My beloved wife acquired this book many years ago. She is more of a collector than I, so it sat on my shelf for many years. I pulled it out last week, on impulse. She was having a difficult dental procedure last Friday, so I spent some time reading it, and in prayer with her.
The brief (160 pages) volume was notable for me for two things. First, no bitterness toward his fellow cardinals, who I thought abandoned him in the early days of the Common Ground Initiative. Bernard Law, of scandal fame, was one of those. No mention of these guys at all, actually.
Positively, his observation on daily prayer. Since daily prayer and distraction have been difficult for me as of late, I appreciated this morsel of insight concerning his hour of prayer that began each day since the late 70s:
I’m happy to say that I have kept it for nearly twenty years. This doesn’t mean that I’ve learned how to pray perfectly. It doesn’t mean that I have not experienced the struggles that other people have faced. Quite the contrary. But early on, I made another decision. I said, “Lord, I know that I spend a certain amount of that morning hour of prayer daydreaming, problem-solving, and I’m not sure that I can cut that out. I’ll try, but the important thing is, I’m not going to give that time to anybody else. So even though it may not unite me as much with you as it should, nobody else is going to get that time.”
I remember very little about Cardinal Bernardin, other than the fact of this book, and that the Common Ground Initiative was dear to him. A good friend of mine was gleeful over the accusation of sexual attack that the cardinal described in the first part of this book. While I knew he was a confirmed conservative, I was taken aback by the happiness that a “liberal” (as he saw it) was getting pulled down, and it would be a triumph for traditional equals virtuous. (I can only imagine what he secretly thought of me.) I never heard from my friend after the false allegations faded. You might think no loss, but I regretted the ending or fading of a friendship.
At any rate, this book came along at a good time for me last week. I stayed connected with my wife through her gift, and prayed for her peace, and peace of mind–God’s gift–as she struggled with her oral condition.
Cancer, of course, is as serious as an illness can get for many of us. Cardinal Bernardin’s story and words may well offer comfort and be a conduit for that great gift of God, namely peace.