My older sister gave me some good advice. She had just gotten married and I was in the Passionists’ High School minor seminary. We had those schools in the ‘60’s. I wrote to her telling her that she and my new brother-in-law could always call on me when they needed any advice on how best to live their married life. I think I still have the letter she wrote back to me. She did not like my offer. In fact, it was more like a complete rejection. She told me to live my life and let her live hers.
Phew! That came as quite a shock to me in 1959. I remember very few letters I received in my high school days, but that one I can almost quote. Luckily, I grudgingly took her advice, and we remained good friends to the day she died. She and her husband raised four beautiful children and actually taught me more about love and children than the other way around.
Amazingly, she did seek my advice many years later. I had been teaching boys with social and emotional problems for a number of years and Marianne and Bill were experiencing some challenges with their youngest child, a son. Their three older children were all girls. Marianne called me and in explaining the situation, asked if I had any advice. I couldn’t think of any particular action that they might want to try but I do remember telling her, just love him. Never stop telling him that you love him.
I’ve since learned that even as a teacher, it’s never been my job to tell someone else what they “should” do. I can share with them my experience in the area they are inquiring about, if I have any and if I don’t have any experience like in my story above, I can accompany them, if they want, and we can learn together what is the best course of action.
So, this is usually where I make a connection to today’s scripture selections, but sometimes, especially when it’s St. Paul, I get confused and have no idea why these particular readings led me to a particular reflection. I’m going to relate it to the first couple of lines in our first reading from St. Paul to the Romans where he says:
“Brothers and sisters:
None of us lives for oneself, and no one dies for oneself.
For if we live, we live for the Lord,
and if we die, we die for the Lord;” (ROM 14:7-8)
Help me Lord to live today for you, which I somehow think means my brothers and sisters and everyone who comes into my life. Help me see you in each person I meet today.
Dan O’Donnell is a Passionist Partner and a longtime friend of the Passionists. He lives in Chicago.