Sunday, September 8, 2013
A WAYFARING STRANGER
The first boy told everyone who would listen that more than anything else in the world he wanted to, and was going to, become a priest. There was no doubt in his or our minds. He-was-going-to-become-a–priest! He was a beautiful boy. As someone said, he was so pretty he should have been a girl. His skin glowed, and was the color of café au lait. His hair was curly and jet black. And when he smiled, the sun shone brighter. He was indeed a beautiful boy. Our classmates knew that he would be an exceptional priest. At our daily Masses he knelt perfectly straight on the hard wooden kneelers, hands folded in obeisance to God who he was preparing to serve. We knew that he was well on his way to priesthood.
At a very young age he entered a seminary to begin the rigorous studies to become one of the Lord’s own. Many years passed. Periodically when I returned home I asked about him, but no one had any information about him. Somehow we all believed that he had become a successful priest. In my mind’s eye I could see him ministering in a parish somewhere near or far away. I hoped his parishioners were enjoying the young priest who so passionately wanted to serve them.
The second boy realized his dream and became a doctor – a gynecologist. A friend who had just given birth looked up at a group of interns crowded around her bed as her doctor examined her, and she was chagrined to see a familiar face smiling at her. It was our old classmate. His dream had been realized. But he knew nothing of our golden boy, the priest-to-be.
The third boy became a doctor also, a dermatologist, who I had occasion to visit after running into him and his sister in another city where I resided. I asked about our friend who wanted to become a priest, but he knew nothing of him.
Years passed. I always asked about him, but nobody knew where he was or if he had become a priest. I remembered him in prayer whenever I thought of his lofty ambition, and prayed that he was a successful priest.
Imagine my shock one morning when I read the obituary section in the daily paper and saw my friend’s name. The obituary said at the time of his death, he worked at a clinic for HIV patients in a major East Coast city. What was even more shocking than his death was that there was no mention of his priesthood. That shock was compounded by another shock: he specifically requested that there be no church service. My heart broke! What could have happened to separate him from our Church? What turned his dream of being a priest into a nightmare? I wept for his broken and unrealized dreams, and for this friend whose ambition was crushed somehow.
I often think of my childhood friend who went into the seminary barely in his teens, and it is always with great sadness that I remember him. I’ve never known anyone who wanted to become a priest, let alone someone with the passion that he had for the priesthood. Whatever happened must have been devastating to cause him to abandon that dream and to not even want prayers as his body was recommitted to the earth.
This wayfaring stranger who as a beautiful, young innocent was making his way through the world, died, sick and disappointed with his Church and maybe even angry at God. Now this wayfaring stranger is a stranger no more. He is now at Home where there is no sickness or fear, but only goodness, peace, and the presence and love of God.
May my friend requiescat en pax.