Not two hours after I posted my last newsletter—alas—I tested positive for Covid. Which meant no visit to family in Pasadena and San Diego. Which meant no catching up with one of my great mentors in life in Alahambra. Which meant no gathering in person with the teachers I’d been preparing to meet with. It was a genuine bummer.
And… after letting that news settle in for a bit, I discovered that if this was going to happen—as it was bound to at some point—being in Flushing (just outside Flint, Michigan) was the very best place to be. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my local hosts who provided a spacious dark place to sleep and sneeze, cough and complain. I remain so touched by those who offered to bring me meals and medicine and, really, anything I could name. And, then, I remain so moved by the experience of being able to wander the great outdoors until I was able to fly again. Since Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland was now off limits, I had to look for places with fewer people. A special gift to me was getting to visit the cemetery where Bishop Ken Untener is buried on the southern edge of Saginaw. I figured, Who really could I infect in a cemetery? No one. But the land vibrated with the memory of those who had loved the Lord, and it was beautiful to see how people continued to tend to Bishop Untener’s grave in particular. He was a great figure in supporting better Catholic preaching in the U.S. and I know that my life has been influenced—even if indirectly—by his work. One of my ongoing consolations in life is reflecting on a homily he ghost-wrote referred to as “Prophets of a Future Not Our Own.”
This past Sunday, the readings were especially difficult ones. If I had been preaching, it would have been very tempting to skip the gospel reading altogether. Who really wants to hear about Jesus coming to divide father from son and mother from daughter? Even fewer people than choose to wander in cemeteries when ill. But then there was the gift of getting to hear a couple of really solid preachers tackle the passage head on. One was the Jesuit pastor of my parish in Georgia. The other a dear colleague from Aquinas. And then, one of my ongoing favorite sites to visit: Journey with Jesus. Tough as it is, I’d love to see us be more daring in talking about conflict done well from the pulpit. There are lots of opportunities to do so! A couple of years ago when working on Redeeming Conflict, I went through the Sunday lectionary and identified a whole range of possibilities for preaching on this topic. You can check it out here!
Next week I will head to St. Vincent DePaul Seminary in Palm Beach, FL to facilitate a three day workshop on Pastoral Leadership in a “Post-Truth” World. Not to steal my own thunder or anything, but the reason for the quotation marks is that I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “post-truth” world. We either figure out the whole truth question or we don’t have a world. This feels like a dicey issue to be addressing in Florida right now… and also the right one. From there I’ll meander my way once again north. But that is a whole two weeks away still… and we all know what more could happen in two weeks!