“....forsake not your mother’s teaching, for it is a garland for your head and a pendant for your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)
If being busy was a virtue, then my life is an example of the “virtuous life.” After a couple of surgeries (I am doing great-- nothing that is life threatening), a new grandchild,
and a myriad of appointments and ministry travels, I am in the penalty box for promptness. (Meaning I skipped my April newsletter.) However, my down time during recovery has given me an opportunity to reflect on some important matters in my life and in our world.
As Mother’s Day approaches, it always causes me to ponder and remember my own mother, Virginia, who gave me life in the most difficult of circumstances. Mom always believed in me and cared for me. Her love and life were sacrificial and bore no agenda but to love and serve. She laughed and lived a life that was far from “cushy.” She embraced her sorrows and situation with a gift of grace that gave me a foundation of hope for my life. When I was “broke,“ she mailed me a bit of cash. When I was out of sorts, she reminded me that one can start over and learn from mistakes. She taught me about beauty and the love of growing things (her World War II Victory Garden.) Her yard was immaculate, her house always painted and tidy, and life always lived with joy and appreciation.
I owe so much to women. Ahhhh yes, the women in my life—my wife Sheila being the first and foremost. I always tell her she is the best thing that ever happened to me, aside from Jesus. Sheila and I are now compiling a collection of 40 years of stories (I came to NYC in 1979); and I would very much like to have a chapter called “how Mother Columba and a group of cloistered nuns saved my soul.” Living with Trappist monks and farming with the Trappistine sisters for 5-1/2 years caused lots of confusion among my former pals and rugby mates who somehow felt that I had fallen off the edge of the world. Curiosity got the best of them when they came for visits and made inquiries with my spiritual director Mother Columba (and my teacher Father William). They often left shaking their heads: “What has happened to our captain and friend? He has gone right over the edge.”
Mother Columba, the superior of the Abbey, became my spiritual mentor and dearest of friends. I was reeling from a promiscuous and wild eyed rugby life and never part of her official job description; but her deep wisdom, tender mercies, discernment, guidance, and joy brought me into a desire for Jesus that still remains with me today. When I left the monastery with all of its security, familiarity, and affirmation some 40 years ago and headed to NYC, I was anxious and somewhat fearful.
Mother Columba reminded me that “God is greater than your sorrows and greater than your expectations.” Her parting wisdom was “just be faithful to Jesus.” So the proverbial baton was passed from my mom to Mother Columba, and now to my wonderful, delightful and great partner in life, the mother of my children and grandmother par-excellence, Sheila. Sheila’s love and sturdy grace has been central to all the Lord has done all these years. Aside from hosting countless dinners and outreaches, raising kids in the city, she has directed many national public relations endeavors (Bible Literacy Project in public schools, National Marriage Week USA, the Jesus Film, and more). Our lives have unfolded in unforeseen and wonderful ways. The women in my life have been pivotal in my calling and service to Christ.
Of course, many good and gracious men have played a major role in my life. Tune in next month for my Father’s Day reflection. This Mother’s Day, spend time being with and celebrate dear mothers of all categories. The phase said to Mary, “blessed is the fruit of your womb,” sets a context for the beauty and power of life-bearing womanhood.
Celebrating the life-giving nature and hearts of women who care so deeply for us all,