But Don’t Tell the Others

Several years ago I went to visit my sister in law’s family. I was sitting with my youngest niece and asked her how she liked having her sister home from summer camp.

“I like it better when you come to visit.” she said. And meant it sincerely and at that moment I became the favorite uncle and she the favorite niece.

But we don’t tell the others.

Everyone knows that Katie is my favorite, but we never really say that out loud in front of her brother and her other sisters, who I also adore.

With many of my students, I have the same game. There’s Megan, who I call Meggie and she in turn calls me Mikey back. I check out the latest boyfriend to make sure he’s treating her right. If I owned a gun I’d be sure to be cleaning it in his presence. We’ve travelled to alternative breaks together and I’m often inspired by the way she mothers children that we serve.

She’s my favorite…but we don’t tell the others.

There’s Vineet, a graduate student from India, who was the life of the party on our trip to Cleveland, regaling us with stories and then hitting us with a serious note that gave us all something to think about. He’s off to New York after graduating and I still wear the cross he gave me on our Cleveland trip.

He’s my favorite…but we don’t tell the others.

There’s C.J., a bright medical student who has taught me much, blurring the lines between campus minister and student. He’s got one year left before I get to call him “Dr. C.J.” which I think would be a cool name for a rock star–something he already is to many already.

He’s a favorite….but we don’t tell the others.

And In my prayer, I hear God whisper those same words to me.

“Mike, you’re my favorite, but don’t tell the others.”

Instead, God asks us to treat each one that we encounter as our favorite. And sure, some of those we meet will certainly strike a special chord with us and touch our hearts in ways we could not imagine.

And that love that is shared helps us open our hearts just a bit more to let another favorite into our lives. There is always room enough in our hearts for more and we are often challenged to find that room.

My wife and I have no children of our own. If we did they’d probably be just a few years younger than my favorite and youngest niece. Perhaps that’s why she’s incredibly special to me. I have known her nearly her entire life and can even remember when she first started talking. But we longer for a child that did not come to us. But instead of being disappointed at that, we decided to ask ourselves how we can be life-giving in other ways.

How might we treat others as our favorites, as if they were our very own?

I don’t remember who said this to me, but when I first started at UB as the Campus Minister, a parishioner came up to me and said,

“Oh! You’re the new campus minister, right?”

“That would be me, yes!” I replied and introduced myself by name.

“Oh, so this was a big move to Buffalo from New York–how is your family handling that?”

“Well, it’s just my wife and the dog, so it’s not so bad.”

Parishioner: “Oh you don’t have any children?”

Me: “Nope. Just hasn’t happened for us.”

Parishioner: “Well that’s good because you’ve got THIRTY THOUSAND of them now. And they’re all in college.”

Me: “That’s gonna be one hell of a bill.”

Parishioner: “I’ll put a little extra in the basket this week!”

Perhaps in my longing for a child, God reaches out and indeed blesses me with each one who comes before me, throughout my day. In those moments I am asked to be present perhaps, as a parent cannot, for whatever reason. And as I listen, I need not tell them that they are my favorite, because they sense that this is sacred time, as do I.

And that is always more than enough. And it deepens our relationships and helps us experience the presence of God in our lives where we are all the favorites and at the same time, none of us are the favorites.

Because God doesn’t tell the others.

And neither do we. Instead we live our lives encountering glimpses of God in each one. And in that glimpse, we find favorites and we a rich beyond belief for the encounter.

Each one, every one.

Which is why we don’t tell the others.

Andrew Greeley, Rest in Peace

fb36b051175917060da1d07c31403e3816ee0ebcFr. Andrew Greeley, a longtime priest of the Chicago Archdiocese and a noted sociologist who has much influenced my work in young adult ministry, has passed away. PBS had a wonderful feature on Fr. Greeley some time ago which also features his good friend and my pal, Fr. John Cusick.

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Watch Andrew Greeley on PBS. See more from Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly.

A beautiful life, filled with passion. As Fr. Cusick said when the history of the American Catholic Church is written, Greeley will undoubtedly remain as a prolific name. He spoke of the Sex Abuse scandal LONG before anyone else. He saw the dwindling in the pews, but noted the loose affiliation that many Catholics still held on to about their own personal Catholicism (at hospitals and otherwise people still would check off “Catholic” as their religion–sadly that seems to now be changing in many case because too many ignored Greeley’s call to tend to the “unaffiliated” and turn them into “full and active members” of the church.

