Some people take trips to exotic places, like Hawaii. Back in May, I went to Cleveland. I know how to enjoy myself!
Actually, it was a great experience. I wasn’t on vacation, but on an invitation to address the Cleveland Legatus group. Legatus is a group of men and women, and their families, who are committed to growing and deepening their Catholic faith, and then to bring that faith into the marketplace. I call them Apostles in the Marketplace.
These are people with some wealth, power and influence who seek to use that influence for Christ! I’m always profoundly humbled by the goodness of so many people who seek to make a difference with their lives. The church and the world owe a debt of gratitude to them.
The evening consisted of Rosary, Mass, cocktails and then my talk, followed by dinner. I sort of like the idea of people having a drink before they hear me speak. I might serve cocktails before all of my sermons! There’s an old Country and Western song entitled “The Girls All Get Prettier At Closin’ Time.” I’m wondering if I might write my own version: “My Sermons All Get Better At Drinkin’ Time!”
Which reminds me of an old story of a preacher raging against the evils of drinking. “I’d like to take all the beer, all the whiskey, all the alcohol and dump it in the river!” he shouted. Immediately following his sermon, the choir director addressed the congregation and said: “Please join us in singing: ‘We Will All Gather At The River’.”
While we all know the destructive potential of alcohol (see last week’s column), alcohol can be part of life’s celebration as well. Jesus, fittingly, asked us to ‘remember’ Him in bread and wine, in Word and Sacrament, in death and resurrection, in sorrow and joy. If all the peoples of the world could just join together and have a meal and a drink together, how many of the wars, terrorists acts and tragedies might have been avoided?
The sainted Dr. Mike Boyle, Ph.D., psychologist and psychotherapist, accompanied me. In fact, he did the driving. While I do drive, a round trip of 800 miles was a bit too much to do alone. Legatus put us up at the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport. On the two evenings we were there, Mike and I took long walks on the service road that led to the inn. There were several other businesses along the road, but mostly it was just woods, fields and trees.
On the first night, as we walked the dimly lit road, I looked up to see a big black dog racing full speed right at me. I love dogs, as well as cats. My heart literally leapt for joy to see a dog running uninhibited, unchained and full throttle. In the dog’s exuberance, he jumped all over me, scratching my arms, and, since I’m on Coumidin (a blood thinner), bringing a bit of blood to the surface. But, as Fearless Fosdick used to say: “It was merely a flesh wound!” A second, older dog, jogged slowly behind.
We talked to the dogs’ owner, an interesting man, divorced and seemingly lonely. We asked him if he brought his dogs here very often, and he replied that he had only missed three nights in twelve years!
The contrast was dramatic. We had just been with some of the most influential people in the city. Now we were with one of the humblest men. In each of us there is the spark of the divine. Each of us is part of preparing the world for Christ to create a “New Heaven” and a “New Earth.” In that new creation that we all hope for, life will be forever sacred, and men and women, dogs and cats, will all live together in peace.