As I read histories, I frequently read about what someone considers to be a "brush with greatness." They meet some famous person and are left altered somehow by the experience. They recount that experience for the remainder of their lives.
I have never had that sort of brush with greatness. Instead, I had the opportunity to spend my youth near greatness almost continuously. The greatness of which I speak is an ordinary sort of greatness. The greatness that comes from being a person filled with God's grace, and with the ability to share that grace with people around him. I was blessed to grow up with a saint (with a small 's' as he would always say).
I grew up at a church that had as its patron St. Francis. The rector of my Episcopal parish could not have been more perfectly placed, for he was a man who embodied the philosophy and ideals of St. Francis in virtually every way. He was deeply in touch with the Nature that God created. He practiced great Humility before men and God. He lived a life of relative Simplicity, avoiding unnecessary expense and wastefulness. And, above all else, he lived a life of Love and Peace, and believed that living a life of love created peace.
In so many ways, in words and deeds, he passed lessons on to me about these values. I've lived them out only very imperfectly, but I've never forgotten them. Indeed, they are so deeply ingrained in me that I need not even think of them. I feel them. I feel them when I live up to the ideals I was taught, and I feel my failures to follow the lessons of my youth even more deeply.
The man responsible for planting the seeds of God's love and grace so deeply within me has died. I have tried repeatedly to post an entry since his passing, but find myself left completely inarticulate by his death. I try to write what he meant to me, only to feel that the words are so empty and fail to do him even the slightest justice.
This is the man who baptised me. He guided me from boy to man. He married me to my darling wife. He gave my life of faith direction. He remains in my heart, and always will.
I still am left with a great feeling of inadequacy about these words, but I'm going to hit "publish" below. I simply feel that I must post something, even if I fail completely to capture the moment. My guess is that if I wait until I'm able to capture all of my feelings, nothing will ever be written. So, I close with one final thought...
I love you Fr. Fish. You will always be my priest.