Being Found By God
Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.
Every once in a while, I recall a saying of one of my English teachers who used to tell her students that the purpose of good literature is to delight and not to teach some kind of moral. While I have found this dictum helpful, quite honestly, there have been times when I have wondered about it. My own experience is that I have often been deeply moved by a good story. It seems that good stories have power to change us. They, often, put us in contact with an aspect of life we have not seriously considered before. They can also be a real grace.
Recently, I came across a true story by John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago. He writes about a student named Tommy. The class involved is that of Theology of Faith. Tommy had long flaxen hair, longer than his teacher had ever seen. Upon first seeing Tommy, Powell filed him under “S”, for strange. Tommy was the “in residence atheist” of the class, the kind most teachers would prefer not having to deal with.
Will I Ever Find God
Somehow, both teacher and student made it through the course. When Tommy came up to turn in his final exam, he said to his teacher, “Do you think I will ever find God?” Without having a whole lot of time to reflect, Powell opted to use a bit of shock therapy. “No,” he said firmly. He waited until Tommy was near the door to respond further. “Tommy, I don’t think you will ever find God, because I am certain that God will find you first.”
Some time later, Fr. Powell learned that Tommy had actually graduated. Powell was grateful. However, there was sad news. Tommy had terminal cancer. One day, Tommy returned to talk with his teacher. He recalled their last conversation. Tommy’s long hair had fallen out, as a result of therapy. However, his eyes were bright and his voice was firm. Tommy told Powell that he had quit looking for God. Instead, he had decided to do something profitable. He would tell those he loved that he loved them.
They Talked The Whole Night
Tommy’s first customer was his own dad, the hardest one. His father was reading the newspaper that day. “Dad, I would like to talk to you,” Tommy said. “Well, talk,” responded his father. “I mean it’s really important”, said Tommy. The newspaper came down a few inches. “Dad, I love you. I just wanted you to know that.” The newspaper fluttered to the floor. They hugged each other and cried. They talked the whole night. It was easier telling his mother and little brother. They, too, cried. “One day, I turned around and God was there, “said Tommy.
Fr. Powell asked Tommy to come back to his class and tell them this story. Reluctant at first, Tommy agreed. Although they set a date, Tommy never made it. Before he died, he asked his teacher to “tell the whole world” for him.
Upon first reading, I was quite moved by this story. I have shared this with others. They, too, were moved. As I prayed over this, I thought of July as being the month dedicated to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Each year, as this feast approaches, we reflect on the deeper meaning of Carmel. With each new reflection, we know that there is always the possibility that a new insight might emerge.
Here, at the monastery, we have always felt that Carmel is for everyone, regardless of one’s specific vocation. One abiding call of Carmel, of course, is that of seeking God. However, due to fatigue, I know of a lot of people who are quite weary of seeking God, even though this is, indeed, a very noble venture. Are we perhaps called, then, to be still and allow ourselves to be found by God?
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