Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning from the Past

The vehicle I am assigned is a small truck that is shared with the parish for picking up goods and supplies. I mention that because when I am using it, the radio is rarely on the same station it was on during my previous use. Normally I will change it as quickly as possible, especially if it is on a country station (that’s not necessarily about country music; it is about me).

Last week it was on a station that played oldies from the early 70’s. I did not change it. Rather, I took a trip that was additional to the one I was driving. A trip of nostalgia. In the early 70’s I was just out of college and was living and teaching with the Holy Cross community at Notre Dame High School in Niles Illinois. I now realize that, since I had attended a high school seminary myself, these years were my own prolonged adolescence. I definitely identified more with the students than with the adults with whom I taught. It was, for the most part, fun, at leas at the beginning.

One of the trademarks of my teaching at that time was my use of contemporary music, many of the same songs I was hearing on the radio last week: Bridge over troubled waters; Let it Be; Hey Jude; War; Joy to the World; Maggie May; Don McLean; Gilbert O’Sullivan; Bill Withers; Dylan; Carole King; James Taylor; John Lennon; Neil Young; Joni Mitchell; Janis Ian; Jefferson Starship; America; The Eagles; Three Dog Night; and on and on and on and on. But wait! There’s More!

I used the Rock Opera Tommy by the Who as the entire text for a Junior Religion class I taught called: “Journey to the Center of the Soul.” That was the best. At least I thought so then. Was I a good teacher? That depends of who gets asked. I was creative. I’m not sure how healthy I was, which would be better answered by the faculty than by the students. At the time, I loved it.

If I were to go back in time, would I do it differently? Absolutely. Not the material or the techniques, but the ways of relating. I was very co-dependent. That got worse each year, so I was summoned back to the seminary to complete my theological studies on the path to ordination. Within 3 months, I was invited to leave the community I had been a part of for half my lie. That’s another story, sort of, but it should be obvious by my current state that it was not the end.

At that time, I saw myself as the best there was. Now, I know I wasn’t. I sometimes do an internal cringe when I get flashes of memory from that time, like when I am listening to the music of the era. I now know who I was, and sure understand the adage about life being lived forward but only understood backwards. I’m very grateful I know and understand that, because I know that in time I will look back on today and realize that some of what I consider to be me at my objective best now will embarrass me then. That’s life.

The more I know that, the more I am able to not take myself too seriously or to be overly adamant about everything. “Now, I see as through a glass—darkly; but then, face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1Cor, 13:12)
So how do I make then to be now?


  1. They say that when you're 16 you think you know everything; aT 21 you KNOW you know everything, and somewhere along the years you have to look back at yourself and see what an ass you were.