I spent some of the past 10 days of my Naples respite thinking about Fr. Sturm. On one of my playlists, I have his favorite song, A Slow Boat to China. It’s funny how a tough guy like Johnny Sturm could love such a sweet song. It always makes me laugh. From there, thinking of Fr. John usually gets me thinking about accountability and happiness. For him that was the alpha and omega of life. It’s hard to argue how right he was. It certainly has resonated true with me. I like to think I have been accountable and happy [and very fortunate], and I like to think I have done him proud. Maybe I’ll find out for sure one day if his version of heaven and hell actually turns out to be true. Wouldn’t that be wild?
To say we disagreed would be an understatement, but we certainly shared the unwavering belief that life was a gift from god and we better enjoy it. He always emphasized ‘enjoy it’ over the more prosaic parental admonishment of ‘don’t waste it.’ It was more than a nuance to him. If you get that, you are a step ahead.
He pounded into me that life is inherently positive with boundless potential, while the negative comes from the dark side, and it can suck the life out of you if you fall prey to its constant bombardment [which comes disguised as popular culture]. He’d never allow for the darkness to suck the life out of him. I watched life kick him in the teeth a few times, and each time his disappointment would give way to his inevitable enthusiasm. He understood that grief was a natural part of life [and love], but he never gave it prominence. There was a time and place for all emotions, but never could they, or should they, replace the vigor we have reserved for the gift of life. He always energetically chose life.
In the end, his harsh lessons provided comfort to those who could meet the challenge of living an accountable and happy life. But for those who needed excuses, he was just a prick. So it goes.
I live with a firm belief that an appreciation for life is a choice, a choice that fewer and fewer seem to be making. And while fate will visit us all with an undeserved cruelty from time to time, I always know that in the end I am accountable for my happiness – and fate will just have to move on when it’s done with me.
But for those of you who need an excuse, you can always fall back on the sure-fire winner ‘it’s not my fault.’ It can deceptively preclude just about any accountability – while still punctuating your undeserved misfortune [giving credence and value to your unhappiness].
This has been a message from the Church of the Good.