Dear friends of Ed,
Below is an editorial published in the National Catholic Reporter that is a fitting tribute to a litany of leaders (among those mentioned is Ed) who have profoundly influenced church and society in our lifetimes. I found it a moving and fitting reflection on individual lives given over to the betterment of all.
Editorial: A great cloud of witnesses cheers us on
NCR Editorial Staff | May. 16, 2016
A month of funerals echoes the great hymn to our ancestors from Sirach 44:1: "Let us now praise famous men and women." The deaths of Margaret Brennan (April 28), sister, educator and leader, and Dan Berrigan (April 30), priest, peace activist and poet, remind us how much prophets and visionaries can accomplish by being faithful. They served as torches that lighted our way through the turbulent 1960s, but then evolved with the changing landscapes of need and opportunity in the decades that followed, a time of hope and retrenchment, liberation and repression.
As these models of faith pass to their reward, we will continue to benefit from their influence as part of the "great cloud of witnesses" (Hebrews 12:1) cheering us on. Their dreams and projects -- for women in theology, for an end to war and injustice of all kinds -- fall onto our shoulders and test our courage to stand our ground as countersigns or push the limits of systems that deny the common good. We honor them best by imitating their insight and courage in our own time.
To their number we might add Edward Hays (April 3), mystic of the prairie, who guided so many seekers through the new universe story; or Paul Philibert (April 14), whose scholarship honored the influence of Yves Congar and M-D Chenu, among the many architects of the Second Vatican Council now so resonant in Pope Francis.
Together, these deaths reveal a seamless web connecting us to their mentors, who also devoted their lives to changing the world: Madeleva Wolff, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King, Pete Seeger and so many others.
Fortunately for us, photojournalist Bob Fitch (April 29) was there to capture the setbacks and successes of the rights, peace and justice movements they helped lead.
Our litany to these extraordinary lives leads us to Psalm 90: "Teach us to know the shortness of our days, so we might gain wisdom of heart." Nostalgia, like amnesia, is the enemy of initiative. What challenges depend on us now? A new world is rising from the shell of the old and, as much as any time in history, it needs poets, artists, scholars, activists and midwives to give it shape and purpose. It has never been simple or easy.
Anne Lamott, in Traveling Mercies, tells of a Tibetan belief that "when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that is trying to get itself born -- and that this something needs for us to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible."
That something big and lovely is our future. It is our time and labor to embrace it, for out of every death springs new life.
Dear friends of Ed,
The following reflection is from the National Catholic Reporter and written by a long time friend of Ed's, Tom Fox, who is a former editor and publisher of the newspaper.
Some called Ed Hays a priest. Yes, of course, he was.
However, that was missing the point. He was a priest -- and more. I imagined him as a talented ringmaster of a three-ring circus of holy fools. And, yes, he was a clown, the most vibrant and imaginative one under the tent, impish, mischievous, fun-loving, always ready to entertain the world. We so need laughter, and he knew it.
At the same time, you could sit before him and become absorbed in the stillness he projected, his translucent eyes looking at you and through you. He had a large square face, elongated by a distinctly white beard. He radiated wisdom.
I was blessed to call him my friend. He was always inspirational, a guide in troubled times. I'd otherwise be tempted to call him a spiritual guide, but he'd bop me for saying that. He preferred not to use the words, "spirit" or "spiritual," because he found they played into a dualism that obscured the oneness of creation. In Hays' view, all is one, all is sacred.
His soul took form in his drawings, paintings and writings. He was the author of over 30 books and countless papers, thousands of letters and notes to friends. He wrote a book once and didn't feel comfortable with the publisher's cover choice. He needed total freedom, so he co-founded Forest of Peace Publishing, which published most of his books after that.
He was of the cosmos, but distinctly worldly. He had a passion for teaching prayer. He ministered for decades in prisons and jail cells, offering the incarcerated counsel and hope. He was the founding director of Shantivanam, now called Christ's Peace House of Prayer, retreat center just west of Kansas City that pushed the boundaries of conventional spirituality.
