HIS MORNING, A MEMORY came to me. It was in 2005, saying farewell to my younger brother. Having risen at 4:00am and packed everything I owned into my car, I was about to embark upon a 1,000 mile drive where a job was waiting for me. Until that moment, it had never occurred to me that I was leaving home forever. I quickly ran upstairs and said farewell to my brother (although he was still half asleep). As I was pulling out of the driveway, it hit me powerfully: I’m leaving my home and family forever.
John A. O’Brien wrote about St. Gabriel Lalemant that “he was grateful to his family, most particularly to his mother, for a childhood of rare happiness and love.” I cannot read those words without calling to mind the childhood my parents gave us. Words cannot describe the happiness and love that was mine. There was suffering, too; but that’s a good thing. I don’t regret a moment of it, because suffering is a necessary part of life. Music was a huge part of my life—and that of my brother, Mark. We spent hours enjoying and playing music: Chopin, Palestrina, Schubert, Mozart, Brahms, and 10,000 others. Whenever I hear certain pieces, my mind is no longer in the year 2016—I’m brought back to the 1990s. Here’s an example, played by a Hofmann pupil:
I remember my brother Mark playing that piece. Indeed, I’ll never forget it.
Anyway, I drove off in 2005, and had many adventures. I experienced more in those years than I can describe. I lived in a really bad part of Corpus Christi, suffered abuse at the hands of priests, met some fantastic people, underwent unbelievable escapades, and learned some amazing skills. (I also met the love of my life.) I don’t know how I had energy for it all, but I did.
I ALMOST NEVER LOOK BACK ON MY LIFE. I’m always: “forward, forward, forward.” But maybe I should spend more time looking back, because doing so helps me realize God has always been with me. He has guided me and taken care of me—in ways I cannot fully explain at this moment—and I did not deserve this. Psalm 22 comes to my mind over and over again:
Though I should walk in the midst of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evils, for thou art with me.
Many of you know I’ve been struggling with catastrophic health issues for the last three years. For a time, I felt I might die. Now I seem to be on the road to recovery, but there is still great suffering. Bringing to mind what God has done for me—the marvelous things He has done for me, especially through the gift of my parents—has given me strength to go forward.
St. John Vianney was once overheard speaking directly to the Lord. (Vianney was a mystic frequently in the presence of God, angels, and saints.) Vianney had been suffering for a long time—especially with penances & mortifications for the holy souls in Purgatory—and our Lord asked him if he was ready to come to Heaven. St. Vianney replied: “Oh, Lord, surely it is Heaven enough for me to stay here on earth, saying Mass and suffering for the souls in Purgatory.” If I do ever become healed, I would like to do something really nice in honor of the Jesuit Martyrs of North America. Of course only God knows what the future holds, but doing something like that seems like it would be “heaven on earth” to me.