Lection Divina – For Thine
The lungs fill slowly to capacity, chest rising. The mouth opens and nostrils flare with the exhale. Bits of light, then dark behind closed eyes. Dots connecting, coming to a mass, turning to a black object…flying. It becomes a bird winging in from the left and flaps furiously as it comes into focus in imagination. Suddenly stationary as its wing flaps increase. It becomes a mass again and a black blob is defecated from dark abdominal walls to the bottom. The blob drops from the sky and falls below the horizon.
Turning white at the midpoint, the bird resumes a more graceful flight pattern from center to right, picking up speed as it flies. In an instant past center it turns into a rocket or bullet or comet. It shines white, burning hot as it moves straight to the right horizon and disappears from sight. It is gone.
A Jungian imagery scholar would have a field day, no doubt.
The words of the prayer, Our Father, were part of the rhythmic, meditative praying, interspersed by a few Hail Mary’s as the energy women held my head and then my heart. We were both floating in different places on different life rafts, while repeating the same prayers …
“Good to see that the Yackers are here today,” announced Fr. Sheridan. “The bell has rung and they are still sitting there turned around in their seats and yacking!” Freshman year at Loyola High School was full of excitement and new friends. Such comments from Fr. John “Buck” Sheridan did little to deter the Frosh din. My three uncles, Henry, Charlie and John Evans and my father-in-law, Vince Bagli, all had Fr. Sheridan, and from year book photos, Fr. Sheridan had forever looked as old as the hills. Our Homeroom class met in St. Mary’s Hall and we had Fr. Sheridan as our proctor, attendance taker, lecturer, and mentor. The fact that a few years later that St. Mary’s Hall was renamed, Sheridan Hall, speaks to the major influence this one man had on the institution. He was more than a combative old codger: Buck Sheridan was a revered Latin and English teacher, who knew his grammar, his spirit, and his place in the Kingdom. With his distinctive wire-rimmed spectacles, out-sticking ears, crooked teeth, and 1/4 inch white hair, he seemed gentle enough. On second glance, his eyes could pierce right through you.
This crop of freshman, however, delivered to Fr. Sheridan a particularly unruly lot to his 1-B homeroom class. Most of us had Fr. John Duggan as instructor for our introductory Latin class. We missed having Fr. Sheridan as our Latin teacher by a quick pen stroke of the registrar, Mr. Kennedy, when he made random class schedule assignments.
“The Yackers” was a loose knit group of frosh which mainly consisted of Rodney Jones, Nick Simon, Tom Morton, Tom Gaeng, and me. We fell silent under the raised eyebrow-scowl of our homeroom teacher.
“As I was saying, the bell has rung. Homeroom is not roll call, it is a time for organizing your day. It is time for prayer to do your best in everything. You know how to pray, don’t you?” He went on to say something derogatory about the Yackers and our lack of respect for authority. Then he lowered the boom. “Mr. Hooper, come to the front of the classroom and demonstrate for the class the proper way to pray. Say the Our Father.”
Embarrassed, I stood and shuffled up to the front of room, hands in a fig leaf pattern. I started out confidently enough. “Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed…”
“What?” interrupted Fr. Sheridan. “We always start a prayer with the Sign of the Cross?” I quickly and silently dashed a cross from my forehead to my Adam’s Apple to my left and right collar bones and began again. “Our Father, who art…” “Mr. Hooper,” inserted Fr. Sheridan, “the Sign of the Cross is accompanied by the words, ‘In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,’ right?” I started again, saying the words out loud. Interrupting a third time, Fr. Sheridan emphasized, “Now, Mr. Hooper, when you sign yourself, the right hand touches the crown of your brow marking Father, goes all the way to the middle of your belly for the Son, and from shoulder blade to shoulder blade for the Holy Ghost. It is supposed to be the Sign of the Cross at Calvary not a simple plus. Now start again.”
Slowly and deliberately I began again and demonstrating the Sign of the Cross, as Fr. Sheridan had instructed. Arriving at the prayer itself, however, I was so flummoxed, I started to forget the words. I stood there red faced as I could hear myself mixing up the lines of a prayer I had memorized as an infant and recited in church thousands of times. The terror I had felt speaking in class as a nervous elementary school student flooded back and I shuffled back to my desk, as Fr. Sheridan called on another student to help recite the prayer, including the Sign of the Cross, without error.
For Thine …
My father is an Episcopalian and in his faith tradition they say a different ending to the Our Father than Catholics. In the Episcopal Church,as with most Protestant churches, the prayer ends with the lines:
For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory,
Forever and ever. AMEN.
From time to time my father went to church with us. Since Catholics have a lengthy pause and priest’s prayer before saying the slightly altered wording, “For the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory are yours, now and forever, AMEN,” he always blurt out FOR THINE… only to be left hanging there with no one else praying aloud with him.
I was conscious of the relative embarrassment my dad felt saying the words to the Our Father, knowing them from rote memory since childhood and then silenced by the Catholic difference in the recitation. At our wedding I convinced the witness, Fr. Leo Murray, another Jesuit from Loyola High School, to join Tracy and me in saying the Episcopal version of the Our Father, when we recited it in the nuptial service.
We felt it was far easier for Catholics to continue a community prayer, once initiated, than for Episcopalians to suffer the pause and awkward silence while in rhythm with their prayer tradition.
Matthew 6:9-13 (ESV).
Pray then like this:
“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Its all the same Father, all the same trinity after all.
Thanks, Fr. Sheridan, for focusing the attention of one of the Yackers, to pause, listen and pray. May my children and grandchildren cherish the same gift.