Cleaning out some old papers, I stumbled upon a script from which I read a farewell greeting to my spiritual director and monk friend, Fr. Mauritius Wilde when he moved from Schuyler, Nebraska to Rome four years ago.
My message was one of gratitude for our shared experiences, but also sadness that we would not see each other regularly…since Rome is a bit more than a car drive away. I knew that we would continue to be in touch, and as luck would have it I was able to visit Rome one year later for the Benedictine World Congress and he has also visited Nebraska a few times to lead retreats. So, it was not a good-bye, but a see-ya-later.
As I read through what I had written four years ago, I realized this feeling of being separated, yet remaining deeply connected speaks to our current situation of pandemic. I feel this same nostalgic see-ya-later-sort-of-way as we hunker down, cancel trips, stay at home and physically distance to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. It is bittersweet—but it is what we must do. We will survive this liminal space where we are together in spirit, but not in person.
I experience this distance, and yet connectedness, with my daughter, who also moved from home—first to Washington DC four years ago (yikes, that 2016 was a doozy of a year) and then to Madison, Wisconsin. She is my child, so of course, we see each other as often as possible, but without the spontaneity of a quick lunch date or evening walk. I am grateful that we talk or text each other nearly every day and have been able to exchange visits nearly every other month.
But still, it is challenging to have your loved ones far away. As much as I love reading about the pioneer days, I was not cut out to be one. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to send your grown child off with her family in a covered wagon, perhaps never to be seen again.
So, we can do this pandemic thing. We can miss our people. We can be grateful for time spent together, for good memories, for who we are because our lives have been touched by another.
We can stay connected—through texting, emails, phone calls, letters, Zoom cocktail hours, and drive-by greetings. We must continue to be creative connecting with our loved ones. We can also be grateful that whatever that looks like—it IS enough.
We will all see each other a little later, in one way or another.
At the end of the farewell-not-a-goodbye-but-see-ya- later message to Fr. Mauritius, I shared the prayer-song titled “Friends,” written in the 1980’s by Michael W. Smith for his friend, Amy Grant, when one of them moved far away. Perhaps it will bring you some comfort that friends ARE friends forever. (Full farewell-not-a-goodbye-but-see-ya-later speech below.)
Another song that speaks to our pandemic experience is written by a creative friend I recently met, Jana West. She writes, “Separation is a part of our experience and there is so much more of that in 2020. I asked family and friends to contribute images of loved ones they are missing. I hope you enjoy all of these smiles and find comfort in knowing, you are not alone. In 2017, I spent time at Taylor House Hospice in Des Moines as my father ended his battle with cancer and eventually let go of his body. It was a very good place for him to be, but each time I went I knew I would also eventually have to walk away. Writing this song was one way I processed that pain.”
Our loved ones are always with us. There are no final good-byes.
For more information about Fr. Mauritius Wilde, his first book in English, podcasts and an upcoming retreat in Schuyler, Nebraska, see links:
Be Yourself! The Call of a Christian (about Fr. Mauritius first book in English)
Sober and Merciful: St. Benedict’s Journey of Mindfulness (info about Fr. Mauritius’ podcasts and 2021 retreat in Nebraska)
For more posts from this time of pandemic on Being Benedictine, see links:
Home Is the Nicest Word There Is (written day 50-something of the pandemic)
The farewell-not-a-goodbye-but-see-ya-later speech
I share some of the words I spoke four years ago at Fr. Mauritius’ farewell-not-a-goodbye-but-see-ya-later party.
“There are no words that adequately capture the spirt of Fr. Mauritius, or that capture the joy he has brought to the lives of so many through his retreats, spiritual direction, podcasts and blog…his very presence, through his first book in English.
There are no words that express that sadness that I, and so many, feel about his leaving…but I shall try. Just like the Psalms, we cannot linger in the sadness because there is also joy. There is a greaty joy one can only have for another that is truly loved and respected. We have been touched by his spirit and our lives are impacted forever. There is a joy knowing that he has such a wonderful opportunity in front of him and will be loved and appreciated by so many in Rome.
One of the ways I’ve gotten to know Fr. Mauritius is through spiritual direction, and really, that began with just a chance confession. I had only been to confession one time in 25 years so I was a little bit nervous….He was a compassionate and thoughtful listener, but also challenging, which I liked. The experience must not have been so bad, because I went again to him for confession the next opportunity. I told him I was nervous about the name “confession”, so he took off his stole and said, “let’s just have a conversation.” This, too, I liked and this was the beginning of four years of spiritual direction. He has listened with the heart and comfort of an ideal mother and the challenge of a father. He met me where I was—with wounds, skepticism, curiosity, and hundreds of questions. He has been welcoming, gentle, authentic, honest, challenging, loving and patient.
So now I have a confession to make—I am a retreat junky. I have been to dozens. This is how I first came to know Mauritius while attending an Easter retreat that he led. After that I could not permit myself to miss another one of his retreats, except when I was out of the country. I started going to retreats even if the topic was not appealing because of his fiery passion and animated presentations.
Ask Fr. Mauritius to sit on his hand and talk, he cannot do it. When he is sharing a story on retreat, he really works the room. While demonstrating how to achieve balance in one’s life, he physically bounced from one wall to the opposite side of the room and bouncing off that wall to show us that life is a journey, a constant effort to achieve some idea of balance. I love to learn and Fr. Mauritius is a great teacher with a kind and gentle spirit, a depth of honesty and humility. His retreats are filled with spontaneity and responsiveness to those attending, answering questions, meeting individual needs while flawlessly making adjustments. I continue to learn and grow in my own capacity as a retreat leader from an excellent teacher and role model.
I have been coming to SBC since 20002, long before I knew of a monk named Mauritius. I have been calling the monks of Christ the King Priory my favorite monks for over a decade. I remember Fr. M asking me “what do you mean by your favorite monks?” I admitted I knew of no other monks, but still they are my favorite. I have one daughter, she is my favorite. I just means I have the greatest esteem and fondness for my favorite people. Fr. Mauritius quickly became one of my favorite monks, too.
So I like to be surrounded by my favorite people. And I like to have all of my favorite monks in one place. The whole Rome idea has thrown me a curve ball. I told Fr. Volker at his retirement that he must stay here. This I cannot say to you, Fr. Mauritius, but I can say this.
It was God that brought you here and God that will keep your spirit and energy alive in all of the lives you have touched. And you will be back. And we will visit.”
Until my next post, see ya later.