Prayer was Hays' life, his passion. He taught we were meant to live, not just say, prayers.
Like many others, I first encountered him after reading Prayers for the Domestic Church: A Handbook for Worship in the Home, first published in 1979. My wife and I, relatively young parents, were part of a Kansas City-based "Parenting for Peace and Justice" group. The book became, well, sort of our group's bible. By that time, Hays understood that family was the basic unit of culture and that we spend most of our time in our homes. And so it made sense that prayer language should be connected to domestic activities. His prayers aroused awareness of the sacredness of seemingly ordinary acts like eating, bathing, sleeping, awakening and so forth.
By using his prayer books, we added deep meaning to our lives. In sum, every act was a prayer. As if to hammer home the lesson, he wrote, "pray all ways."
In a way, Hays was a precursor for the creation story and the new theology that grew in popularity in the 1980s, underscored by the writings of Thomas Berry. God's love story began with creation and remains seamless. Hays, a mystic, found himself attuned to the story, and he preached it every way he could.
A decade after he wrote Prayers for the Domestic Church, he penned Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim: A Personal Manual for Prayer and Ritual, another book of prayers, rituals, and guidance celebrating the divine presence that unites all people and faiths of the world. In it, he drew on his own life pilgrimage of divine discovery and inspiration. The book was at once planetary and cosmic.
A priest of the Kansas City, Kan., archdiocese, Hays' mission and reach was boundless and always in the process of discovery.
He once told me the Catholic church is like a trampoline. He liked to play on it, bouncing up and down, up and down. Then one day, he said, he bounced so high he had yet to come down. Solidly Catholic, he was ecumenical and inter-religious, and then some.
As a young man, after eight years of study at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo., Hays was ordained a priest for the Kansas City, Kan., archdiocese. From the beginning, he was drawn to a deep prayer life. But he always had an itch that needed scratching. One day he gathered up his courage, as he likes to recall the story, and went to his archbishop, then Ignatius Strecker.
"It took me a while to get my courage up, but I asked him for three months off to go to a Trappist monastery to see if I could learn how to pray again."
To Hays' surprise -- and repeatedly expressed gratitude -- Strecker suggested that three months would not be enough, insisting his young priest take more time and even wander the world, praying with all kinds of people. On the spot, something within him bubbled a response. He wanted to go to India.
"Fine, go," Strecker said.
The year was 1971; Hays was 39. Three months later, he took off with a backpack. "That trip had changed me, changed my thinking," Hays told me.
Just as his soul was uncontainable, so, too, it seemed, was his personality. He once described himself as a "God spy." I felt a shudder within me as he spoke those words. I then began looking upon him more as a planted angel than an ordinary human being.
Don't think for a moment that his cosmic vision and approach took him out of the church, just out of the church as we conventionally know it. His view of Jesus was not always traditional. For example, in 1993 he published Holy Fools and Mad Hatters: A Handbook for Hobbyhorse Holiness. In it is this passage:
"We might gain a unique insight into the personality of Jesus by imagining him wearing a black top hat! It would be no ordinary top hat, but a crazy one like the Mad Hatter's in Alice in Wonderland. Jesus, the Mad Hatter, would open our eyes to the fact that he often seemed as crazy at the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's tea party. What made Jesus appear so eccentric to many was his profound belief in God's presence here and now."
People found in him a quiet presence. Stillness surrounded him. He harnessed and tranquilized wandering souls.
Hays taught that the incarnation was not just a moment in time, but a continuous "infleshing of the Divine Mystery within us." He told me: "If we believe in infleshment, then we see God not as other worldly, as separate, as different, but rather as of this world. The smell of burning leaves, an evergreen, a turkey in the oven ... isn't that the smell of God? Doesn't God taste like pizza, a good steak, salmon?"
Early on he objected to the description given to him as a "secular" rather than "religious" priest. He didn't like the idea of being secular. "It seemed too unreligious," he said.
