Father Simeon Daly, OSB - Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and other Musings of an Aged Monk


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   Afternoon in Dusseld...
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Afternoon in Dusseldorf
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I don't know how to begin my little story. Many details before and after this special day in my life would help to sharpen its focus and add color. Even of the day itself there could be a longer and shorter version. I'm aiming for the shorter one. The fact is I do not recall ever telling the centerpiece of this story of a day that has so touched my heart and so colored my life. As they say, there is a time to keep silent and a time to speak. Until now, my inner voices have counseled silence. Now, after a near death experience, I feel my tongue has been loosened. That near death experience, by the way, was not one of sweetness and light, but a terrible aching abyss at the prospect of having to leave family and friends. Now I feel almost driven to express my thanks for the loves I enjoy. Perhaps I am a bit too eager to express my gratitude. In any case I know I have been blessed.

It was 1967. I was in Dusseldorf, Germany, on a day's outing with a friend of some nine years at the time. I was forty-five, and had been a professed monk for twenty-three years. It was a July day, hot and sultry. Later in fact it rained heavily and I like to tell of how we shared a small umbrella. "Gallant" that I was, I held it over both of us, only to learn later that I had protected myself while she was getting drenched. Alas.

It was early afternoon. We were seated on a bench on the bank of the Dussel river. At an appropriate moment, my friend turned to me, looked deep into my eyes and said: "I have a confession to make." Until this moment of my relating this event to you, I have not thought of what must have been going through her mind. What risk was she taking in speaking out? Would I shrivel up and fade away? Would I, perhaps, at the other extreme, fall into her arms, and thereby create havoc for both of us? She was risking a lot and being very trusting when she told me of her love for me. I was not totally surprised that she cared for me deeply. After all, I was not blind, deaf or insensitive. I was a little stunned, though, that she expressed herself so explicitly. After a few brief but awkward moments, I said: "By a cruddy, cruddy stream she professed her love for me." We both broke up. The tension was broken. With ease we spoke of our mutual love. Although she knew it, I quite properly explained to her that while I had feelings, much the same as hers, I also had commitments as a celibate monk and priest that I wished ever to honor. I accepted her love and proffered mine within those parameters.

It has been a mark of our friendship in the almost thirty years since, that she has never ever embarrassed me, has never tried to possess me, nor take over any aspect of my life. Her love has been generous, unselfish and expansive. I hope I have given in kind. It is fair to say that my day in Dusseldorf that sultry afternoon was a focal point in my life. I remain forever grateful that a friend took a risk in expressing her love for me. We have enjoyed half a life of precious friendship, and I have been a richer person for that risk. Thank you, Lois!
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