Words Forever Written in the Heart

Words Forever Written in the Heart

I just got home—dead tired—from quick stops to teach in Atlanta, Little Rock, San Antonio, and Dallas. Whenever I’m in Dallas, I try to visit an old friend, a former Jesuit who also taught me English in college. He and his wife Laurie raised two kids there after he left the Jesuits in the late 1970s. She likes to joke now that she’s been with Tom longer than he was with the Jesuits. Their marriage has been a real sacrament.

Tom was brilliant and brash, had an Irish instinct for drama, and loved to recite long sections of Shakespeare’s plays from memory. But now at 85, he’s had to give so much of his mind and memory back to God. What’s left is the compassionate heart, and he and Laurie love to hear my stories about what he did that influenced so many of us so deeply and permanently.

After lunch we decided to pray together, and since Tom was ordained back before Vatican II, I pulled his old Latin breviary from the shelf and the three of us prayed psalms together. Laurie and I just stopped when Tom—amazingly, miraculously perhaps, despite all his failures in cognition and memory—started reciting them by heart.

God had done a good job of reading permanent memories of saving deeds into Tom’s heart to be there forever. “O God, you have taught me from my youth, and I proclaim your wonders still,” is a line from Psalm 70 he prayed with us.

Photo: Boris Roz/PhotoXpress


About the Author

Joe McHugh is a spiritual director, retreat leader, teacher, and writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the National Catholic Reporter. His book, "Startled by God: Wisdom from Unexpected Places" is available at catalog.franciscanmedia.org. He can be contacted at jjmch1300@gmail.com.