Friday, August 7, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around

Ever since he first appeared on the Colbert Report, Father James Martin, SJ, has been one of my favorite voices of faith and reason, combining worldly intelligence and credentials put to use serving God as a Jesuit priest.

I mainly want to post the link to his story of conversion, as reported through his Alma Mater, the Wharton School of Business at U Penn. I came across this particular story in an article in the NY Times today about the impending exposure of GE's unethical financial reporting activities. These were the same shady tactics that had given Fr. Martin pause back when he worked in the financial reporting department at GE, the exact practices which GE had now been found liable for $50 million had been documented in one of his book's decades ago, “In Good Company: The Fast Track From the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity and Obedience.” Father Martin himself describes his own glee, feeling vindicated all these years later, at America Magazine.

Check out an excerpt in Fr. Martin's own words at how he somehow ended up in his unlikely position today. Referring to his background in finance that led him to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service in Kenya and eventually establish the Mikono Centre, which helped channel investment funds for the refugee community:

The "somehow" of Father Martin's priestly vocation haunts him when he thinks about it. Somehow he set out on a lifetime career in business and ended up a priest - almost despite himself. "Divine Providence," the theologians call it. "If I had tried to design a perfect background to work at the Mikono Centre," he observes, "I could not have done as well as I did by accident."

It's a hope-giving tale of real life karmic justice. Made me smile.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Death and Timing

A friend of a friend of mine just lost his mother. He is in his twenties and they have had a tumultuous relationship due to her decades-long alcoholism. He had just returned from living abroad for an extended period of time and had only been back for over a week. Their relationship had been strained and painful for him, and she was known and gossiped about as the town drunk.

Then one morning, he found her in bed, dead. She had not been dead for that long when he found her. He, being in the next room, had not heard a thing.

My friend recounted to me how he had described his last night with his mother. He had cooked her dinner and it was the first time that they had sat together and talked in years. He said it was a proper talk, no fighting, and that it had given him hope. That very same night, with no indication, she suffered a massive heart attack and died.

Everyone had always talked about how it would happen, whether it would be an overdose, or something related. Ultimately, a premature death for her was predicted as inevitable after the way she had abused her body for most of her life.

So now he is struggling to understand why God would take his mother just as they had began to make amends. It does seem like particularly awful timing, but it could have been worse. They could have had a fight that night. Or he could have still have been abroad and lived with the guilt of not having been there, to try to make things right.

So I will keep him in my prayers and hope that God bestows graces on him that will bring good out of this terribly painful tragedy. This reminds me of when Obama's grandmother died the night before he was elected president. If one had no faith, her death epitomized the cruel randomness and injustice of our world. But through the lens of faith, it illustrates the often tragic poetry of life... and necessarily keeps one humble so we do not exalt ourselves. Particularly when God asks big things of us, I think we can also expect Him to remind us who is in ultimately in charge.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Prayer on Timing

A Prayer by Teilhard de Chardin, via Ignatian Spirituality on Facebook.

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way
to something unknown,
something new.
Yet it is the law of all progress that is made
by passing through some stages of instability
and that may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually. Let them grow.
Let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Do not try to force them on
as though you could be today what time
-- that is to say, grace --
and circumstances
acting on your own good will
will make you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new Spirit
gradually forming in you will be.

Give our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.
Above all, trust in the slow work of God,
our loving vine-dresser.