Propped up against my computer screen are four prayer cards--one that has a reproduction of Rembrandt's The Prodigal, another with a detail from Sassetta's, The Ecstasy of St., Francis, yet another with an icon of St. Francis and finally, a card that has a stylized version of the Beatitudes on it. In front of the cards stand two little figurines. One is an angel, playing an accordion. It was given to me by the wife of a woman named Marge who died a number of years ago from cancer. The other is a clown that my Dad gave to me long, long ago.
I have all these things in front of the monitor to remind me of why I spend my life the way that I do. For each in its own way, reminds me of things that are truly important. And on this particular day, as I reflect on the ongoing violence that has captured our nation's attention, in some strange way, they anchor me in my faith.
The Rembrandt reminds me of the simple reality that so many times in my life, I have been like the prodigal, needing to be embraced and accepted, forgiven and loved, by God--and by so many others. I too have squandered some of the precious things of life. But like the prodigal, I am given a second chance--time and again! It also reminds me that I am called to also be like the father in the painting. I am to be loving and accepting and forgiving, even of those who have harmed me.
And why? Well, in part, as the Beatitudes card points out, such an approach to life leads to blessing. Blessing for me, blessing for others.
St. Francis, as is the case with many people, is my favorite "official" saint. I share so many of his values, and like Francis am devoted to working for the health and well-being of the church and the world. I often fall short. And I have nowhere near the courage that he had when it comes to confronting those in power. But that's why we have saints--to hold out an ideal--to give us something to which we can inspire.
The little angel with the accordion? I hate accordion music! But I sure loved the woman it represents. Marge was a spirit-filled soul, who faced death with great integrity. And her wife, the one who gave me the figurine, stood by her to the very end, with great, great love. The angel reminds me every day, that being faithful to my wife, my children, my grandchildren, my m
other and the rest of my family, is indeed, a lifelong commitment.
And the clown. I really loved my Dad. So very, very much. And I think he gave me the clown because he and I both sometimes wore masks--in front of each other, and as we faced into the world. But beneath those masks, he and I were much the same. Two souls, trying to work for a better world, a more peaceful world, a more just world, a more faithful world.
None of that is very profound, but it does serve to keep some pretty important things before me every time I sit down at my desk. And after all, sometimes God is found in the details--even in the knick knacks.