Everybody has an opinion. By writing this, I realize that I am no different.
Nevertheless, if there is one thing that I took away from today—the day in which the Supreme Court of the USA decided on the Obergerfell v. Hodges case—it is that opinions do matter. Or, at least, some do. Maybe mine will matter. Maybe it won’t. I hesitate in adding to the verbosity of the day….
After the news broke this morning, I had a meeting with a young woman. She is a mother of at least two children. I know this because they were sitting in my office playing with my Tangled figurines while she talked with me. We were supposed to be meeting about adult faith formation. But, instead, the conversation turned to her marriage. And physical abuse. And divorce.
I was dumbfounded. Catholics hurting Catholics. Maximus, the comedic relief from Tangled was galloping around the carpet as the kiddos played. Yes, I thought, what about the children?
I had other meetings today. Alcoholism. Porn addiction. Questions of meaning. By three PM, I was ready to get outside and enjoy the first day in a while that wasn’t both rainy and above 90-degrees. So I took out my bike and went for a ride on the Katy Trail.
To old town St. Charles, today. The Missouri River was flooding. Nobody was on the trail. The rubber tires eddied along the fine gravel of the easy train-rail grade to a kind of hypnosis which I needed in order to clear my mind. The air smelled of mud—organic, earthy—the stuff that brought back childhood and play and the woods behind my old house after a rain.
As usually happens on my bike rides, the alone-ness lent itself to my thinking that I could have been anywhere. I was biking in the valley near Buena Vista, Colorado. I was near Tlalpan, Mexico City. Lost somewhere… it was the space I needed for perspective.
Time passed. Emotions eased. I rode through old town St. Charles with some sweat on my back and a feeling of being lighter nonetheless. Exercise really is good for you. Compulsively, I biked down the middle of Main Street (a road paved with bricks) as pedestrians window-shopped or patrons of eateries sat relaxed under umbrellas at tables. It could have been a black-and-white image: see, there am I in the middle on my bike.
An “old time” book store is open and I remember that a friend was looking for a Robin Hood book. I go in and there it is. Everything is old in here. It smells old. Old authors, old editions, old bindings, old building, old times—yet perfectly comfortable. My bike is outside… unlocked… because this is a black-and-white picture and no one steals bikes in these days.
I purchase a book and climb on my bike for home. The book fits square between my handlebars and gear wires. This is truly the stuff of childhood. I begin again on the red-bricked road and head out of town. Yellow-hash marks appear on the path. No one is around and I begin to slalom through them like I did when I was young.
There was another time for all of us.
A time of innocence. A time of bikes. A time when the only thing that broke friendships was mom’s call to come home because it was getting well past dark. But the next afternoon would see friendship renewed. Girl, boy, black, white… it didn’t matter. It was bikes and mud and baseball in the grass. It was a different time. I’m 34… and already I’m saying “it was a different time.”
Yes, I wonder about the future. A thought came into my mind about my parishioners, about their jobs and companies. A thought came into my mind how, as a priest, what would today mean. But most of all I thought about the kids.
When Sandy Hook happened two-and-a-half years ago (yes, that long ago), I remember walking outside and seeing the kids playing on the playground and laughing, totally oblivious to the events of the day. I remember thinking that there is good in this world, good that we needed to enjoy—and especially on that day. I couldn’t help but of think that again; there is something eternal in childhood and in play and in innocence—something that we need to return to and reflect upon and enjoy. It softens hearts, it clears minds, it gives perspective…
So, you want my opinion?
The Facebook postings, the news reports, the instant-analysis—even the issue itself—it is all terribly, terribly short-sighted: it will all pass away. All of this. All of this will pass away. I’m going to be dead—you’re going to be dead—in a few years—5, 10, 50, who knows. And I’ve learned that if I don’t have an eternal perspective, then everything in this life—joys and disappointments both—will be exaggerated and over-valued. And this at the expense of what really matters. And while today matters…. in the grand scheme of things, not so much.
I do not fear today nor tomorrow. Nor am I sad. This will pass. And until then, perspective. Even this news today will be an occasion for glory, an occasion to show the contrast between our eternal hope and the world’s short-sighted, short-lived aspirations. For in heaven, there is no giving or receiving in marriage—and what then? Am I not already married? Are not we all? “Behold, the bridegroom approaches!” we hear. “Whose?” some will say. But we-- we will know.
And then, nobody’s going to care about opinions. Or any of this anymore.