Chicago dealt with the sex abuse scandal long before other dioceses were paying attention to it. Cardinal Bernadin was smart enough to listen to Greeley who had a done a lot of research on this and together they hammered out a plan. That plan for the Chicago Archdiocese became the basis years later for the Dallas Charter. Chicago still had their problems despite Greeley and Bernadin’s early efforts as many more cases surfaced in forthcoming years–but you don’t exactly equate Chicago with Boston, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia. One of the more infamous stories comes from Cardinal Bernandin’s plea for the Bishops to put something in place with regards to the sex abuse scandal and reportedly one Cardinal soundly rejected the idea saying, “We just don’t have this problem in Boston.” Famous last words from a now infamous Cardinal Law.

While I didn’t know Fr. Greeley, I did have the pleasure of meeting him once at a lecture he gave with Fr. Robert Barron and Cardinal George. Fr. Barron was unknown then to the larger church and he kind of stole the show impressing his priestly companions. Everyone expected a smackdown between the elder statesmen and both were quite cordial to one another. Little known to others, the two men were great Opera companions and would frequently go together to many a performance. Their respect for one another, despite disagreements from time to time was a true sign of collegiality amongst brother priests. And still suspicion reigned: Greeley offered the Archdiocese of Chicago $1 million to create a foundation to help inner-city Catholic students. The archdiocese turned him down without explanation. Amazing how divisions can still take hold within the church.

Fr Greeley was kind enough to send me some of his research which I used in Googling God. He always reminded most of us practitioners that data is important and a careful look at Sociological surveys can tell us a whole lot. That’s a gift I will continue to treasure.

So blessings on his life and may God have mercy on his soul.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May Andy’s soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Child Protection Right Under Abuser’s Noses

My erstwhile assistant, Christine Marino found this about an ad that displays two images, one for adults and another for children. Amazing.

Let’s pray today for all victims of abuse, so we might better offer protection for them and for forgiveness and healing so that all may live in peace. Amen.

Mommy Always Comes After Nap and Snack

IMG_2058-1My dear friend and longtime colleague Ginny Kubitz Moyer has a wonderful new book out that’s perfect for Mother’s Day called Random MOMents of Grace. It’s all about her experience of being a mom and a nice addition to her very fine blog, Random Acts of MOMness which I love for the Fisher-Price toy on her homepage banner alone.

Ginny is the mother of two boys: Matthew and Luke–they’re just about past the toddler stage, but they are boys. And Ginny is this regal woman, a classically trained English scholar. She carries herself so elegantly everywhere she goes, with her hubby Scott, another classy guy himself.

So now picture her with two boys who think poop is the most hysterical thing in the world!

Boys indeed are yucky. They love mud and boogers and playing with food. And somehow this woman rolls with it as the mother of these two…BOYS.

I’m sure I was no worse than Ginny’s boys when I was her age. And one of her chapters jarred a memory of me and my own mother.

I was 6 and in first grade. My elementary school was a block from our apartment house. To get home I would walk out the gate and walk down to the corner mailbox where my mother would be waiting across the street. I would catch her gaze and wave each day. A reunion that I would look forward to each day. Somedays my sister (who is 16 years older) would be the one to meet me and I loved my sister, but she wasn’t mom.

A bit of a backstory. My mother has suffered immensely in her life with the disease of rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other ailments. There were numerous hospital trips and a few times when I was young it was touch and go as to whether mom was going to survive. She rallied each time and today at 85 she’s still around. But to be a little boy with a sick mother was no easy task. It caused me much anxiety and so each reunion with my mom was always a reason to rejoice. It meant a day of health and not a day of hospital, where I was too young to go and visit mom.

So mom would always tell me that “Someone” will be there by the deli to help me cross the street and walk the rest of the way home. I trusted that knowledge and it was as dependable as the sun.

One day I was walking towards the corner with the mailbox and for some reason Robert Kastner thought it would be a good idea to push me…repeatedly. My mother saw two boys pushing and she knew that it couldn’t possibly be her son. I looked across the street and didn’t see mom. I was slightly worried but I was also excited. I am going to cross the street by myself and walk the rest of the way home and surprise mom!

I looked both ways and then another mom decided to give me a hand and cross me. I ran past the three houses to my home and bounded up the stairs. I knocked on the second floor door to my parent’s home.

Nothing. No answer.

