There was a time in my life, over ten years ago, when I gathered the wisdom of three wise men who art in Heaven and prayed for their interceding. Don DeLutis was a teacher, a principal, a civic leader, and a faithful member of our chapel community. He taught me to be a voice for children in my town and showed by his example how my faith could be reflected in that practical work. Ralph Tennihan was a co-worker at a bank at which I worked right out of college. He taught me to take life more lightly than I had to that point, and kindness and humor were his ministry. Ralph taught me the value and magic of connecting with the person right in front of you. I haven’t yet met Fr. Frank McFarland, though his televised rosaries on Boston Catholic Television forever framed the way I’ll think of the rosary and live my faith as a relationship with my friend, Jesus.
I grouped these three wise men together in my mind and continue to think of them often, especially during Advent, and to pray to them as a group, asking their help and seeking strength in their example of service, kindness, and faith.
Lately, I feel another group of three heavenly wise men gathering together in this season in my life. I feel their presence and their guidance. I know they’re praying for me and leading me forward in the new ways my life is calling for now. Back then, I needed strengthening in my connection to others, a heartfelt living of my faith, and in my role as a leader. Today there are new hills to climb, new challenges to face, and I’m finding strength in the example of three more good guys who art in Heaven.
Bob Mackey was a fellow member of my chapel community. He taught me in his ministry of hospitality and encouragement the value of helping people feel seen and of speaking positivity and life into them. Deacon Jerry Ryan taught me to trust God with absolutely everything and to serve wherever God calls me with my ready ‘yes’. Fr. Joe Callahan taught me the humble reality of surrender and compassionate leadership, and so much about how God can work in us to do great things among our brothers and sisters when we let Him steer. These three men have a lot in common – they were funny, original, and Irish. Each of them knew well the failings of our church but served within its structures, nonetheless. Each one faced challenges, had their faith tested, and came out the other side stronger and more faith filled. Each presented a strong example of how to live humbly, love God, and serve people, and as anyone who knew them will tell you, their legacies are rich and long-lasting.
In this season, I see the opportunity to more fully incorporate their gifts and example. Like Bob, I want to help people feel seen and to know themselves as beloved of God. Like Jerry, I want to trust God and to be willing to surrender to serve in ways and places I might not have anticipated. Like Fr. Joe, I want to be a compassionate leader, an open and transparent witness to the goodness of God. Like him, I want to sing my song and teach others to sing, too. These are high bars to be sure, but these guys are good light-bearers. They’re illuminating my path even now and reminding me one step at a time how to trust, serve, speak, and sing.
The people who have gone before us are like stars in our sky. Their example and help are pouring out light and helping us move forward as we walk it out day by day. Like the original wise men, they carry unique gifts that will prosper us on our own journeys. In the darkness, you can feel them more clearly, can’t you? In the great communion of the saints, they’re pulling us forward, directing our steps, leading us home. Shining and guiding us, one patch of light at a time.