Years later he was to change his mind. "Today," he announced some years back, "I am delighted to be called 'secular,' 'worldly,' because that is exactly what the Master was. Jesus came to give us a secular, worldly way of loving God, serving God and even worshipping God."
I was among the lucky ones. I managed to end up on Hays' birthday card list. On each birthday (and at Christmas) he would send me a card. It was not just any card, even a Hallmark. It was something he had created, drawn, designed, penned and stamped in numerous ways. It was always fun and foolish. A lift. Just what one might want on a birthday. And it came in an envelope also crafted, designed and stamped with Hays' unique humor. It must have taken hours. He once sent me a dirigible driver's license he created. He lived in another world.
He shocked me recently by saying he prayed daily, by name, for my wife, Hoa, and me. He said he used names in his prayers. We must have been on a long list of named invocations. How could I be more grateful?
Many viewed Hays as their (alas, allow me, "spiritual") advisor. He was, in fact, a profound listener. And why not? The stories he was hearing he knew were all part of the divine plan. They were simply other prayer forms. He received them prayerfully.
As he grew older and more frail, his eyesight weakened and his movements became more limited. Yet he continued to offer counsel and direction to more people than one might imagine. His base was Leavenworth, Kan., his home for many decades.
He never stopped teaching. His last book, Pilate's Prisoner: A Passion Play, published in 2012, dealt with the pains of aging. He imagined Jesus being deprived of crucifixion by Pilate, who spirits him away to his fortress on the coast to quiz him on the meaning of life. So Jesus, like most of us, lived to experience old age, and he shows us how to offer our own suffering as redemptive.
Some weeks back, we met for the last time at a Thai restaurant in Leavenworth. Hays spoke of his coming death.
The subject came up in response to a question I asked him: "What should I do in retirement?" He answered without an iota of morbidity: "Practice dying." He said he had bought a rose and kept it in his study, looking at it over days and weeks as it wilted and withered away. He said the flower watching helped him practice dying.
At first I thought he might have been depressed, but only because I remain a novice. For Hays, death was not in any way an end, but a transition, a transformation, a passage into an even more wondrous, foolish place.
Perhaps it is in foolishness that we allow vulnerability and shed our egos, so necessary for real growth.
Hays never stopped teaching, sharing insights. Many will miss his physical presence, but he has left behind a long legacy of stories, parables and drawings.
Rest in peace, my friend. Your eyes, always so penetrating, are seeing even more clearly now.
The Last Psalm
Dear friends of Ed,
Please know of the deep gratitude of Ed's family—and my own—for all the wonderful responses that have been posted here or expressed in myriad ways through calls, letters, cards, and being present to the experiences of these past weeks.
From the initial emergency, through the week in hospice of slowly and peacefully letting go, to the memorializing of the life and death of this truly extraordinary man, it has been a journey of profound amazing grace.
On the back of Ed’s memorial card was printed the last entry from his book “Psalms for Zero Gravity.” It was not only superbly and joyously fitting for him personally…but was also appropriately titled The Last Psalm.
Praise God everywhere on Earth and in space.
All creation wildly applaud the Almighty One.
Praise God to the outermost edges
of the universe and beyond.
Praise God, all you supernovas and supermarkets,
all you mosques and marketplaces,
all you cathedrals and cabarets,
all you temples and tennis courts.
Praise God with resounding cymbals,
and with crashing markets.
Praise God, you powerful majestic pipe organs
and you New Orleans jazz bands.
Praise God, you circus carousel calliopes,
and all you castanet-clicking gypsy caravans.
Praise God, all you with dancing feet,
and all you with walkers and canes.
Praise our Great God of Ten Thousand Names.
Praise God, all you holy saints in heaven.
Praise God, all you haloless saints on Earth.