Mom was gone. Where did she go? Maybe she went to the hospital and won’t come back and I’ll never see her again? Maybe she’s inside and can’t answer the door? Maybe she just got fed up with me because I wasn’t a good boy at school today?

I started to cry. Loudly. So loudly that my neighbor, Mrs. White heard me from her apartment below mine and then Mrs. Nappi, our landlord upstairs also heard me. They came to see what was wrong. I told them I didn’t know where my mommy was and that I had walked home but mommy was not by the deli and I thought I had just beat her to her post. Mrs. Nappi got the key to our apartment and they went in and searched the whole apartment with me waiting in the living room. It was empty.

Mrs. Nappi, always a little gruff said, “Are you sure you just didn’t walk past her and she didn’t see you?”

“I don’t know!” I replied through tears.

“Don’t worry, Michael, we’ll find her.” Mrs. White said.

We began to go downstairs to try to find mom outside. Mom meanwhile walked up to the school when she didn’t see me pass her on the corner. I had just not seen her (probably because the jerk Robert Kastner was pushing me). Mom had ignored the pushing kids and looked for me in the scrum of other kids, but I was not in that crowd.

As we reached the bottom of the stairs the door opened and there she was: Mom! I ran to her and was screaming crying. My mother was as white as a sheet when she arrived. Alls well that ends well, but this was too much. Simply put, mom missed me in the crowd of pushing kids.

Ginny in her book talks about the importance of routine for a child and the honor she has of picking up her boys “after nap and snack.”

There’s a satisfaction in knowing that I am bound to my little boys as surely as God is bound to me. I reaffirm this covenant over and over, every time I change a diaper or hug someone after a nightmare or pick up my little preschool scholar after nap and snack. And I like knowing that I am providing two little people with a sense of security, that I am giving them the confident assurance that Mom isn’t going anywhere.

My childhood was shattered when that sense of security was breached. My mom WAS in fact where she was supposed to be, but this time she just lost sight of me and I, her. The terror in her heart was probably 10 times mine.

I treasure my mom and know that she has never left me and never will. Moms make that first theological truth for us tangible: God never forgets us. For us to believe that, we need mom to claim us as her own, to always be there and for us to be comforted by those rhythms of the covenant. In a world too often marked by neglect and divorce, mom’s have a tough job in getting their little boys to trust that they will always be there “after nap and snack.” That nothing can ever separate them from mom, just as nothing separates us from God’s love either. It is the heart of our faith.

413FdiAHnML._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ginny’s book outlines all those times that moms reflect God’s presence for us. It’s a gem of a book and I have just purchased a copy for my mom for this mother’s day. Perhaps you might too and let it jar the memory of your now-no-longer-little boy memory?

I will never know the joy of having children. It is an unrealized dream for me. So I have to live vicariously through Ginny. So I treasure her stories. In some ways, Ginny’s writing has mothered me through the death of this unrealized dream, softening the blow a bit and moving me into the other dreams that God always offers me. It is there that I find the mother-God is always there waiting for me.

After nap and snack.

Restoring Dignity

It’s something we’re all called to do for all people. And Ronald Davis helps us all remember this today.

An incredible interview. From 22 words–which is a great site. A h/t to my fabulous colleague Susan Haarman from Loyola Chicago.

I’ve been thinking much about the things that we all think are important lately. We had a student commit suicide this week. I didn’t know him, but he was one of our athletes and he had a child. The University is so big that people often easily get lost in the shuffle. It bothers me that in a University this large that this student felt there was nobody to reach out to.

How many are out there filled with loneliness and think there is nobody that they can turn to? How many are treated with no respect and discarded on a park bench unable to reclaim their own dignity?

These are the problems that we can solve…if we wanted to.

Can You Love Someone Who Tells You to Drop Dead?

A Jewish woman who survived the concentration camps tells the story of the train ride to Auschwitz. She was with her little brother…and she looked down at him on the train and noticed that he didn’t have any shoes on.

And she screamed at him, “What is WRONG with you? Can’t you keep you things together? You’re so stupid!”

Well, it turns out that those were the last words she would ever say to him. They arrived in Auschwitz moments later and were separated and she never saw him again because he did not survive.

And she made a vow to try to never say anything nasty to anyone because she didn’t want those to be the last things she ever said to them.

And it is a similar story that we hear in the Gospel today.

We have a son…who says to his father “Give me my inheritance now!” Which essentially means “Drop dead!”

