Monday, August 28, 2006

A Priest, Nun, and Me

Tomorrow will be the first day of classes. I’ll be teaching again at a private university near my home--a Catholic institution. I have a long relationship with Catholics that started when I was seven years old. My very best boyhood friend was a Irish Catholic kid who knew that he wanted to become a priest at a very early age. He was blessed with advanced clarity about what he wanted to do, and his precocious resolve and his unusual choice of life influenced me. He was serious, and kept it up beyond seminary work and grad school. As kids, I was aware of his choice, especially on Sunday mornings, when I wanted to throw a ball and he wanted to handle wine and wafers as he helped out with the Eucharist. I recall with great warmth and deep gratitude our countless fishing trips, glorious summer nights of “kick the can,” fast pitch against the garage door, hot afternoons of meandering baseball, “three outs” against the wall of my house, winter football without sidelines, basketball marathons with outrageous scores, and hours of the sacred joy of playing catch in the middle of the street, transferring possession of a small hard orb from one person to another after its momentary freedom flight.

Next, when I was an undergraduate, I lived in a Baptist dormitory, called “The Baptist Student Center,” or, when vandals got their way, “The Baptist Stud Center.” The kids there were good moral folks but who had this addiction to telling people that they’re going to Hell. I was among them, as well as an elderly woman in her sixties, a graduate student, who was also a nun. In the cafeteria, the two of us, the condemned ones, often had meals together and spoke a lot about religion and her choice of life.

I have fond memories of Christains, even my Baptist friends. I learned much from them, was challenged to learn more myself, and have gained an insight into their thoughts and lives in a way that cannot be learned through pamphlets or college religion classes.

BTW: Somewhere down the priestly line, after years of seminary commitment and graduate school, Johnny, my childhood friend, made a difficult decision against taking the lifetime vows and shortly thereafter got married. I’m sure he applied rigor to the decision, though I wasn’t involved in his life when he made the lane change; by that time we had slowly grown apart. It started when we both went away for college. He became more serious about his religion and me my religion, Islam. We began to see less of each other, and our resolve to keep in touch during school breaks faded. I don’t think religion precipitated the chasm, since all of us of the neighborhood clique dispersed. It’s kinda sad when I think about it.


Anonymous Irving said...

If it saddens you, then perhaps it would be a good time to contact him and catch up. I think you will have a lot to say to each other on your seemingly seperate but actually similair journeys.

Ya Haqq!

8/28/2006 1:19 PM  
Blogger Abuljude said...

It's interesting that you have such good memories of Catholics, while I have a much less sanguine recollection of growing up among many Catholic relatives. Perhaps it's that your Catholic friends knew never to push into proselytism; then again, perhaps it's because your Catholic friends appeared to take their religion much more seriously than their "Christmas-Easter" coreligionists in my family.

Or perhaps, I was just a spoiled little snot...

8/28/2006 7:04 PM  
Blogger fromclay said...

Hmmm, AJ. The snot theory sounds reasonable. JK. Yeah, as kids, the most important thing is the innocence of play, and my friend abided by that, plus a personal choice of priesthood. No small thing.

8/28/2006 9:34 PM  

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