A Foreword by Glen Davis, November 7, 1997
I guess this manuscript has been five years in the making. I first scrawled out the idea for the soul as a Christian cathedral long before that. The idea of the soul as an holy place, a Cathedral wherein dwells God, the Holy Spirit, first came to me when I was still a school teacher (late 1980s). It would revisit me four years later after my dreadful day of heart attacks. Strange how an idea that may be from Heaven can be ignored for so many years, and sad that it took nearly dying to start me penning so many thoughts on the matter.
Over the next two years, 1992 and 1993, I read everything I could get my hands on concerning the great Gothic Cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Most of my effort was expended not upon the theology of these stupendous structures but upon the technical and architectural break-throughs they represented. Such noble and holy aspirations could only have been realized in a Europe that, as yet, was still an undivided Christianity. The cruciform floor plans of these glorious places were, I think, the permanent monuments of that zealous spirit that sent thousands over those centuries upon the Crusades. There is, as well, because of the Crusades, a code of gallantry and romance that is forever mixed in with the mortar of the cathedrals just as surely as it was "mixed in" with the blood of those soldiers who did battle against Islam that they might reclaim the Holy Land.
This, then, is an old, used-up history teacher's labor of love. The preacher in me shows up quite often but the schoolmaster always gets the upper hand, I think and that is as it should be.
One likes to think that he will be remembered as somebody who loved and cared deeply for his family and close friends. As time speeds by and these pages yellow how nice it would be to know that there will always be somebody who might be blessed by something or other that I've written.
What is it that life and nearly dying has taught me? I suppose that this is the closest thing to relating it all; writing about our redeemed souls -- the precious souls that our parents took to the Lord in dedication and baptism while we were yet young. A lot of things are clearer to me today than ever in the whole of my interesting and sometimes tumultuous life. I have come to like myself more than I did once upon a time. I have learned, during my semi-invalidism, that there were many sins I sinned and now regret that I hurt our Lord. There were many silly, hot-headed decisions I made that only God could have protected the lot of us. The best things God ever did for me are giving me my precious Catherine and our two wonderful kids, Laura Dawn and now Scott, her beloved husband. It is good to know that you'll never be forgotten as you grow older. (if not necessarily wiser)
I have learned to also forgive myself for that which life does to us for we are all, to some degree, victims. If we accept whatever victimhood God permits as a blessed cross then we shall surely become blessed people. I had my share of things that couldn't be helped; if I am a better man for it, I am so because at last I recognize that crosses are the only way we can follow the Man of the Cross. If I am a failure in life, and in so many ways I know myself to be one, it is not God's fault but my own (and perhaps, to some extent, the church's for not faithfully teaching us the way of the cross when we are youngsters). I have had many congregations who've loved me dearly, I have happy and sad memories of them all. I understand, at least in part now, that all of my insecurity was not just in my hot-headedness but some of it was the result of having brain fever as an infant. My nervous breakdowns are understandable in that light. How sad that I didn't love myself enough to give myself the same counsel I've given so many who've suffered such things.
There are two songs that I particularly have loved. Neither of them is religious but they sum up this man who loves you and shares his soul with you gladly. The first one is from the Broadway musical "The Man From La Mancha" -- I had it sung by our church soloist the Sunday after my ordination. "To dream the impossible dream, to fight the impossible fight" ... and the words that always stirred my heart summed up why I could never really leave the ministry, "to be willing to march into Hell for a cause that is just!" And until I die, no matter how much I've failed others and myself, I have that indelible mark upon my soul that I take with me to the next life, I am a minister of the Gospel and nothing can change that ever. The second song is one that Barbara Striesand sings, "Little boy lost, in search of little boy found". It describes my life to a "T". The words sum up my life, my longings, and the reality of my vulnerability to my own tempestuous and perfectionist fallen nature.
Mom always told me that she prayed so hard for me not to die as a baby for I had pneumonia, encephalitis, and meningitis all at the same time. When my life was spared our doctor told mom that "God had a purpose for your boy living!" Being a father and a husband was a part of that purpose. The other part was to preach the Faith that I love and that has broken my heart so many times, and to teach school for mine is a schoolmasters heart.
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