Let everything that lives on the Earth
and in the oceans and seas, and in the sea of space,
praise the Life that is and was and shall ever be.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
Edward Hays Funeral Liturgy
Dear friends of Ed,
A long time friend and spiritual companion of Ed's, Fr. Mark Mertes (a fellow priest in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas), delivered the following homily at the Mass of Christian Burial held on Friday, April 8th, at St. Joseph Carmelite Church in Leavenworth, KS. Ed had personally asked of Mark this favor...and Mark was indeed the perfect person.
Don’t Just Believe in the Resurrection, Have One!
So, here we are, remembering our spiritual companion Ed, artist, whimsical, colorful, creative, joy-filled, provocative, hopeful, mystical, grounded, on and on I could go. Maybe it’s best to use his words. Ed was:
A Passionate Troubadour for love, a Sundancer, a Gabriel bringing Good News, encouraging us Planetary Pilgrims to Pray All Ways, to embrace Secular Sanctity and offer up our Prayers of the Domestic Church (these days as Psalms for Zero Gravity), that is the Prayers of the Servants of God. Yes, a Holy Fool, a Mad Hatter he delighted in Magic Lanterns and Feathers on the Wind, Ethiopian Tattoo Shops and The Pursuit of the Great White Rabbit. He unlocked mysteries with Twelve and One Half Keys, he offered spiritual remedies in his Lenten Pharmacy, he proposed solutions in his Great Escape Manual, he inspired in his Quest for the Flaming Pearl. Ed guided us through the Lenten Labyrinth as we make our way to the Mountain of God; just check your Pilgrim’s and Hermit’s Almanac and your Book of Wonders for directions. OK, Ed was a bit of a Hobo on a Honeymoon, a Little Orphan Angela. He was a Christmas Eve Storyteller. A friend, always a friend, he wrote notes, Prayer Notes, he wrote Letters to Exodus Christians; Ed was steadfastly Chasing Joy, even as he was Pilate’s Prisoner…. His Pilgrimage Way of the Cross found its fulfillment in this past Holy Week.
The past Good Friday Ed visited graves at St. Joseph of the Valley Cemetery as was his recent custom. On Easter Monday Ed fell in the garage. Tom found him 20 minutes later. Ed looked at Tom with a gaze of child-like wonder and then closed his eyes. Thus began a six-day process of letting go of his human life; perhaps working through the question “If I let go and fall from here, will anyone catch me?” (Pilate’s Prisoner, p. 253) This past Sunday Ed offered the same words as his Master, “O God, into your hands I commend my Spirit.” And Ed as we know him “disappeared as he was swallowed by the great abyss, for when the Light comes, the lamp of life is extinguished.” (Pilates Prisoner, p. 253). Ed is gone, and Ed is not gone. Ed is absent, and Ed is present. Like our Master and Lord, Jesus, teaches, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” (John 11.26). So how does our friend Ed live on?
As someone who spent his life in service of the revolution of Jesus Christ, the revolution of Love!
Vatican II was the modern vanguard of this Revolution, and Ed was devoted to its passion to share Jesus’ never ending revolutionary life and love. “The source of my belief that there is life after death is that love is stronger than death. The more you love someone, the more you desire never ever to be separated from her or him, even by death…. While there are many things I doubt, I have no doubt that God is love. (Pilate’s Prisoner, p. 224)
There are many Ed Hays stories about how he shared God’s love and joy: a Hayden Chaplain wandering the halls with a dancing cane, initiating and animating liturgy committees at Christ the King and Assumption and Holton and Mayetta, wandering the world on his 1971 sabbatical, living the big dream of the Forest of Peace and the communal life, offering mercy in the State Penitentiary. Ed had a passion for synthesizing so many mysteries under the big tent that is our Catholic Church. As a revolutionary, he spoke Vatican II’s language that defined the Church as a compassionate institution which struggles for social justice, racial and sexual equality, peace and just wages for workers (see Letters to Exodus Christians, p. 124), a Church which creates “Full, conscious and active participation in the Liturgy,” (Sancrosanctum Concilium, a church that celebrates that we “are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a people set apart (1 Peter 2.9).” Ed enfleshed the truth of Gaudium et Spes (1), that “The joys and hopes, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the grief and anguish, of the followers of Christ as well.”
