A Reflection: Blessed Memories and Glory Days

Daniel Riley, OFM Features

During this week between Pentecost and Memorial Day, Daniel Riley, OFM, director of Mt. Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat, describes forms of glory, emphasizing the importance of “growing where you are planted.” This reflection is adapted from the May 22 discussion from the Facebook group “Follow Fr. Dan Riley on his sabbatical.” It is the 16th reflection in a series that Dan says allows him to “draw others into conversation, which is the mountain model.”

WEST CLARKSVILLE, N.Y. — On a recent drive east then north from Mt. Irenaeus, I kept the windows down in the car, feeling the wind and welcoming the greening of the trees. The road to Rochester, by Danville and Geneseo, is glorious anytime of year: broad valleys and round hills left by glaciers eons ago bring back to me images from my sabbatical of California’s round hills and wide agricultural valleys.

I am home, and “home” — I realize — is here and everywhere. I have already struggled with over-work and lack of rest, counseling myself toward moderation. Yet, this reflection now reminds me that a stream of peace — a deep, long valley — has opened in me, and I give thanks.

Glory of Memories
Rochester, or more specifically, Victor, N.Y., is my first destination on this road trip. At Bristol’s Nursery with flats and packets of annuals and buckets of perennials, I roam around rows of tender shoots and blooms looking for some to take to St. Patrick’s Cemetery, where my parents, grandparents and other relatives are buried.

Growing up in Rochester, my family nurtured flowers and vegetables in our small backyard. Down the street as well as near the fields and the woods where we played, we grew all kinds of things for our table.

Now, I plant flowers of white, blue and “sassy candy pink and white” geraniums before the gravestone where my parents’ remains rest. They are gone. I believe that. Like Daniel Hurley, OFM, and others we have loved — the “vast crowd of white-robed witnesses” — they are now at home and at one, in glory. Still, they are also here: “Beside us, behind us, under us, over us!”

What is that glory? To me, there are many examples. Glory is hills and mountains, clapping and singing, clouds and rain, sun and moon, you and I, God’s “fire and ice” shining on our faces. It is home, or bringing others along on a journey. Glory shines and shimmers even as violence, abuse, misuse of power and person has us shutter, stutter, stammer and stamp our feet. In glory, we are “with and for God.” Flowers fly out from the words and clean, categorize and claim us as we are consumed in love — real love — for one another. This is glory.

Glory of Spreading Joy
After placing my flowers before the gravestones, I am on to coffee and a conversation with a St. Bonaventure University alum in Rochester. We both find joy in bringing others together, discovering glory in home, work and family, fostering dreams and reclaiming places, and worship. We believe in making rituals as you go (be sure there is always good food and open the table to others).

The landscape has changed over the months since my return from California to New York. Yet, the same hills and valleys sing and cry out from within our human lives.

To remember that is not only to plant flowers or flags for Memorial Day, or any day, is it? We know this. Even as I placed Mom’s favorite blue argumentum above where her body was planted, I sensed her life. Remembering is “growing where you are planted,” not planting over the dead. Remembering where we are planted emphasizes the One from whom we find our one-ness. “ To remember” from the Judeo-Christian tradition is to stand, now, in the living presence of all who have passed — all of us in the movement of the great “that-they-may-all-be-one-ment” of Jesus.

Glory of God
Reading Christ’s words in John 17:20-26 invites us again into the ongoing intimacy, to the conversation of Jesus with his “Abba.” In all that is passing, this is the relationship that is lasting, the one that is “older than the hills” and “longer than the valleys.” It is brighter than any flower and wants to shine on all of our faces.

Maybe you will visit a cemetery between now and Memorial Day. I got there early and left quickly. I wanted to meet with the young alum who wants to breathe life into Bona relationships and bring a shine back to places where the Church seems bleak, bringing glory — yes, glory.

Once again, we remember St. Irenaeus who sang out ages ago the simple line that, “the glory of God is the human person fully alive.” Let us remember and live this. For me, it is lively, and the breeze blows more than when you have your car windows open, driving faster than 65 miles per hour.

Read the whole passage if you wish, but remember these lines and chew on them for a while: “Jesus says, ‘I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, that you love them as you have love me.’”

It was a windy ride to Rochester, but I had a lot of fun. I thought about Pentecost being before us and about glory growing within us. As Thomas Merton said, “The gate of heaven is everywhere.”

“And all cried! Glory.” Blessed memories of those who have passed, bright days going forward “so that they may all be one as you, Father, are one and I in you.” I wish you blessed memories, glory days and love.

— Fr. Dan, guardian of Holy Peace Friary in Western New York, is a 1964 graduate of St. Bonaventure University and co-founder of Mt. Irenaeus. He returned in April from his six-month sabbatical.

Editor’s note: Themes planned for upcoming seasonal reflections include St. Anthony of Padua, Independence Day and St. Bonaventure.