Paul Moore: Looking to see what role models see through their eyes of faith

In My Father’s House / By Paul Thomas Moore

Have you ever come to love something through the eyes of someone else who loves it? I find one of the most telling testaments of the fact of faith is in following the gaze of those who love the Lord.

I think of my late father-in-law, Jerry Klein, the originator of this column, and his love of nature, particularly the woodland paths he liked to wander. With my skittish allergies and lack of tolerance for flying things that bite, I will never come to love the outdoors the way that he did (a love his seven children still possess).

As far back as Moses’ shining face after seeing the Lord, our faith has been fortified by seeing the shining faces of those who walk closely with the Lord.

Still, after having had the privilege of knowing him, and watching how he would watch the tall swaying trees, studying them long and silently as if looking for an eternal clue, I finally realized, yes, that’s exactly what he’s doing. His writing describes “. . . afternoons so achingly beautiful that it seems the curtain has been parted to show what awaits us all. I wonder, in fact if heaven’s golden avenues might be lined with majestic elms and oaks . . . .”

I feel certain that Jerry would have concurred with one of his spiritual heroes on this point. As the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote, “Our error has been to separate the sacred and the secular, the natural and the supernatural. . . .”

A TWO-WAY MIRROR

For Klein and Sheen, it was never about nature for its own sake. To them, the natural world was a two-way mirror. Even if they could not see through, they knew God was on the other side, looking at and loving them. They echo the faith of St. Paul, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as I am known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

I can’t yet see as much as they saw — probably not enough suffering offered up, or generosity of spirit offered out. I do know that in matters of the faith (as in everything else), role models like these are worth their weight in spiritual gold.

As the song “Look to the Rainbow” in the play (and movie) “Finian’s Rainbow” intones: “Look, look, look to the rainbow, follow the fellow who follows a dream.”

FOLLOWING THEIR GAZE TO GOD

Recently, a couple of fellows took a big step in following their dream to serve as beacons of faith for the people of God in this diocese. On May 29, 2021, Father Austin Bosse and Father Nicolas Wilson were ordained priests of the Diocese of Peoria in St. Mary’s Cathedral, lying prostrate on the floor of the same sanctuary as a young Fulton Sheen had done just over a century earlier.

The families of both priests were present at the ordination, and Father Wilson’s mother Lori said of her son Nicolas, “He’s an excellent listener and he’s very focused on bringing people to Christ.” His dad Richard added, “He’s the kindest person I know.”

Father Bosse’s brother Clint described him in a similar way, “He can find the good in anything.” His family also noted his “sheer look of joy” during the ordination ceremony. That’s a look one loves to see in a spiritual leader.

Father Richard Veras is an author and the director of pastoral formation at Saint Joseph’s Seminary in New York. He has written that, “the great majority of his disciples . . . come to believe not by seeing the risen Christ directly, but by meeting him in the faces of other disciples . . . .”

As far back as Moses’ shining face after seeing the Lord, our faith has been fortified by seeing the shining faces of those who walk closely with the Lord.

Which brings me back to Jerry Klein. He would often stroll down the forest paths that served as the aisles in the “cathedral of trees” surrounding he and wife Mary’s Germantown Hills home.

I don’t know exactly what Jerry saw hinted at in the Eden-like woods he loved, but looking at him, I sensed he was in turn looking to where the trees were looking.

I believe he followed their gaze to God.

Paul Thomas Moore is a Catholic commentator and singer-songwriter. He and wife Mary Louise attend St. Mary of Lourdes in Germantown Hills. He can be reached at paulthomasmoore@hotmail.com.

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