And Ed understood that the “people of our time” means everyone, women, gay persons, clerics who feel called to marriage, seekers of other faiths, those divorced and remarried, those cast off by institutions. Ed followed Jesus’ path to the margins lovingly and absolutely.
Ed, the revolutionary, also respected the institution of the Church. Ed was a faithful son of the Church.
Ed promised obedience to and served under Archbishops Hunkeler, Strecker, Keleher and Naumann. He lived his ministerial priesthood with grace and passion, knowing that it blossomed from his baptismal priesthood of all believers. All throughout his priesthood he kept up with countless brother priests, religious, other clergy, lay leaders, here and abroad; always engaged in conversation, seeking, supporting, encouraging. He has been both a treasure for our diocese and perhaps a thorn in the side for some. Ever pragmatic, Ed wasn’t afraid to name the shortcomings of Holy Mother Church. I recall him telling me once “Holy Mother Church???!!!!. She makes her way through history sleeping with kings and princes; she’s wrapped in the beautifully colorful scarf of the gospel. She saunters through the ages with the Truth in one pocket and scandal in the other.”
Occasionally I was surprised by Ed’s devotion to the church. Once, in 1992, after I had participated in a somewhat “experimental” liturgy at the Heartland Conference, Archbishop Strecker called me into his office. He was livid at what I had done. When I recounted the meeting to Ed, he said, “Well of course he’s mad at you—that’s his job, and your job is to accept this gift of correction that he has given you.” (Ed helped me get a degree from the U of M, the University of Mistakes!)
Ed believed in the Sacrament of NOW.
At Shantivanam in each room there was a folder with an encouragement to go out and enjoy the walks and ponds and woods, and perhaps take a Dragonfly walk; that is, do nothing. Ed taught us to cultivate secular sanctity, an appreciation for the moment that we are in, whether that moment is a graced backyard encounter, waiting in a doctor’s office, changing a diaper, going to the restroom, a moment of physical intimacy, the graced moment of a liturgy, or simply being still. Ed wrote prayers and reflections on every aspect of human daily living reminding us that it is all amazing! All is grace! As a spiritual director/companion, Ed accompanied countless persons. For me, Ed always celebrated what was going on and then used the “stuff” of my life to point a way forward, a challenging way.
Ed, and you, and I live in this Loving NOW of God’s grace.
At Shantivanam the nights were long and star-lit, or simply dark. I recall laying in the stone circle looking up at the stars, waiting for a shooting star, feeling the wind rising up from the valley to the south. There is nothing quite as vast as a prairie night. Ed helped me understand that the Milky Way I was looking at was really my peering outward through the edge of the galaxy, peering out into ancient history, looking at light that began coming our way thousands or tens of thousands of years ago. We are peering into the mystery that Jesus Christ made possible for us, that in our vastness, our minute-ness, we are intimately loved, valued, cared for, eternally! It is the inward gaze of prayer. We are gazing into the mystery of NOW. Gazing outward into the Beloved Community assembled where Ed and Jane and Joe and yes, Mother Angelica, walk hand in hand, each grateful for the gifts the other brings; gazing outward to the Beloved Community where Jesus and Pilate and Magdalen and Therese are friends, and at the same time we are gazing upon the Beloved Community here on earth, at the beauty of what we are as God’s beloved, at the beauty of what we can be when we live Jesus’ revolutionary love now.
We can be a Beloved Community where lifelong Catholics and brand new seekers raise their hands in praise, a Beloved Community where restorationists and Vatican II warriors unite in praise of God, where immigrants and trumpists sit down at a common table, where homophobes and LGBT activists unite in gestures of love and care for the common good…. This is the mystery of who we are and Ed lives in this same Mystery of Divine Love which gathers us today. The Miracle of Love, the miracle of NOW which unfolds within and without the institution, it is the Miracle of Life, to which we commend our Brother Ed. So it is, so may it be!
