…in my sophomore year in college I met an old woman named June who changed my life.
On Saturday morning, to earn some extra pocket money, students could line up on campus and people in town who wanted some extra muscle for odd jobs would turn up and you would get into their car and they’d offer you a morning’s work doing gardening, helping around the house or whatever.
Well, one Saturday morning I got into the car with June and she asked me to do some odd jobs…planting a bush and fixing a bird feeder. She gave me lunch and invited me to come again the next Saturday. It turned into a weekly gig.
June, as it happened, was a Catholic and an oblate of St Anselm’s Abbey in Washington DC. She and her husband had retired to Greenville where her daughter was a Poor Clare nun. June was, in many ways, an unremarkable woman and yet she changed my life simply because her faith was authentic. She was a joyful, intelligent, kind and generous soul and I wanted what she had.
Eventually my path led to the Catholic Church and she was a primary influence.
I have, this morning, returned from a few days at Camps Chosatonga for Boys and Kahdalea for girls. These two wonderful camps are run by the Trufant family–some of the most genuine Louisiana Catholics you can find. Every year David and Anne find terrific mostly catholic young people to staff their camps. These folks give the campers a wonderfully fun and safe experience which, at the same time, is deeply faith filled without being overly pious and tiresomely religious 100% of the time. They like to say, “This is not a Catholic camp. It’s a camp run by Catholics.” Yes!
I have known so many young people whose lives have been transformed simply by spending the summer with a set of joyful, authentic and honest Christians like the the folks at camp. They are wonderful guides, role models and friends. One parent has said, “If I had to choose between tuition for Catholic school and Camp Kahdalea for my daughter, camp gets the vote every time.”
In a wicked world where the church is burdened with corruption, hypocrisy, legalism, division, immorality, pharisaism and just plain stupidity, I believe that sooner or later in one way or another, God will bring each one of the baptized into contact with that special someone–a person or group of people who joyfully, honestly and simply follow the Lord Jesus Christ as his disciples–ordinary folks transformed by grace. And when you meet that person or that group thank God. They will change your life even if they don’t know they have.
Don’t only thank God, but embrace that authenticity and joy. Furthermore, jump into that river of grace and go with the flow. Allow God to change you so that you too might one day become that kind of person.
Years after I met June I had gone to England, been ordained as an Anglican priest and stayed in touch. I would visit with her when we returned to Greenville to visit family. I dedicated my first book to her–a book of conversion stories–and when I presented her with it in the assisted living center where she lived she beamed at me and said, “Dwight I’m so glad you’ve become a Catholic, but we never talked about religion did we?”
“No” I answered, “We didn’t need to.”