Some years back, I was meeting with a young priest who had just come out and was getting ready to leave his order to live with the man of his life. Talking about gay relationships and marriages, he told me, “Where there is love, Godde is.” He said this so matter-of-factly that what he meant also seemed obvious to me and has been so ever since. Whenever I hear of gay marriage, I can still hear what he said.
Not long ago, his words came back to me for a very different setting.
Shortly before Christmas, during an Ignatian day, we discussed in small groups the question, “What is the Kingdom of Godde for you?” Our small group had already covered other topics before we reached that one. We made up a good group because we talked together honestly and did not stay on the surface.
Suddenly, an idea sprang straight out of my heart and had me say, “I will know it’s the Kingdom of Godde if Godde is with us during our Christmas vacation together.” I meant by this, “if the three generations go to mass and look at and live the Christian dimension of the celebrations together, this will be the Kingdom for me.”
Our Christmas vacations this year were very special. We spent two weeks in harmony, had no sharp moments or times of impatience. We laughed a lot, cooked together, went on walks. We went to mass only once, on Christmas eve, in the little village church next to our home.
After the children left and we were putting back the house together, my mind went back to the harmony and love that reigned among us. “Where love is, Godde is,” I heard my friend say. I also realized that my prayer had been granted: I had experienced Godde’s kingdom over the vacation. Godde had been with us.
Finally, a couple of days ago, we were to visit an old friend who has fallen on hard times: her husband, with whom she has lived a passionate relationship for more than forty years, is now in a nursing home with Alzheimer and she is developing dementia. Last time we saw her had been sad and tiring: after an hour of a conversation during which she was very much the lively woman we knew, she had sunk in bitterly repeating the same points over and over again for ever trying to find a solution or a way out — unsuccessfully.
Meeting her again, therefore, was a somewhat stressful prospect. During the night, I remembered how pleasant it used to be to walk around town with her and her husband and going out to lunch together. Even though twenty years older than we are, we had fun together. She had a very sharp sense of humor and knew how to weave a good tale. When time came to go and meet her, I felt that I had been given a grace by remembering the good times. I was going to our date with love in my heart, rather than dread.
Our friend, Paul and I spent three hours together, over lunch at her place, during which we talked politics, joked, laughed, reminisced about her youth and entrepreneurial successes. Of course, she went back to what haunts her: her husband will never come home; he does not recognize her anymore; it’s as if he were dead, but isn’t. Every time she returned to the topic, we stayed with her. Soon enough, she would snap out of it and we returned to a topic that would have us laughing within minutes. It was as if her sickness had stepped out for a while and we spent time together as we used to. We simply had a great time.
As we walked back to our apartment, I thought, “Where love is, Godde is.” By this I mean that God’s grace and love had been with us during that time. We had received a gift, which we did not recognize at the time, but which became obvious soon afterwards. I guess Godde’s presence is unobtrusive. She does not make a point of being noticed and of taking over the event. Of course, the mere fact of noticing her presence afterwards means that I enjoyed Her presence twice.
One day later, we heard that our friend does not even remember she has seen us.
Can you think of moments when you experienced such love in your life?
Illustration: Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ, The Banquet