This morning I prayed over a group of middle schoolers as they headed out on mission and I thought of you. Such a beautiful pastoral moment on a day that I remember your leaving. I think it was fitting that this was the way I began my day, I could imagine you being the young 20 something who agreed to chaperone said trip, no matter how ornery you were as a child. I could imagine you grown up, thoughtful, curious, with a servants heart.
As you know much has happened since your leaving 16 yrs ago. But these days I sense the passion for pastoral life that I felt in the months following your leaving. That assurance after the heartbreak, the deep knowing that only comes from the “valley of the shadow of death.” These days it is not the assurance of a young pastor but now solidly middle age, more seasoned than I care to acknowledge. My heart is softer now than I those days, I know less too, about the world, about faith, and about God. And yet like that day long ago, I sense the Spirit, I can feel it in my bones, and it sustains me in ways difficult to express.
I can still sense your presence everywhere I go. Sometimes in moments of questioning or exhaustion I can see your eyes, with hands outstretched, ready to receive crumbs from God’s table. I can see you a bit restless in that altar and yet filled with life, love, and curiosity. It is those moments that inspire me to look into the eyes of the children and see divine life.
Life is indeed a mystery and it is short. You taught me that! It was a terrible way to learn it but that’s a gift, another one that you gave me with your leaving. It has taken me a long time to be fully present to the moment — and it is still a work in progress — but I am much better about that, I am trying to live, love, and laugh with abandon. I am also attempting to live my pastoral life in a more joyful and light way. As you know this is so hard for me, my natural inclination is to take things too seriously, to try to control, manage, and fix.
Your leaving was an initial antidote to my bent for fixing. It did not cure me of it — and in fact it triggered a bit of a supersize Jesus complex at first out of my heartbreak — but it did start me on the journey, one that I am thankful for, it has made me a better pastor, a better human really. These days I am often reminded that my being the presence of love in a space is indeed enough. Just like those hours long ago when we gathered around you and your parents and we prayed, cried, and hoped.
Thank you again for being the patron saint of my pastoral calling. I’ll keep at it until I am released from it. You keep companioning me and I’ll keep at being present, I’ll keep at being joyful, I’ll keep on loving. I love you and please know that you are still re-membered.
I’ll see you at the Great Feast!
Peace & Love, Juan Carlos+