And we don’t know what the father says in return, but I imagine that he says something like “Take your money and get out! And don’t come back.”

And perhaps those are the last words that he ever said to his son, who he presumes to be dead. Could the father be regretting what was said?

But then, there his son is! The father catches sight of him and runs to embrace him and then throws the biggest party you can even imagine. Because his son, that ungrateful, ne’er do well, carousing, wasteful son –has come back home! Who could ask for anything more!?

Scripture scholars often say that the story is pretty straightforward. We are the Prodigal Son and the Father is God. And God forgives us no matter how far we stray and rejoices when we come home.

And that’s true enough.

But in this story, Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who are upset because Jesus hangs out with tax collectors–who are the lowest of the low. They’re not the IRS guys we know. They’re more like slumlords. Nobody likes a slumlord: Their tenants hate them because they don’t do repairs, the neighborhood hates them because the place is falling apart, the government hates them because they don’t pay their taxes. Nobody likes a slumlord and nobody likes a tax collector.

And so the point of the story is not so much how we are forgiven by God. But rather it’s a challenge to us to ask ourselves if we can forgive as the Father does? Can we forgive those who wish we would drop dead? Can we forgive those who waste our resources? Can we forgive that one colleague who annoys you? And what’s more after knowing how much of a louse that person is to you—and after you may have cast them off and said that you’re not going to be bothered with them—can you not only forgive them but rejoice over them coming back into your life?

Can you throw a party for the person who loves you the least?

Well, we know two things: one is the older brother cannot. And two is that God always does. The older brother tells the father that he shouldn’t throw the prodigal a party but rather he wants a party for himself. But he goes even further and says “You’ve never thrown a party for me and I work all day long and do everything I’m supposed to! You throw a party for this, this SON of yours. I’m your son, not this guy! Now I want what’s coming to me! Why don’t you just drop dead!”

Who does that sound like? These brothers are not all that different, the theme of their life is “drop dead.”

And the Father…this is a man who has experienced the renewal of his life. He was hopeless and somehow God made a way out of no way. His son came home forgetting that his father has cast him off. And in this new life of seeing his son return home has caused him to rejoice and he can’t understand why this older brother doesn’t see that.

“I’ll be dead soon enough and all I have is yours. But tonight! We eat and drink!”

Can we celebrate or even attend a party for someone who we don’t think deserves a celebration?

It would be like throwing a party for the guy who gets promoted instead of you? The younger sister who gets married before you do? The boss who denigrates your decisions but leads the company into profit? The professor who failed you who becomes a Dean? The person who breaks your heart!

It’s not that bad things happen to good people that test our faith, it’s often that good things happen to bad people …and then we become the older brother.

And the truth of the gospel here is not that we passively see God’s forgiveness of both brothers but that we ask ourselves if we too can forgive those who have trespassed against us. So that we may not be led into temptation but delivered from all that is evil.

Because evil wants us not to rejoice. Evil wants to keep us angry, bitter and resentful.

And folks, that is no way to live. And Lent is all about casting things off–and maybe tonight God is calling us to cast off resentments.

And so we come here tonight with our resentments, with the people on our minds who annoy us, who we often find to be unforgivable. And we try to move beyond where we most often find ourselves, in a sea of resentment and try see if our hearts can stretch much farther than we think. To find a place where we can cast off resentments and rejoice in reconciliation. Like the father, whose words rejoice over two sons who once said they wish he would hurry up and die.

In our lives we may have often been the prodigal son and we may often have been the older brother. But tonight, Jesus calls us to be the father.

And if we can be the father may our last words to everyone we know, even those we don’t think much of, be words of love and joy and peace.

So that we might die without resentments but rejoice in a reconciliation that leads us all into eternal life.

Sandy in Long Island

I just returned from Long Island where 8 of us from St Joe’s took some time to help people effected by Superstorm Sandy. We were hosted by Fr. Ted Brown, the director of Campus Ministry at LIU Post and a LaSallette priest (His nameplate on his desk just reads Ted Brown, Friend) and he and his colleague Jeanette, arranged our projects and provided our housing and a few meals making this an affordable and awesome trip.

We headed out to Long Beach where the sand on the beach is now piled high. Know those snow piles you see in winter. They have sand like that. See for yourself.

