Remembering Joy

One of the Midwest Jesuits, Fr Dennis Dillon, SJ, was sent for his “mandatory semi-retirement” at age 70-ish to our parish, St. Mary Student Parish in Ann Arbor. We hardly let him semi-retire amidst his spiritual companioning, weddings, funerals, masses, staff sponsor for Into the Light reflection group, a summer film series, and more.

But even on the street in Ann Arbor, you would hear … “Hmmmm. Which one read poetry during his homily?” He had begun renewing a lifelong interest of poetry and interweaving it with 40 years or so of celebrating Mass. After a time, the expectation in the congregation waited for his right hand to artfully divide the front and back of the chasuble, then through the open gap in the alb to reach his pocket and the folded poem. Hand and sheets of paper were removed in reverse. Each reading invited us to open our own hearts to how the poem and the Word of God was speaking to us that Sunday.

One of my favorites was “Ode to the Joyful Ones” by Thomas Lux. I’ve linked to the Writer’s Almanac website, who have obtained permission to use the full text (unlike me). 🙂 Lux opens it with an exhortation from an Anglican prayer to “Shield your joyful ones.”

“Because they bring laughter’s / brief amnesia. …”

“Because you don’t have to tell them to walk towards the light.”

If ministry had a desk I could clunk my head on, yesterday would have been one of those head clunking days. But in the midst of my comedy of errors and frailties, I laughed harder with a friend than I have laughed in months. That “brief amnesia” from the darkness of our world right now was so wonderful.

Smiles and laughing memories lit up the rest of the day.

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