For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them. -Matthew 23:3-4
Who should I trust? Whom should I follow? Should I obey the rules of grammar that I was taught, exemplified in the second question leading this paragraph, or should I follow contemporary usage, grammatically expressed in the first question? Should I pay my bills online, handing over my data to people and institutions I will never meet, or should I just do business with people I know, meet on a regular basis in my neighborhood and trust?
This growing up business is not easy, I know, I’ve been at it for 77 years now. I believe I have been blessed with a family and community I knew and trusted as exemplified in my father’s words to me when at thirteen years old, I left home to enter the seminary in a school 300 plus miles from our Chicago home: “Dan, I am happy to see you take this step, and I will continue to support you. Just know you will always be part of our family and you’re welcome back in our home if you change your mind.” Eventually, I did change my mind and return home. Back home, my father asked me what I planned to do. When I told him I wanted to go to college, he looked at me in disbelief and asked: “What, don’t you want to make some money?”
I took all this love and support for granted because that was the home and the family in which I grew up. This family went way beyond our front door, and included our neighbors, some of whom attended the same church we did, some to another. That neighborhood and family also included the Passionist’s monastery whose seminary my father gladly sent me and never regretted. Most of us shopped and supported the same businesses most of which were run by neighbors. If not there, my mother would take the Chicago Northwestern Train (today’s it’s the Metra) downtown, about 11 miles from home, often bringing one or more of us along, to shop at the more sophisticated and exotic merchants like Marshall Fields, Weiboldt’s, Sears, and Goldblatts department stores.
Okay, okay, I hear you: “The world of love and care you experienced as a child is gone forever, and there is no utopia. Be careful, Dan.” God, thank you for the many gifts you’ve given me, and help me identify You in my world as suggested in today’s scripture from Matthew as well as in the words of my mother and Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What you do speaks so loudly, I can’t hear what you are saying.”
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.