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We helped a great guy named Bryan who has been putting his own needs far behind the needs of the community. He opened his realty office to be used as a donation headquarters. “Basically anything you can get at a CVS!” he said to us. At the same time he arranges volunteers to go help residents who have lots of damage to their homes.

He sent us to rip out flooring and sub flooring in two different homes and then Jeannette, LIU’s community service coordinator suggested that we help him get his business back on its feet as well. Bryan’s office was also damaged by the tons of water that flowed ashore, but Bryan was too busy helping everyone else to take care of this. So we ripped out his walls and insulation and got two rooms ready for rehab. Here I am crowbarring out his drywall.

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Val, one of my favorite students, had an insightful remark during reflection about the experience. “Outside these homes look fine, even beautiful. But inside! They’re ruined! Do we look carefully enough at the needs of others, because they might look OK, but on the inside, they may be in need of help.” Here we see Christine ripping out rotted floor boards from a home.

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That young lady will be a great occupational therapist!

So pray for the people in these areas, who are still recovering. They need our prayers and now that the CNN cameras have gone away, many feel isolated and alone and quite a bit desperate.

As we get back to our lives, let us remember to look more deeply at the needs of others and know that what we see may not tell the whole story.

We Must Not Stay Silent

Close to 30 dead…most of them children…Suburban Connecticut…

The words haunt us all. Children somehow makes this worse as if killing an adult makes it somehow easier to take. Newtown…a place people move to because it’s supposedly safer.

None of it makes sense to any of us. A sadistic person, apparently only 24 years old is the killer. Someone known to those inside the school. A man the same age as many of my students, with a name close to a student who dropped my class earlier in the year. Who knows why, as if knowing why might make it easier to understand. It doesn’t…it never will.

When things are senseless to us we ask the question “Why?” Why does God allow such horror? HOW can God allow such loss of life?

Friends on Facebook write words like “speechless”, “too early for words.

NOBODY deserves to die at the hands of another, a senseless crime and a horrible death. Deaths too soon, much too soon for children. Sacred life, all. Taken unjustly.

Evil wants us to be muted. Evil hopes fervently that we stay silent. Evil hopes to stun us so violently that we are unable to rise above the violence of today and speak in the name of peace and justice.

It’s hard to believe that God can redeem this…that God can embrace each child, each person, killed and make them whole once again. After all, a violently planned murder, 30 counts of murder, an open and shut case…makes sense to nobody.

Larger than Columbine. Blitzer reports. And we thought evil could not do worse.

We need to believe that evil does not rule the day today. God is greater than all of this. While we are sitting in sadness and parents and families sit with the senseless and horrifying loss, evil laughs at our silence.

So I write…and I hope you will too. Write more than your fears and your stunned disbelief. Write about redemption and hope and light overcoming darkness. Write about how God doesn’t think this is OK. Write about how God cries with us at each murder. God, a victim of murder Himself, hanging from a cross at the hands of another, cried in pain and cries again today.

Write about that. Speak about that. Preach about that.

We need that voice, but often settle for the voice of vengeance.

If anyone understands their pain it is Mary, seeing injustice, even with the knowledge that Christ’s death saves us, the pain doesn’t stop for a mother who watches her child die.

And vengeance is our first reaction, a natural thought. We quote the bible’s “an eye for an eye” forgetting that the line refers to limiting violence not promoting it. It stopped people from butchering others when they were hurt or violated by another to a lesser degree. “No MORE than an eye for an eye.”

Stopping the cycle of violence begins with our voices. Voices of hope, that hope beyond hopelessness. This hope brings us into belief, fervent belief that God can and does redeem all evil, especially when we see how much destruction evil can bring.

Gun control, anti-violence campaigns, cable news will tell us all of these angles. As if evil will be stopped, by any of these political initiatives.

Jesus reminded us that “the poor you will always have with you.” Perhaps he meant that the world will always be broken. A world where parents lose children because they sent them to kindergarten, we’re THAT broken.

My wife works in a school. I can’t imagine her not coming home simply because she taught children. Evil is trying to make us afraid, fearing that we can’t overcome this. That God doesn’t care.

And because our world is broken, it is indeed in need of God’s healing. And it is up to us to speak. LOUDLY…

Because this is not OK. This is not of God. And that God somehow, someway is able to redeem the worst of all of this evil.

Ghandi, a man of peace, reminds us that we need to be the change that we want to see in the world. And may our voices rise today…to remind all that we are not defeated by hopelessness and that in our deepest heart, we long to be a people of peace.

