Life and Lenten resolutions

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

April 5, 2011

 

Fr. Peter Daly talks about the journal of an 84 year old parishioner who died this Lent and what we can learn from it.

 

            Spiritually mature people never stop growing in grace.

Even late in life they are trying to improve. Trying to be better people and better servants of God.

            This truth about the life of the saints was brought home to me in the death of a former parishioner, Bill Gaiser. Bill had moved away from this parish 20 years ago, before I came here. He had been our County Agricultural Extension Agent for more than 20 years before that.  For the last 20 years he lived in retirement in Florida and New Jersey.

Bill converted to Catholicism as a young man in the 1950s. He took his conversion seriously. He was a reader and studier. He had no illusions about the Church. He saw the sinfulness of her leaders. But he was in love with her truth and her spirituality.

            At his death, among his books and papers, his family found his sketch pad/journal. They shared it with me.

Late in life Bill had taken up pencil drawing. He also had a habit of writing down spiritual thoughts and quotes that he liked.

            In the journal we found his Lenten resolutions. They were made only a few weeks before he died at age 84. I put them in our Sunday bulletin and read them at all the masses.

            This is what we found written in pencil in Bill’s journal.

 

“During Lent and throughout the year:

Give up resentment; decide to forgive.

Give up hatred; decide to return good for evil.

Give up complaining; decide to be grateful.

Give up pessimism; decide to be optimistic.

Give up worry; decide to be trusting.

Give up sadness; decide to be hopeful.

Give up anger; decide to be patient.

Give up pettiness; decide to be noble.

Give up gloom; decide to be joyful.”

 

            In his last weeks on earth Bill was still striving to live the Christian faith. His last journal page finished with a quote from St. Paul:

 

“Rejoice always! In all circumstances give thanks to the Lord, for this is the will of god for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16.

 

            I think Bill had it exactly right. Rejoice always.

 God does not really much care if we give up chocolate or TV. It may help discipline us, but it does not really conform us more to the heart of Christ. As we grow closer to Christ, we really want to give up the “bad attitudes” which are the opposite of the “Beatitudes.”

 

Among the other quotes Bill had in his journal was a quote from William F. Buckley’s book, Nearer to God. Also copied out in pencil, it read:

 

“To ponder the glory of God is to worship a transcendence that gives us a measure of man, near infinitely small on the scale of things, but infinitely great as a complement of divine love.

Who are you buster?

I am the man Christ died for.”

 

Not a bad thought as we finish Lent. Not thought as Bill finished life.

Surely God will be delighted to see somebody who had such a good grasp of what it meant to be his adopted child. His last Lent on earth was devoted to preparation for his first Easter in Heaven.

And thanks for the lines scribbled in your journal Bill. They are an inspiration and reproach to us all. Rest in peace and Happy Easter.