St Therese’s quote is pretty straightforward. I think it sums up the best in Father Michael’s life: he was consistently a truly loving person. Not that he never calculated. No, he certainly did -and there were some not-so-fine moments that I witnessed. But they were few and far between – a small reminder to me that all of us, even very holy people like Father Michael, are still sinners.
But the bulk of what I saw and heard of Father Michael was unmistakably loving. He once told me “In the course of my life and my priesthood, I have found that 99.9% of all people are good . And I do believe that all people are good.” I listened to him and didn’t interrupt or comment, but realized how different that was from my belief . I was more into “looking for the good” in folks and not usually expecting to find it. In my heart, I didn’t feel that most people were good. I kind of saw them as flawed but decent, well-meaning for the most part-but not simply as “good”. I was (and still am) wary, reserved and cautious. I considered how different my approach to others would be if I believed with all my heart that they were truly, unquestionably, good. How comfortable I would be ,assured that others only thought the kindest and best things about me! Knowing that I was dealing with good people guided by the truth would be reassuring and reinforce the positive traits in my personality.Something to think about.
I considered how Father Michael might incorporate this attitude into his personality and life experience. And I remembered an incident in a restaurant where the young lady taking his order assured Father Michael that he’d be able to self-serve cranberry juice. Given the type of fast food place it was, I had my doubts. Sure enough, there was no cranberry juice on tap. Father M chose lemonade instead. But I was a little indignant and said “You asked that girl specifically about the cranberry juice and she answered you specifically!” I was considering whether the place perhaps had bottled juice stored elsewhere-and that we should go back and ask her. But Father Michael just smiled at me and said sweetly “Oh she’s overworked and underpaid, don’t worry about it”. Well, shut my mouth! But I can see here not only Father M’s patience and charity in his empathy for the worker, but also his will and kindness to ignore the bad-the girl’s discourtesy and her lie. A little thing again-with potential.
Not long after, I had lunch again with Father Michael. It was one of the most interesting and informative conversations I’d ever had with him. We talked uninterrupted for over two hours. At the very end Father Michael said “We’ve got to talk again. I want to tell you my idea that will solve all the problems in the Church.” So I was thinking “He waits till now to mention that ? “ I wondered if he was joking. I hadn’t even mentioned any problems in the Church! I thought “Well, he had to have shared that with his brothers already, I’m sure” And I thought, if so, it couldn’t be something very obvious or revolutionary, could it? Dominicans were still being their Dominican selves. Now I’ll never know. But I have wondered if Father Michael’s seeing all people as truly good was somehow part of the problem-solving.
I like the idea that in choosing to always see and expect only the good in people, Father Michael was expressing his longing and love for God…..and preparing the way.
“Behold, the kingdom of God is among you.”