It is such a blessing being able to receive guests at our monastery. They often teach me something. They also give me an opportunity to reflect on important issues and people in my life.
Just last week a father and his son were visiting. They had made a few stops on their way to the monastery. It was a father/son road trip. It brought back some great memories I had shared with my dad.
Road trips were a fairly common occurrence with my dad. He was into sports memorabilia and cards. Like most kids, I took an interest in what my dad enjoyed. We connected through sports, baseball cards, and memorabilia. If you are a true collector, this means you have to travel a bit. We never traveled too far. It was often about a six-hour trip, to where my dad grew up, where his childhood team and heroes were signing autographs at baseball card shows. We would always stop and stay with my grandmother on these trips.
At the time I only realized the surface meaning of these trips. My dad wanted to get an autograph. I wanted to meet Hall of Fame baseball players and collect baseball cards. There was a much deeper meaning to these trips that I only fully appreciate now that I reflect.
My dad was forming me.
I’m not even sure if he realized what he was doing at the time. I didn’t consciously pay attention to the small things that I see now. I would watch how he would treat people. I learned public manners in these situations. I learned patience (which I later unlearned and am trying to learn again) by waiting in line for autographs. I could go on and on about all that I learned from my dad through these trips.
My learning didn’t come in the form of formal lessons. It came through the spending of time with my father. I learned how important it is to be in relation to other people and how to be with them.
I learned that ordinary moments are sanctified.
All moments are sanctified.
We had so many six-hour car rides where we could talk, joke, listen to the radio and to just be together. I was truly blessed to have had the opportunity as a kid to spend so much quality time with my dad. There are memories from so many trips and card shows that I remember fondly.
I remember being stuck in highway traffic on a cold, icy, day. I have a moment of happiness then that I can still see vividly. I can see the overpass where we were. I can see the ice on the side of the roads, the white snow, the car interior. This moment stands out to me as something that would have been frustrating or unremarkable. It still makes me happy when I think about this moment.
I remember the trip to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. This trip was probably my longest road trip as a kid. The thing I remember most fondly about this trip is not the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was the reason for the trip. I do, of course, remember the Hall of Fame (since I was a huge baseball fan). When I look back, I remember a particular night in the bed and breakfast that we stayed in. Earlier that night we were at a department store (something like k-mart), and my dad purchased a box of cheaper baseball cards for us to go back and open.
Do I remember the baseball cards?
I do. I remember that we were there opening them. I remember what the room was like. I remember the chair, the colors, etc… Why do I remember these things? I remember them because I was there with my dad. It was the spending time with him that was important. That is what I look back fondly at and remember. It was always about my dad, not the baseball cards.
My favorite memories with my dad are of ordinary moments. They are moments that are sanctified by the fact that he was present. Seeing this, I realize, that he taught me how important it is just to spend time with someone. In some way what we choose to do that allows us to spend time with others is irrelevant. It, obviously, shouldn’t be something immoral or anything along those lines.
Matt Damon’s character in ‘Good Will Hunting’ had a great quote that expresses this sentiment. A woman at the bar he was at gives him her number. She suggests that they could go out for coffee sometime. His response is “yeah, maybe we could just get together and eat a bunch of caramels.” When the woman inquires as to why caramels, he explains “when you think about it, it’s as arbitrary as drinking coffee.” His point is the most important aspect is to be with someone else. It is the presence of the other.
This lesson my dad taught and still teaches me whenever I see him or talk with him comes in handy in community life. I don’t always remember it, but it reminds me the importance of simply being with my brothers. It also reminds me how important it is to simply be present for a guest when they need to talk.
Road trips were caramels and baseball card shows were coffee. Sure, we both enjoyed them, and I’m sure that helped, but it was most important to just be with my dad. That is what I remember.
Thank you, dad, for helping form me for community life, for monastic life.
You taught me so much more that just this, and every time you visit you teach me something else, but today this is my reflection.
One of the main things my dad did to foster my vocation was to spend time with me.
It worked out perfectly that right before Father’s day we had guests at the monastery who caused me to reflect on my dad.
Glory to God for the gift He has given me through my dad.
Pray for me.
I’ll pray for you.