I am sitting in a hotel room over looking the Detroit River. On the other side is Canada, my home.
I’ve been at a conference these past few days: an enormous Catholic leadership conference which drew together over 1,100 participants from roughly 200 different parishes all over North America. It’s been, as so many of these sorts of events are, an incredibly formative time; an amazing opportunity.
A time of deep fellowship, learning, and sharing.
A time for our own parish to get some meaningful affirmation and to ask some important questions.
It’s been a whirlwind, and a rich blessing.
And here I sit, enjoying a few minutes of early morning down time, looking out the window over the river. Watching a handful of boats bob by, two or three guys casting lines into the water, fishing. Then, a pair of jet skis rip across the smooth surface leaving long white scars and sending the fishing boats bobbing even more earnestly. And then a slow moving barge crawls across my field of vision and disappears behind the office tower blocking my view.
It’s tranquil, and human, and I wonder what it’s all for.
Our conference—our incredible conference—has been such a rich experience.
We are leaving to head back to our parishes to start the important and practical work that follows this sort of thing and to bring the message of Christ to His people—to “unleash the Gospel,” as was oft-repeated.
It’s messy work.
And when I’m looking down, and out, and letting this landscape sink in; this landscape I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the last couple of days, I wonder…
I miss my family. My wife and our 9-month old who has been sick with a bad cough and chest infection while I’ve been gone. I feel lousy for having left; for having “fun” and fellowshipping while she gets to deal with the sleepless nights and doctors visits.
I feel like a bad husband and father. Even though he wasn’t sick when I left, and I couldn’t have guessed, he’s sick now. And I’m away.
And there’s another barge, going the opposite way this time.
Someone yesterday said that this is the only spot in the United States where you can look south into Canada. I’m not sure that’s entirely true but it sounded interesting. One of those facts you tuck away in your pocket to pull out at just the right time, true or not.
Did you know there are more trees on earth than stars in the Milk Way?
But these are things that cross my mind as I sit, and think, and look out.
A few weeks ago our son was baptized. It was a big deal for us, Evangelical converts to the Catholic Church, both of us. It was a seal-the-deal kind of moment.
Like, oops, well there’s no going back now.
And I’m thinking about one of the gifts he was given by his godfather, one of the greatest living people I know. It was a children’s picture book version of the folk song, “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands.”
You know it, and now that I’ve mentioned it you’ll be singing it all day. They call it an “Earworm,” but let’s settle on calling it a prayer — because it is.
One of the best I can think of because it gets in there and goes and goes and goes.
See, I look out and I see boats and barges, the casinos across the river, the office towers, the kids skating boarding on the boardwalk below and I think of one particular page of that picture book. It shows, in beautiful oil paint and pencil, a large scene with a crowd of people at a park. Hundreds of people, I’d guess, if I had to. Hundreds of anonymous people and it says,
“He’s got everybody here, in his hands;
He’s got everybody there, in his hands,
He’s got everybody everywhere, in his hands,
He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
Because He does and sometimes, in the mundane and the difficult, in the setting of a large and fired-up conference room full of clergy, and a meandering river where a couple of guys on a boat float by and talk about the weather, it’s easy to forget.
It’s easy to forget that in the end it all means something.
My poor sick son and my struggling wife.
A thousand Catholic evangelists.
The river and the office towers.
All of those anonymous people in the crowd.
All of us, in His hands.
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