A Prayer in the Last Hour

When I am in my last hour, when I am very near death, when I am so soon to change form and travel in unaccountable ways and places, I hope I will be of sound enough mind to murmur this, to our three children, and perhaps, if the Mercy has been especially ridiculously generous, our grandchildren: It was for you that I was here, and for you I prayed every day of your life, and for you I will pray in whatever form I am next to take. Lift the rock, and I am there; cleave the wood, and I am there; call for me, and I will listen; for I hope to be a prayer for you and yours long after I am dust and ash. Amen.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Your First Rosary

Exactly one hour later, to the exact second that you slid into sleep, your father comes up to check on the kids, and he sees you with the rosary tangled in your fingers, and he silently goes downstairs and gets your mother, whose hands are soapy as she turns toward him questioningly from the sink, but she knows him, and she rinses her hands and dries them on that old blue towel, and she comes upstairs too, and they stand over your bed for a few minutes, in the moonlight. Neither of them says a word, but they never forget those few moments, and even now sometimes, for no reason at all, all these years later, one of them remembers, and says something quietly to the other, and they both smile and feel a pang of joy and glory and sorrow. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

—From the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Jesus Is One of Us

The inexplicable genius of Christianity is that it is nonsensical and unreasonable and impossible: a gaunt Arab Jew, speaking Aramaic and Hebrew, copper-skinned, short, slight of build, skilled only in carpentry and scholarly analysis of the Torah, often testy and gnomic when he spoke—this unknown obscure unassuming fellow was the incarnation of that which dreamed and spoke everything that is into being? The star child, the chosen one, the distilled Love that set the worlds to whirl in the void, is a stumpy Jewish guy tucking into his broiled fish and honeycomb?

Yes. No wise king nor visionary noble, no epic warrior nor brilliant merchant, no hero at all, no startling muscles, no beautiful visage causing women and men alike to swoon. Just a brown guy beaten by goons, spat upon in the street, hauled in for questioning by the cops, and trundled finally to the killing ground, one among millions forced at knife point to their deaths, shuffling along in chains and despair. A guy. A nobody. One of us. Us.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace



 

See Who Made the Stars

 
 

Lift up your eyes and see who made the stars.

Her son the priest will not be buried with his brother and parents, but will someday sleep with his brother priests in a field with a low stone wall, along which students walk back and forth to class. I have seen the field and the stone wall and I have seen students run their hands gently along the wall as they walk past the hundreds of sleeping priests.

I know you, I call you each by name. 

I pray with all my heart that this is so.

 

As It Was in the Beginning

Exactly one hour later, to the exact second that you slid into sleep, your father comes up to check on the kids, and he sees you with the rosary tangled in your fingers, and he silently goes downstairs and gets your mother, whose hands are soapy as she turns toward him questioningly from the sink, but she knows him, and she rinses her hands and dries them on that old blue towel, and she comes upstairs too, and they stand over your bed for a few minutes, in the moonlight. Neither of them says a word, but they never forget those few moments, and even now sometimes, for no reason at all, all these years later, one of them remembers, and says something quietly to the other, and they both smile and feel a pang of joy and glory and sorrow. As it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end, amen.

  

The Things We Remember Best

 

The things that we remember the best, the things that matter the most to us when we remember them, are the slightest things, by the measurement of the world; but they are not slight at all. 

They are so huge and crucial and holy that we do not yet have words big enough to fit them, and have to resort to hints and intimations to even get anywhere close.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Listen to Your Own True Self

One thing I have learned as a dad and a husband is that no one listens to me, and they ought not to, either. You ought to listen to your own true self. I can maybe help you tiptoe a little closer to that self by sharing stories that matter, but if you are too cool to play today, swell. I suggest that the sooner you wake up and get it that there actually is a wild grace and defiant courage in people, and there actually are stories that save and change lives, and that there is a lot more going on here than we can ever find words for, and that love and attentiveness and creativity are real and wild and immanent, the cooler and wilder a life you will enjoy while you have such a priceless and inexplicable thing as a life, which goes by awfully fast, my friend.

Believe me, I know.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Perhaps Even Today

 

Very elderly men and women will, without the slightest discomfort, hold hands, often both hands, with every single person who stands next to them and talks to them and listens to them, and the first time I noticed this I thought maybe it was for personal safety and security reasons, like being worried about toppling, but the more I noticed it the more it seemed to me that very elderly men and women have stripped away all self-consciousness and worry about what other people might think, and they take a deep honest genuine pleasure in touching their fellow beings, and being touched, and they know better than anyone else how ancient and holy and moving it is to touch and be touched, and they are going to touch and be touched as much as possible in the time granted them to touch and be touched; which seemed to me, as I strolled away from the wedding reception late that evening, arm in arm with the woman I like best, immensely wise, and something to aspire to, perhaps even today, perhaps as soon as you finish reading these words. 

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Because It's Hard

I was in a monastery the other day and got to talking to a monk who, when I asked him why he was a monk, why he volunteered for a job liable to loneliness, a commitment to an idea no one can ever prove or document, a task that entails years of labor in the belief that somehow washing dishes and cutting grass and listening to pain and chanting in chapel matters in the long scheme of things, said, because it’s hard.

—from the book Eight Whopping Lies and Other Stories of Bruised Grace

Meeting God in the Upper Room