Archive for December, 2021

uncommon prayer

December 2, 2021 2 comments

I was introduced to a little book back in 2017, which I immediately bought and shelved for margins of focus. Honestly, I forgot about it until recently. My daughter, Nicole, gave me a book for my birthday that gave me a serious “man crush” on a guy who passed from this place to his eternal reward, also back in 2017. After I finished One Long River of Song, I went back to read the credits and list of previous works by the author. That’s where I discovered that Brian Doyle had also written that little book on my shelf that I was saving for margins of focus.

Currently, I am digesting A Book of Uncommon Prayer: 100 Celebrations of the Miracle & Muddle of the Ordinary. It has my focus. One offering a day as a small piece of dessert at the end of my normal devotional readings. Let me tell you something: you want this book! I have wished 100 times for the ability to see and say what Brian has seen and said. I want to share one of his specific prayers that touched my soul this morning. I feel like I can relate to this most “uncommonly” felt prayer that is rarely spoken aloud.


Oddly, it’s not my eventual death that frightens and nags me; I have had a glorious, blessed, hilarious, graced life, and no man was ever so slathered with love and laughter as me, and when my time to dissolve comes, I hope to acquiesce with some modicum of grace, and remember that I was granted a long and colorful run; indeed I hope to spend eons happily reviewing the tape, minute by minute, paying even more attention to the infinitesimal details than I did the first time, and replaying the highlights again and again, driving my new roommates nuts. No: it’s the death of people I love that ravages me. My brother Seamus, who was about to walk for the first time. My brother Christopher, born and baptized and dead the same day. My brother Kevin, tottering from cancer but grinning and making wry brilliant remarks to the very end. (The answer is in the questioning, his last six words—ponder that for a year.) My dear friend Bob Boehmer, the most gentlemanly man I ever met, and him a soldier of the Great War, and a football star, and a boxer. The child my lovely bride and I lost twenty years ago, when he or she was the size of a thumb, a child I very much wish to meet, someday. My sweet, gentle cousin, Maureen the nun. So many friends. So many children of friends. So many young soldiers and brave, terrified holy children. I get the idea, Lord; I understand we come, and we go; I understand that it is a vast recycling project; and that all things must pass, that somehow this is a mysterious part of the genius of Your gift; I get it. But it stabs us to the quick, and I lie awake in the deep reaches of the night fearing pain and death reaching for my sweet wild children; yet I know I must thank you for the dark door, somehow, for reasons beyond my ken; but do not think me ungrateful when I whisper those thanks and do not shout them, for I am sore afraid, and saddened too deeply for words; and I can only trust that those I love will be waiting for me with open arms and the entertaining tape of my life; and my friends and brothers will have already flagged the egregious idiot moments for high hilarity; and there will be good beer; and all manner of things will be well. And so: amen.

I pastor inside a small sea of senior adults. Every single one of them is special, unique, and graced in wits, charms, and depth. Some of them are close to their ultimate homecoming. They know this as well as I do, but I’m in no hurry for any of them to go to that home. I know it’s a good and better thing, but I love those smiles and their presence in our community of faith. Any loss to the Body is a loss to our stability and common union. So, I’ve taken Brian’s prayer to heart. Not only for myself, but for my family, my friends, and for my lovely-aged saints that make my work, my life, and ministry so meaningful. I hope it blesses you, too. —MDP


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