My heart goes out to all of those who lost loved ones today. For Christmas presents that go unopened and for parents who have hearts full of rage and anger at the senselessness of it all. Indeed, God is there longing for peace, holding your child, all the children, all the dead. They now know peace. A peace we can only hope for. A peace that children remind us is within our reach, if we only believe. A peace that is truly awesome to believe can be ours. A peace we need to pray for today so that no child’s voice can ever be stilled again by gunfire, but can instead, sing with great hope.

Remembering Marty

My friend Phil Giubileo, over at the Play by Play blog took some time for some memories of Marty Glickman, the famed New York radio sportscaster who I came to know well during our undergraduate days at Fordham. He was invited by the acclaimed Bob Papa, now the voice of the NY Giants amongst other things, to become our broadcast coach at Fordham during our activity period. It was a rare chance for a bunch of young broadcasters to be tutored by the man known as the “Dean of Broadcasters.” Marty had invented much of sports radio play by play broadcasting and was one of the first “jock sportscasters” after being a track and football star at Syracuse and being named to the 1936 Olympic team only to be snubbed by anti-semitism.

Marty was a great guy and was a great mentor. You’d look forward to his praise but you’d invite his criticism as well. It only made you better and he was quick to make your mistakes obvious. If you fell behind a play he’d point it out. “I heard that whistle 3 whole seconds before you called that guy down!” When on the radio sometimes it’s easy to get lazy because you know nobody else is watching the action that you are–especially obscure teams that aren’t televised. You don’t have to “call the play” as closely on TV because the action is right there. But on radio, description is key and Marty gave you no slack in giving descriptions of ballgames.

Someone would say “That was a great play!” And Marty would scream, “That word doesn’t mean anything! It was a GREAT play–well, WHY THE HELL WAS IT GREAT?” You’d then sheepishly tell Marty that the player made a leaping one handed grab. And he’d say “NOW THAT’S a description. Have those words ready.”

I tried pretty hard to be a broadcaster and fell short of “the dream” of doing it full-time as a career with a major league team. The truth is that I just didn’t love it as much as some of my classmates and colleagues. I was always being pulled away by ministry. When I started to consider leaving broadcasting someone asked me why I got into the business in the first place and I was able to summon two reasons.

The first was that I wasn’t a great athlete in high school but loved playing and being around the team. I knew a lot about sports and we’d all sit on the sidelines and talk until we got into the game. So I had some natural talent that other guys would encourage in me. I kept score and knew the nuances of the game and I had a good speaking voice. I did PA announcing for the football and basketball games and would often call it play by play back then–not really understanding the difference between play by play and public address announcing, but it got me sharp. So I pursued that as a career in college.

The second came from Marty. And I tell this story in my book Loving Work. Marty was a master of description and so I asked him how I can improve this skill for myself. He said to me, “You know what challenges me? Each year I do a circus on the “radio for the blind”. Man that’s tough. I mean how do you describe an Elephant to someone who can’t see what it is?” Marty had invited us college guys weeks later to a dinner held in his honor for a Syracuse University Scholarship named for him. It was at Windows on the World in the World Trade Center and I was seated next to a man who was blind. Marty developed a friendship with him for many years and it was that night that I asked him how he knew Marty and he simply said, “Well, Marty’s been my eyes for over 50 years.”

I thought that was the coolest thing in the world. Everything else didn’t matter. I vowed to keep people like this guy in mind every time I was on the air. Description was paramount. Beth Kelly was no longer just a Sophomore forward, she was an apple cheeked Irish colleen that stood 5’8″ tall. Damon Lopez was a barrel-chested 6’8″, 240. Even names were described well. Mark Blazejewski was pronounced BLAH-JA-EFF-SKI. All stuff that Marty taught us. Uniforms–what were the colors. Michael Kay on Yankeee games talks about the interlocking “NY” on Yankee hats–where do you think he learned that? Of course, at Fordham, from Marty.

But it was my altruism that was exciting me, not the thrill of being on the air, or in sports. And I could feel Marty whispering in my ear that it was OK to leave and to follow what you were clearly more called to do.