Ed's Final Blog
Dear friends of Ed,
It is with a heavy heart that I write for Ed who is today in Hospice care. After an accidental fall on Monday in which he severely hit his head, Ed's final days on this earthly plane are limited. Most likely a few days more.
I invite you to reread last weeks blog post in which Ed spoke so movingly of death being a door that we all must journey through. Ed has begun to open the door at the end of his wonderfully blessed life. A blessing that he has shared over and over in so many ways with so many people.
Soon he too will be dancing among the galaxies.
I will update as things progress.
In communion with you all,
The Door of Death
Dear old and new friends,
Good Friday honors the death day of Jesus, and on that day we are forced to ponder what we typically try to deny, our own death. We live but a short span of days, and it is our common belief that the day of our death ends all of them, so no wonder we try to deny its ugly reality. Christians revere the image of the cross, a paradoxical sign of the power of repulsive evil and also the triumph of life over death. Among the countless meanings of the symbol of the cross is the End; so it is used to mark grave sites. Traditionally tomb stones have two dates, the deceased’s birth date and the death date…but something is missing! Following the death date there needs to be those legendary words of the Saturday afternoon matinee movies that ended with the hero or heroine in a hopeless situation: “To be continued!”
This Good Friday consider that Teilhard de Chardin taught the need of new religious symbols, rituals and prayers that embrace our new understanding of the influence of evolution, quantum physics and our place in an ever-expanding cosmos. I propose one new radical change…abandon the cross of Calvary and replace it with Jesus nailed to an old large door! Pause and take a few moments to create in your mind this new image of Cavalry; envision on top of that barren hilltop is a 15-foot-tall, 8-foot-wide, old weathered door to which is nailed the dying Jesus of Nazareth.
A door symbolizes passing from one state to another. Doors open to the mysterious and are an invitation to dare to voyage into the beyond. Death is integral to ongoing evolution and its doorway to new life. Easter celebrates that death releases us from our human limitations to experience the freedom of the unlimited, unrestrained boundless new existence with an entirely innovative relationship to Life and the entire star staggering cosmos. This new Easter existence is beyond the feeble comprehension of our small human minds. Only our imaginations can create a teeny glimmer of the utter magnificence of this new life of living in communion with everyone and everything. Each of us this moment is an unfinished creation awaiting the process of being fully created into our personal Good Friday and Easter.
On our fateful day, like the dying Jesus we will plunge into oneness in the Mystery of Life, God, with all the earth and the cosmos of billions of galaxies. Mark and Matthew in their passions stories relate the last human words of Jesus as he died, “My God, why have you forsaken me?” John has Jesus declare the end of his mission, “It is finished.” Luke has the last words of the dying Jesus, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
I propose new final words of the dying Jesus! His last words were the very same as those of Elizabeth Kubler Ross. She was a Swiss-American psychiatrist and famous pioneer in her work on death and dying. When asked where she was going when she died she said, “I’m going out dancing among the galaxies.”
Dear old and new friends,
The roar we hear when we place a seashell next to our ear is not the ocean but rather the sound of blood surging through the veins in our ear…that’s a fact. Another fact is when we stop getting thirsty that’s when we need to drink more water because when the human body is dehydrated its thirst mechanism shuts off!
Your soul acts similar to the body. When you don’t feel any need to pray is the reason because your soul is dehydrated and its spiritual thirst mechanism has shut down? You’re confusing me, you say. I don’t understand why I should even feel a need for more prayer when daily I say my morning and night prayers, pray before meals and go to church every Sunday. How can my soul be dehydrated? And besides, who ever heard of a thirsty soul?
The mysteries of our soul are better pondered by poets than priests, so I quote the 17th century English poet and playwright, Ben Jonson, “The thirst that from the soul doth rise doth ask a drink divine.” We will never quench the thirst of our souls by simply going to divine wells like churches, shrines or cathedrals. While these are holy places, they are more reminders of the 10,000 holy fountains surrounding us.
