay for my health care insurance myself in the near future. My attorney, a former priest and a canon (church) lawyer, invoked cannon law that requires a bishop to provide material assistance to priests, even suspended priests. My “spiritual father” (bishop) responded: “Get a job.”


Actually, I’m happy that all of that happened. It underscored for me that all of that language of “spiritual father” is a lie. The nuns who fought for universal health care are real, the bishops who threw the poor under the bus with health care and became choirboys for the Republican Party, are fake. They are the modern day Pharisees who place institutional image above the well being of children; and who view morality as SEX and not as charity. My dad illustrated what a real father is: someone who honestly cares. Who loves even when he doesn’t fully understand his crazy kid. Who loves me simply because I am his child and accepts even though his child seems incomprehensible to him.


Thankfully, my dad’s lung spot turned out not to be cancer. One day I know I will lose my dad and mom, but I also know that their love will accompany throughout life. I know that their sense of justice, tempered by charity and warmth, are my greatest inheritance.


All this time I have been silent on this blog. This has been a time for me to process not only the possible loss of my Dad (and one day both my parents), but also my identity as a person.


I entered the seminary in 1978, as a 19-year-old undergraduate who had a conversion experience. I find myself at 54 undergoing another conversion experience. Both have placed me in touch with something both transcendent and imminent. Both were unexpected and life changing. Both led/are leading me to something beyond myself and both have given me a sense of mission and serenity.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Geoff

You need not fear your identity. You have proven yourself to be a man of firm conviction and intergrity. You have been and are a great pastor.

Peace
Vince

John said...

I read this beautiful post with tears in my eyes. Both of my parents have died and the wisdom of those who have gone before at times seems very distant. Your sharing your story and the journey you travel provides inspiration for us orphans. Walk on Father Geoff-many follow in the fidelity and light of your foot prints. And should you stumble, many hands will reach out to lift you up.

Unknown said...

As I read your explanation of the Bishop as "Spiritual Father," it suddenly hit me that their rallying cry against our families is to insist that we aren't a "real" family.
My family, both biological and "logical" (thanks Armistead Maupin for that phrase) has supported me my entire life. And Father Geoff, you have proven yourself to be a "pastor's pastor." May God continue to bless you in your endeavors.

Anonymous said...

God bless you and you mom and dad also, Father Geoff. Thank you for sharing this.

Peace & Blessings - Mark

William D. Lindsey said...

I second what Vince says, Fr. Geoff. I am very grateful for you and your witness to the gospels.

Tal said...

Father Geoff, I'm very glad to hear your dad is alright, although I've certainly missed your posts.

Good luck and God speed on your journey.