If you are reading this, it’s probably because you were somehow led here. This was intentional. While this is a public blog, I use it so infrequently that it has few followers and, of course, the writing probably stinks. At the same time, I hope that the public nature of these comments is a witness to their sincerity and also my desire to share these thoughts with you truthfully, with nothing to hide. The writing here is obnoxiously honest. I apologize for that. At the same time, we won’t always have tomorrow to say the things we should today.
We (my family and I) recently lost a young friend to a tragic motor vehicle accident. He was a kind, sweet young man, destined for the Holy Priesthood. He had a parish priest who loved him, and led him to the thing which God Himself had called him to before he was born. He had reached the height of that thing which God had chosen for him, with an absolutely radiant Christian woman, who was worthy of the journey of a priestly family.
On Friday, God chose to allow for our hopes, plans, and intentions for this young man to come to an abrupt and completely confusing end.
That this young man achieved what was needed, I have no doubt. But his passing has deeply broken my heart. Because, though I was not his parish priest and not the one who closely monitored and fostered his worthy vocation (as his worthy pastor so lovingly and effectively did), I still considered him, in some small way, “one of mine.”
You see (and, if you’re reading this, will already know), I was once the director and overseer of one of the most wonderful places on earth. My wife and I together ran this place as a priest and pani, called by our loving bishop to continue the building up of this wonderful edifice and monument to God’s love of nature and youthful, innocent faith. We served there faithfully for five years. But because of some unplanned turns, our tenure ended by choice and circumstance, and we moved on by our own choices. That move was difficult, as the love we had for that place and (more importantly) the people, did not leave us. And the death of this young man has caused that pain to resurface, and I’m using this blog to process and share why we experienced some of that pain.
When I was first assigned to this place I was given very specific instructions from my bishop, the same bishop whom I loved, and loved to serve. You must know by now, whether you agree with such a sentiment I cannot know, that I am what some call a “bishop’s boy.” Though the term is often used disparagingly, I’ve always worn the moniker with honor. I was greatly influenced by the writings of St. Ignatius of Antioch. I believe that when one loves and obeys his bishop that good things will happen. If one just trusts and obeys his bishop he will be trusting in the Lord Himself to guide the bishops hand and all will be well. The truth is, I am still this way today. I still believe in Ignatius’ words.
However, not all good things come quickly.
While I was at this wonderful place I obeyed my bishop from day one and did so gladly. While there, I had the privilege of having a staff. I was blessed because they were all wonderful. They all meant the world to me and I have forgotten none of them. This staff worked with me and trusted me. In return, I tried never to abuse that trust, as I valued it so much. They worked as hard as I did and the Lord blessed us all in allowing us to see some miraculous things in the lives which we were permitted to be a part of.
But after some years, though the bishops health declined, my loyalty did not. I still believed that if one were to remain faithful to his own bishop, no matter the situation, all would work out. However, I never figured on the fact that others might understand their roles in serving the bishop differently than I did. I fault no one for interpreting their own directives from the same bishop as they will. However, confusion ensued, a confusion which I do not fully understood even to this day. Some others wished that I would do things a bit differently than I had been directed by the bishop in the administration of that wonderful place, for they believed they understood the situation better than the bishop. Whether they were right or not, I do not know and I will leave this for others to judge. My goal was singular in staying faithful to my bishop’s directives even when they appeared different from those around him. Little did I know that this confusion was not going to be something easily rectified. Alas, I suffered greatly in the midst of this confusion.
The culmination of this confusion led to me being accused by some of disobeying my bishop because I was unable to follow as closely (as some had hoped) the directives of those serving the bishop. This was especially difficult as the bishops directives from his own mouth did not always match the directives given to me by others. I hold no anger towards anyone involved, and if it sounds as if I do, then blame it on poor writing, not actual intent. To this day, I’m not sure I should have done anything differently than I did. In regards to my obedience to the will of my bishop and the growth of that place, my conscience is very clear. I always did my best to be honest and forthcoming, and sometimes direct to a fault. However, while I have many sins as a fallen man, I have never felt that the intentional disobedience of my bishop was ever one of them.
After this confusion had come to its head, the pain which I felt, which came from my own disillusionment about what went wrong, was very difficult for me to bear. Another bishop, who knew my character, came to me and offered me and my family refuge from this pain. He offered us peace in a small parish, somewhere (anywhere) else.
By leaving quietly, I would never have to rehash certain experiences and revisit the hurt while explaining to someone why I thought a change in geography might be good for us, nor insult anyone involved in our “administrative struggles” during the process. This new place would not worry too much or ask too often what brought me to my new assignment. And I would not be called nor tempted to slander any persons whom I had formerly had any misgivings about. This alternative path seemed very desirable to me at the time. Had I chosen to stay, I was concerned that I truly might become bitter. I recall talking about it with my own confessor at the time. The decision was not an easy one, but at the time, I felt like I had no other real decision to make.
Many years have now passed. Much of the hurt has passed, but some of it has not. The parts which have not passed come from leaving behind the place and the people whom we had loved so truly. Thus, I ave written all of this precisely so that I could tell those who might make it this far, that my wife and I loved all of you, truly and honestly. We failed many of you, I’m certain, in our weakness as sinners, but we only and always wanted the best for you and your faith and worked towards that end. We sought diligently to witness a good and moral Christian life. We truly believed if we could express our authentic Christian love to each of you, rain or shine, that this love would shine through you to the little ones whom we all served together. We have forgotten not a one of you. When we left, we did not actively reach out to you because we did not want to be a burden to any of you, not because we did not long to. We figured if you wished to reach out to us, you would, and we were o.k. with that. We also hoped that the distance would allow all of you to focus on serving your bishop and your priests, without the distraction of our presence. I know that could be taken as an egocentric statement, but we knew well how camp life looms large in the minds of campers and staff and I hope our willing distance affirms our belief that the world did not revolve around us, but that your relationships to your bishop and priests were more important than any shortcomings we may have experienced. We believed a healthy distance actually might be best in allowing everyone to move on towards Christ without distraction, though it was the last thing we really wanted. The passing of this young man reminded me that this decision and distance, while still firmly believed to have been the right thing to do, did not come without its suffering as we all, to some degree, drifted apart. And the weight of that reality brings me sadness.
So I say now to those who might read this and understand to some small degree the things of which I speak, my wife and I still love you, all of you. We think of you, we pray for you, we desire the finest earthly blessings for each and every one of you. We long to sing with you the hymns which we so often sung in that church in those woods, those hymns sung by our grandfathers and grandmothers. We long to hear and take part in their melodies with you, like we had done before. But we are also thankful for the gifts we have and the people God has given us to love now, like we did you, but to whom we are called to serve today. I have a new bishop whom I love and obey like the first. I belong to a brotherhood who loves me, though truly unworthy I am. This is not something I long to walk away from, for I know the hurt which walking away creates, whether the walk is right and true, or not.
I didn’t have all the answers then, I don’t have all the answers now. But know for sure, as much as I can muster in telling you, that we always tried to act honestly, truthfully, and lovingly (and do believe we did). Every day, we knew the Lord was watching and we tried to act accordingly, always trying to maintain a high level of integrity so as never to lead any of you astray by our example. I am unaware that we ever lied to you, to our bishop, or any to priest whom we served or served alongside of. Confusions come precisely because we do not always understand one another as well as we think. But understand this about us, our family still and will always love all of you, and are eternally grateful for the time we were given with you. We pray that we might have more times together with you in the future, however they may come. Christ is Risen!