Often Marty’s best advice was stuff that he taught us outside of broadcasting: Stay fit, eat well, always wear a hat, but never indoors to stay warm in the winter and to take care of one another. When asked what his greatest achievement was, Marty never hesitated: “Marrying my wife.” Marge Glickman was a wonderful woman and Marty had married well. He recalled that when he got his first sponsor, he took that money and Marge and him “got married on that money.” Then the sponsor dumped them. “But we stayed married!” he quipped. “For better, or for worse, for richer, for poorer. And all that stuff. We learned that early.”

Marty was a champion of seeking out higher values. Besides his experience in the 1936 Olympics, Marty was decisively anti-gambling. If you mentioned a point spread, Marty would get all over you. “You don’t need to contribute to gamblers!” he’d yell. He once told us that his father lost the family business gambling and so he had made a decision that he was not going to support gambling in any way. He hated the environment around boxing and told us to be careful around that element if we got involved with broadcasting boxing.

I wonder what he’d think of broadcasters today. He hated Dick Vitale’s style on College Basketball and the entertainment value of broadcasting is now much more paramount than the journalistic value at times. I often think he’d understand that, but hate it at the same time. I do think he’d love the internet and would encourage us to develop our own shows without the bureaucrats running the airwaves. Something about the democracy of the internet would appeal to his sensibilities I think.

A final story: I had a deja vu experience of Marty when I had graduated from Graduate School at Fordham. As many of you know, my father is an Irish immigrant. He never went to high school, never mind college. He worked hard to send me to school and I was able to make it to the next level with some help from Fordham and from the Paulist Fathers. He was very proud of me that day.

After the ceremony the Dean came over and met my mom and dad and sister and he already knew Marion, my wife. He said to my father, “Michael is one of our best students, we’re very proud to say that he’s a graduate of our school today and to have your family with us today.”

My father beamed. And then I remembered Marty telling nearly the same story about his mother and a Syracuse professor who came and said “I must meet the mother of one of my favorite students.” His mother could only afford to come to graduation from the city and Marty welled up…”My immigrant mother could never imagine that such a learned man would say anything like that to her! That’s why Syracuse is so special to me.”

And Fordham to me. Not only because of that one story.

But also, because it was there that I met Marty Glickman.

Outward and Inward Hearts

On today’s feast of Christ the King, Fr. Jack Ledwon, my pastor, reminded me in this morning’s homily that Jesus is really the King of Hearts, a king like no other. The only space that Jesus looks to own is the space of our hearts.

It gave me pause when he asked “How much of your heart are you willing to let him rule?”

The truth of much of our lives is that of our quiet desperation to belabor an old adage. Often we go unreflective, not taking much time to pray and just moving from one thing to another…perhaps even one sin to another at times. And we do very little reflection about who we are and how we are living, hoping that matters just sort themselves out.

Recently, I wrote about how we ministers in parish life spend most of out time maintaining. We maintain the programs and existing ministries that we’ve established. We maintain the important sacramental life of the church–those outward symbols of our faith. I argued recently that we need to spend less time looking at these inward matters and spend more time encouraging parishioners to look outward…to spend more time outside of the pews as a community serving the needs of others, especially the poor. How do we convert others to our side? By letting them see who we are and they will KNOW we are Christians by our love.

But how will we know that we are Christians? How will we deepen our experience? How do we take our OUTWARD experience and move INWARD reflecting on what we’re doing and asking ourselves what is going on in our hearts? How much of our hearts do we allow to be touched by our experiences and how have we had our hearts changed by Christ?

How much time do we spend thinking about how our hearts might be and are already being changed by God?

The truth is that our hearts can stretch much farther than we think they can. But in order for that to happen, we have to be willing to look inwardly at the deepest part of ourselves and be unafraid to see where God is touching our hearts and where we shut God out, when we are unwilling to let God or others in.

And that means we must take time to reflect and our parishes need to take some time to encourage that.

I can already hear the groaning from some. Don’t we all have some resistance to looking deeply within our own hearts? Don’t we all complain about not having enough time for all the various activities in our lives already? When will we squeeze in our prayer time?

Perhaps where God is speaking to us most in our busy world is in this uncomfortable space where we know and understand that we need and want to reflect, but that it also isn’t a priority for most of us. And maybe it should be. What if we prioritized that prayer-relationship with God just for the period of Advent?

If God is with us and more importantly within us, then we don’t have that far to go to reach just a bit more often to God in our hearts. In this season where we often believe that we wait for God at Christmas may we realize that God also waits for us.

Let us rush towards God with our whole hearts this Advent and spend more time with God in our hearts.

That might just be enough to change our hearts forever.