It is good to be with you again through the medium of the Catholic Courier. Over the many years I have been writing “Along the Way,” I have come to appreciate the respite from this weekly obligation afforded by vacation days. It is no less true that, when the time comes to return to the effort, I am very happy to do so.
That certainly is the case this year. I am very happy to be back to ordinary daily life after an especially peaceful and restful vacation. I am grateful to God for the grace of those days, and I certainly extend that gratitude to co-workers whose generosity allows me such a carefree time away.
On the drive back home and for the few days since I returned, I have been trying to name for myself what I count as the gifts of those vacation days. For me, gratitude is best expressed when gifts received are named specifically. Each has a distinct character that is enjoyed anew and understood better when remembered in prayer.
Here are some vacation gifts for which I am deeply grateful:
1) The funeral liturgy of Bishop Edwin B. Broderick, former Bishop of Albany, celebrated on July 7 at St. Pius X in Loudonville. Bishop Broderick was the bishop of my home diocese from 1967-1977. It was he who allowed me to serve at the North American College in Rome. To participate in the liturgy with so many friends from earlier years sent me away with a lively sense of our common call to fullness in Christ. In effect, it provided a context in which to reflect on the experience of the year past and on what the Lord would have me learn from it.
2) The company of my friend Bishop Howard Hubbard. We have been friends for almost 50 years and have vacationed together for most of that time. We had many opportunities to chat during our days together and we did so — about all manner of things: sports, the ups and downs of the year, the books we were reading, news about mutual friends, etc. There were also times when we spoke little and simply enjoyed the silence.
Our mutual and dear friend Father Tom Powers did not join us this year. Last August, Tom retired from his pastorate in Albany and moved to Norfolk, Va. Tom decided to pass on our vacation together this year. Though physically absent, Tom was very much present in our conversations. Friendship is a wonderful thing.
3) The pleasure of reading is always a big part of those summer days. It’s a wonderful experience to see and learn about life through the eyes of another, to learn about past events that have changed our lives, to explore subjects that are new to me. Among the books I enjoyed this summer were Mayflower, The Secret Life of Lobsters, The Story of Pi and Paris to the Moon.
I should also mention Basilica, the story of the building of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I’ve been invited to review the work by R.A. Scotti and gave it a first reading while we were away. It was a pleasure to read the story of a place I have visited so often and which holds so many powerful memories for me.
4) The beauty of nature; the color of sky and water; the brilliance of the night; the rhythm of the tides; the sight of people of all ages enjoying all of these. Who formed the ocean? Who put the stars in their place? Who shapes the clouds or colors the hydrangeas? To have been so close to such beauty with time to enjoy it is indeed a precious gift for which I am deeply grateful.
As I finish writing these comments about the grace of vacation, I am aware the gifts I mention — friends who influence and shape our lives, the treasures of literature, the beauty of nature — are always with us. I hope that a lingering grace of these vacation days will be a deeper daily awareness of — and gratitude for — them.
Peace to all.