I shall not die, but live! Psalm 118:17
I have lost count of how many dioceses I have visited to speak to priests. I know it is well over a hundred in six countries. Every time I get on a plane, I am surprised at myself and wonder how I got to this point in my life. In my guts, I know it is not brains, but sheer nerve.
If I were to trace it back, it would be to that day on a fire escape at Saint Meinrad Seminary, when I was in college. It was a conversion experience, a turning point, a moment of grace.
Up to that point, I was totally lacking in self-confidence, fear-filled and addicted to safety. Talking to a good friend, I blurted out, “Pat, I am so damned tired of being bashful, backward and scared that I am going to do something about it, even if it kills me!”
With that, I made a stand against my own cowardice. I decided that from that point on, I was going to start doing hard things for my own good, regardless of the judgment of others or my own fear of failure — whether it be in speaking, writing or traveling. Seeing how far I can take myself, I have been working this program for almost 50 years.
All of us come to a point in our lives when we are confronted with the decision of revising our beliefs about what is, and is not, possible for ourselves. The desire to protect ourselves from change probably has done more harm to human beings than almost any other choice. Faith demands that we step out and exchange the security of what we know for the uncertainties of the road and the anxieties of adventure.
“George Gray,” by Edgar Lee Masters, says it well. I still come back to it periodically. It reminds me that my life could have as easily gone in another direction.
It goes like this. “I have studied many times the marble which was chiseled for me — a boat with a furled sail at rest in the harbor. In truth it pictures not my destination but my life. For love was offered me and I shrank from its disillusionment; sorrow knocked at my door, but I was afraid; ambition called to me, but I dreaded the chances. Yet all the while I hungered for meaning in my life. And now I know I must lift the sail and catch the winds of destiny wherever they drive the boat. To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness, but life without meaning is the torture of restlessness and vague desire — it is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.”
In “The Fellowship of the Rings,” Bilbo says, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door.”
George Bernard Shaw writes, “The true joy in life is being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances.”
Father J. Ronald Knott