Read the first post of this series: Harold Boyle | A Grateful Look at the Past
Just several weeks before his death on January 13, 1993, his 77th birthday, Brother Harold’s community at Xaverian House, Danvers gathered to celebrate his 60th anniversary as a Xaverian Brother. After communion Harold offered a very brief but significant reflection on his life. A line that has reverberated ever since was the following: “I thank God for the many blessings of my life, among the latest of which is this cancer.” To hear these words from his mouth was to know that this was no spiritualized suppression of a painful and threatening experience but rather an honest expression of his disposition of heart.
In the course of his life, Brother Harold lived through the flourishing and expansion of Xaverian life and ministry in the United States, as well as its inexorable diminishment following the Second Vatican Council. From very early on in his religious life, he was called upon to bear responsibility as a superior and administrator and much of the second half of his life was spent in positions of Congregational leadership. Yet, in times of apparent flourishing for the Congregation as well as in times of diminishment, something enabled him to maintain a steadfastness of purpose and an equilibrium of presence. At a point in his later life, he once expressed that in all his years of responsibility in the Congregation and in all the difficulties and concerns that arose, he “never lost a night’s sleep.” To hear him express this was to be reminded of the words of the Sermon on the Mount as related in the Gospel of Matthew.
That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. Surely life means more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap or gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?…
Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6: 25-6; 33-4
The nature of the present moment, be it health or sickness, success or failure, appreciation or depreciation, expansion or diminishment, is not within our control. It is how we respond to the present that is. At whatever moment in our life and in the Congregation’s life we find ourselves, our call, as Jesus reminds Peter in John 21: 21, is to follow Him. We are to “set our hearts on his kingdom first” and leave the outcomes to God. As Brother Ryken said, “O Lord, I cannot understand your ways, but I must adore them.”
Although most of his life was spent in positions of authority and responsibility within the Congregation, Brother Harold was the most ordinary of men. As Jan van Ruusbroec writes:
The most ordinary persons are those who are the most satisfied and most at peace with themselves. They are most deeply immersed in God and good works. Likewise, the way they love is most wide-ranging and their love flows out to all in common. The most ordinary persons are the least hindered in love, and because of this they are most God-like. For God is ordinariness in His being, charity in understanding, and an outflowing common love in His working. The more God-like we are in these three, the more we are united with Him. As a result, we shall remain in our ordinary ground and consider all things with enlightened reason, and flow through everything with common love. The Spiritual Espousals
Living the present moment with passion requires of us to become ever more ordinary, in the way that Ruusbroec describes. If we remain in our “ordinary ground” with trust, gratitude, and love then in whatever circumstances we find ourselves, Christ’s passionate love for the world will continue to flow through us. We shall not waste in fruitless worry about ourselves the passion and love that is always seeking its proper end through us. In this sense, whatever its contours, the present moment is always a call to us from God for which we must be grateful and to which we must be generous.