Our soul thirsts for the Divine in the beautiful, in harmonic melody, creativity, and awesome astonishment. When you see an apple tree or a springtime magnolia in full bloom, don’t rush on to some appointment; stop and drink in deeply that stunning natural beauty. Do the same with an insignificant, budding yellow-headed dandelion growing out of a crack in your concrete driveway. You say, “But I live in the middle of the asphalt and concrete of the city.” To quench your soul’s thirst, go on a pilgrimage to the closest park full of living springs or to an art museum to make the stations of creative wonder prayerfully moving from painting to painting. Step inside an empty darkened church and quietly sit, absorbing its ambience. Let your soul soak in the echoes of silent meditations and prayers, the great pipe organ previously performing Bach’s soul-stirring Fugue in C minor, inhale the smells of candle wax and incense. Then with your soul staggering drunk from these inebriating moments descend the steps and return to your daily life.
Next week is Holy Week, and on Good Friday John’s Gospel gives our soul craving a voice as on the cross the dying Jesus says, “I thirst.” Saying prayers, regardless how many or how often, can too easily be simply saying words. Going to church can be a physical action that fulfills an obligation but leaves your soul dry as the Sahara. However, praying and attending religious rituals where you invest each one with as much love and devotion as possible can satisfy your thirsty soul.
If you find these spiritual exercises difficult, remember the old Danish proverb, “Pray to God in the storm, but keep on rowing.”
One of Billions
Dear old and new friends,
The earth’s population is now estimated at over 7 billion and projected to be 9.2 billion by 2050. Scientists using telescope data calculate there are more than 100 billion earth-like planets outside our solar system in our Milky Way galaxy alone. The next few coming years most likely will see scientific confirmation of the existence of another earth like ours. Today consider how catastrophic would be news of such a discovery, how our concept of the world’s significance would shrink, and of the cataclysmic effects on religion…and the Bible’s infallible beliefs about creation and even God! Since the consequences are so shattering, we don’t like to speculate on other possible earths in the Milky Way or that there are over 7 billion other people on our planet. Such thoughts only would shrink us to some teensy weensy microscopic insignificance.
We are able to normally go about our daily lives feeling good about ourselves because the world we live in isn’t the size of planet Earth. Each of us lives in a world composed of an intimate circle of family and friends whom we know and think we are important, and more significantly, lovable. Sadly, in our crowded faceless society there are loners who live as outsiders suffering psychological problems and feeling isolated, powerless, and of no value. High powered guns empower the emotionally frail who attempt to become famous by their mass murders at some Mall, saying to themselves, “Now the world will know I exist!”
If only each of us knew—and believed—we are not some historic accidents! We each enter this world with a purpose; each one of us is important since we individually bring a unique work-purpose into this world. While at an early age we can desire to be famous or renowned for our great wealth, it most likely will not be our purpose in life. Whatever work or purpose is ours, even if we do not become famous, that task is never something common or mediocre but an uninspiring life work or vocation.
What is or was your purpose? For some you are midway in living out your purpose, for others like seniors your purpose of parenting might be continuing on but on another higher level. Some purposes are for brief periods of your life, for others they are lifelong. If after some reflection you find that you are still searching for yours, know it can appear at any time or anyplace as this story by British author Donald Nicholl shows.
Nicholl tells the story of a man lying desperately ill in a hospital, almost out of his mind with terror and confusion caused by the drugs he was taking. In the midst of his painful darkness he hears a voice in the corridor outside his room that kept repeating over and over, “I’m so bloody lonely, I could cry!” It was the voice of an old miner who was in a hospital for the first time in his life and had been left alone in his wheelchair in the corridor. Then the man, while deep in his own pit of suffering, hearing over and over the old miner’s grief-stricken cries, said, “I’ll go out and sit by him if it is the last thing I do!” He struggled to get out of his bed and went to sit beside the old miner, and two things happened. The old miner was no longer fearfully alone, and man felt liberated from the terror of his sickness.