Sunday, December 9, 2007

Thanksgiving "Run" of Faith

I read this at our Thanksgiving meal, had meant to post it in thanks and appreciation and because it speaks to the element of faith that I feel I needed to take in the decision of my treatment and the way I need to live.

It is an excerpt from "Run" by one of my favorite authors, Ann Patchett (thanks and appreciation to Nick for the book). In this excerpt, an aging Catholic priest grapples with faith, even as he has "mistakenly" been identified as a miraculous healer:

Night after day, Father Sullivan was awake with his thoughts. The visit of the two women and all of the subsequent visitors that followed had shaken him. It made him realize how helpless he was to do anything of substance for anyone. It would be incorrect in every sense to say that so near the end of his life he had lost his faith, when in fact God seemed more abundant to him in the Regini Cleri home than any place he had been before. God was in the folds of his bathrobe, the ache of his knees. God saturated the hallways n the form of a pale electrical light. But now that his heart had become so shiftless and unreliable, now that he should be sensing the afterlife like a sweet scent drifting in from the garden, he had started to wonder if there was in fact no afterlife at all. Look at all these true believers who wanted only to live, look at himself, clinging onto this life like a squirrel scrambling up the icy pitch of a roof. In suggesting that there may be nothing ahead of them, he in no way meant to diminish the future; instead, Father Sullivan hoped to elevate the present to a state of the divine. It seemed from this moment of repose that God may well have been life itself. God may have been the baseball games, the beautiful cigarette he smoked alone after checking to see that the bats had been put back behind the closet door. God could have been the masses in which he told people how best to prepare for the glorious life everlasting, the one they couldn’t see as opposed to the one they were living at that exact moment in the pews of the church hall, washed over in the stained glass light. How wrongheaded it seemed now to think that the thrill of heartbeat and breath were just a stepping stone to something greater. What could be greater than the armchair, the window, the snow? Life itself had been holy. We had been brought forth from nothing to see the face of God and in his life Father Sullivan seen it miraculously for eighty-eight years. Why wouldn’t it stand to reason that this had been the whole of existence and now he would retreat back to the nothingness he had come from in order to let someone else have their turn at the view? This was not the working of disbelief. It would be possible to overlook just about anything if you were trained to constantly strain forward to see the power and the glory that was waiting up ahead. What a shame it would have been to miss God while waiting for him.

p. 131, Chapter 6
Ann Patchett
Harper Collins
New York


Unknown said...

I am not sure why -- but this is always one of my favorite poems of faith. I go to it all the time and have it hanging on my wall in the Bronx (with lots of other poems). Dear Amp -- your smile and spirit is an inspiration -- cherry blossoms in a starry sky. We had an ice storm last night and all is encased in brilliant frozen rain. And someday the cherry tree will bloom. Sending love and hugs, Gretta


Everything’s looted, betrayed and traded,
black death’s wing’s overhead.
Everything’s eaten by hunger, unsated,
so why does a light shine ahead?

By day, a mysterious wood, near the town,
breathes out cherry, a cherry perfume.
By night, on July’s sky, deep, and transparent,
new constellations are thrown.

And something miraculous will come
close to the darkness and ruin,
something no-one, no-one, has known,
though we’ve longed for it since we were children.

Anna Akhmatova

Ophelia Chong said...

lovely poem to start my week with.