Love in a Letter

Mary Magdala Community

“Love in a Letter”©       by Rev. Jim Ryan,

My father was a letter-writer, a skill honed during his six years away from home from 1932-38.  This was the time he spent as a member of the Redemptorist Order of priests and brothers – his life as a Frater (Latin for brother).  In his later years he was master of the 4 page letter.  No matter what, he set himself the goal of filling 4 pages.  The size on the page of his written farewell – “Very Best, Prayers, Sincerely,” and signature – Mother & Dad – on the page was indicative of the length and detail of the letter’s content.

Dad wrote – often on a Sunday afternoon – to whomever of his far-flung children happened to be away from home at the time.  He would inform you of the order that your letter was in (“3 of 4 today”).  He could give you the most detailed account of Sunday dinner, each food item prepared by “your Mother.”  He did this, I am certain, because he knew what it was like to be away from home.  When you are away from home no domestic detail is too small.  For example the scale of mashed potatoes was a sliding measure from creaminess to lumpy.  And don’t get me started on the tenderness of the pot roast.

Into his senior years as the evidence of his own aging began to show in the increased shakiness of the words on paper Dad wrote on.  He would respond to any of the grandchildren who wrote to him always happy to be in touch.  Then, as Mom fought through the ravages of diabetes, including the amputation of one leg just above the knee, he would keep us all informed.  Dad kept us within the circle even as we each expanded our own families and relationships.

Dad wrote love through his letters.  He showed me the revealing light of connecting through the written word – that what is written is just the surface of the reality on the paper that I held in my hands.  The layers of this loving connection have somehow grown stronger and made more sense even as he has passed to the eternal life he always counted on.

Good Friday is a day for remembering, even celebrating, such loving connections.  The Word of God, taking on human life – flesh and blood – is the One who connects with the Beloved Parent, his Father, even through his feeling abandoned by him on the cross.

Here’s the thing about loving – no matter the cost.  When you love you can pray out of all sides of your heart.  There is no conflict in that – only heartfelt connection.

Several weeks after Mom’s death here’s what my father wrote about that time leading up to her passing.  He poured out his heart in prayer.

January 15, 2007

“What I dreaded really happened.  A night or two before Mother died I was still praying for a miracle, even having the right leg restored.  Then, midst the tumult, from near and far, the Ryans gathered to say goodbye.

“Jim, your last word of your precis, ‘Saint,’ might very well be.   (At her funeral Mass I exercised the power of the people – we are, after all, the church – and canonized my Mother on the spot.)   It reverberated with other descriptions I have mulled over for some time.  Marvel, mystery, miracle.  The laugh of a lifetime between Mother and myself.  I’d always say our married life was a matter of probation.”

Very Best, Prayers, Sincerely,

________ &  Dad       (The line was where “Mother” was always put.)

My point is that love allows us to pray for what we want the most.  And when we don’t get it our response need not be getting mad at God.  We just go deeper into the reality of the divine presence in our life.  After all, this revelation we receive, that the Word is among us, is the gift that doesn’t quit and never ends.  It’s what is called a saturated gift.

Remember Jesus’ words while dying on the cross, “My God, why have you abandoned me?”

When Mom’s amputated leg did not become miraculously restored Dad may have felt the deaf ear of God.  However, the side of his heart that shared in divine love included him and Mom on the journey that continued, eventually to the beyond where we are all destined.

Good Friday is about uncovering the love that connects us through all life’s experiences to the One who gifts us with love in the first place.  It’s OK to feel abandoned, unheard, disregarded, and discarded.  We’re in good company.

Good Friday draws our attention to the sense that what is invisible is nonetheless revealed.  In the Cross of Christ the love of God is invisible, obstructed by weakness, suffering and death.  All the more is this love revealed through Christ’s willingness to act on our behalf.

The letters my father wrote uncovered his love for his family – eloquently revealing through day-to-day matters the gift of himself, a gift that never dies.  So, let’s acknowledge the desolation of Christ’s death on Good Friday while also seeing that love shows itself by giving itself.

A Prayer

The Word lives even though he died.

What we thought impossible is no longer invisible.

What is now uncovered, unconcealed is the revelation of Jesus’ love.

We place before God the weakness, the doubt, the mistakes, the misdeeds

of our lives.

Christ draws all of it to himself, and by so doing, becomes the Unbounded One.

Draw us to You that our center will be full.


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