Pat was very kind, and getting to know him as I did over the next year or so I realized that Pat was very afraid of getting old. He was in his mid thirties, then, and wore his hair longer than most-- just as I did then and I as I do now. He often spoke of how he was going to shave his head bald and keep it shaved when he reached his fortieth birthday. I hoped he wouldn't, and I saw him many years later, and was glad that he had reneged on his self-promise.
My mother drove me to the neat old house where he rented a room just across the street from SMU for my tutoring session. Pat had a full lifetime scholarship to SMU. He had several degrees when SMU realized he wasn't planning on stopping. So they told him he could get one more degree, and that would be the end of it. Pat agreed, took some cash in compensation and ever since then had been one course short of meeting the work for each degree he has pursued! Cool!
That one afternoon, I rang the bell but he didn't answer. My mother had driven off, so I sat down on the porch and waited for him to drive up. After a few minutes, I went inside and climbed the stairs. The door was ajar and music, Crosby Still & Nash, was playing on his stereo. I knocked as I carefully pushed the door open and there he was.
He was so embarrassed-- had lost track of not just the hour, but my guess was he didn't know which day it was-- the incense was not quite masking the other smoke. A pretty woman was by his side on the bed and woke him, acting as if she felt she was in trouble, or perhaps as if he was. I told her I would wait on the porch and give them time to gather themselves. I finally had an idea of who it was that lovingly embroidered the little fish on the bluejeans he wore.
Perhaps not the usual thirteen year old response, but down on the porch, I thought about one day being his age, wondering what it would be like to be afraid of getting older, but also marveling at how wonderful it must be to have a life where on a lazy, warm afternoon, one can put on a good album, make love to a pretty woman, and then lay there together in each other's arms and sleep a bit.
The Jethro Tull, Wondering Aloud, song has always evoked that memory-- my own self in some future day,
Then she comes, spilling crumbs on the bed,The giving.
(and I shake my head!),
and it is only the giving... that makes you,
what you are.
A new friend, but dear to me, posted a link to the song, Sacrifice. She's looking back just now, I suppose..
But you know-- it probably usually is a sacrifice.
I never got to live that warm lazy dream with 4 Way Street playing quietly and a cloud of incense on a sunny afternoon in the arms of a pretty woman, but I have lived the other.
Every now and then, someone will introduce me saying that I am a "pastor" or "preacher." If I had to be defined by what I do, I would prefer to be introduced as a "teacher," that is, as long as we are avoiding mentioning what I am. I am a priest, and there is a distinction.
Priests are about sacrifice. The ordination rite states that the bishops, laying his hands on me was to make me a "pastor, priest and teacher." But it is the priest which stands out-- the mystical and invisible part of what is done.
If there is no sacrifice, if there is no blood, then what a man does is not priest-craft. All religions which have priests, therefore, have sacrifice. Christian, catholic, priests speak of the "unbloodied sacrifice of the Altar" referring to the consecrated Bread and Wine which is the mystical Body and Blood of Christ. But that is but a small part. It is about love-- the sacrifice of love.
The first time I met the (Blessed) Father Charles Caldwell, he told me about sobbing quietly at the back of a church when he happened in on a wedding: "The innocence! They do not know! They believe, like all believe, that their love will be different-- theirs will be the 'happily ever after!'"
It never is. It cannot be. The kind of love that only a few dare to live is painful, it is costly and the mystical blood of it gets all over everything.
In this cynical, anti-religious society we have, I know that at least some acquaintances have referred to my being "a dinosaur" a relic of an age now past. No. If anyone ever dared speak up, it would go like this...
"So, like, you give up a lot of stuff because you believe in God?
"No. I live my life because God is."
"But what if you're wrong, man? What if there is no God? Then you give up all of this stuff and have nothing to show for it."
"No. You just defined love. Because I believe in God, what I have to show for it just isn't visible."
You see, Ian Anderson, for all his anger at the "bloody Church of England" still got it-- "it is only the giving that makes you what you are."