Ah, it’s true: those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer –thank you, Nat King Cole –are coming into the station. Soon, all we’ll have are memories.
One stands out for me. I was on the Jersey Shore, at the Villa Saint Joseph, in company with priests. At supper I had quietly admired one of them, now retired, and listened as he joined in swapping stories about past assignments and colorful incidents from priestly life. It was clear to me that this particular priest had worked hard for over fifty-five years –poor parishes, teaching, caring for the sick. He was an example of a senior priest who had “been in the trenches” and served Jesus and His Church faithfully.
Later that evening I sat alone up on the second-floor porch and enjoyed the sea-breeze. I also smiled as I watched the married couples and families walk along the boardwalk, and had to admit to myself that it sure would be nice to have a wife, kids, or grandkids here with me. Not that I was regretting my priestly celibacy, mind you, because I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I guess I was just imagining “what-if …”
And then I saw the old priest below me on the front porch. He, too, was all alone. He, too, was looking at the couples and families walking-by. And I felt sorry for him. This priest, who had given it his all as a generous, committed priest, there all-by-himself in a rocker on the front porch.
Down I went. Yet, as I approached, I saw his lips moving, as if he were in conversation with a friend; his eyes were closed, although he was not asleep, because the rocker was moving; he hardly looked lonely at all, because there was a smile there …
Then I saw the rosary in his hand, and the breviary (the book of daily readings and prayers, mostly from the Bible, which we priests promise to pray daily) open on his lap … and I realized he was enjoying the best company of all.
I went back upstairs and finished my cigar.
And recalled what Pope Benedict XVI had observed earlier in the summer when he had begun his own vacation, “No one who prays is ever alone.”