Monday November 2 – a saint who lived with us, Art McGovern, sj
This time of year Art McGovern seems to come and find me. Yesterday was, in the R Catholic calendar, the feast of all the saints. At the opening of the Sunday 12:30 mass, I invited the congregation to think of some one person who had touched their life and pay attention to her/him as we worshipped. I hadn’t chosen my own person yet but as we listened to the readings, I settled on Art, who died at 70 in 2000. Art lived close to the ground — at home with play (“health food is the kind you like so much you feel good while eating it: my 3 are pretzels, ice cream, and bacon.”) and grief, at home with losses and wins, at home leading difficult committees, at home with impeccably prepared classes laced with kind teasing and learning (“Fr. McGovern is like feathers; he makes you laugh while you think hard.” said a student one time). If someone can be a world class scholar, a beloved teacher, a rabid Ohio State football fan and a kinsman day in and day out . . . . No surprise he came to mind yesterday.
Last year on October 27, I wrote about the tree we planted for Art while he was living toward his death. In lieu of a poem, here’s what that tree said to me one year ago.
Have a good week.
Monday October 27, 2014
After yesterday’s Sunday noon mass in the Ignatius/McAuley C&F chapel, walking home past the energy of parking lots packed in for the Detroit high school cheerleading competitions, I stopped in my tracks in front of the tree we dedicated in 1999 for Art McGovern, sj. It’s leaves were still solid green, contrasting with the yellows of older trees around it. Sheer beauty surprised me into seeing it fresh. I went to my room, got my digital camera, and came back to contemplate Art’s tree with the help of a pretty good lens.
For those of you who never knew him, Art was a soul friend for my first twenty years here at Six Mile and Livernois. He was soul friend for many people, more beloved, perhaps, than any person who taught and worked here until he died too young of bone cancer at age 70. In his last months at the Jesuit Colombiere Center in Clarkston, the staff told us he set records for the astonishing number of people who came to tell him goodbye.
We planted a tree for him before he died. Most days I just walk by and I doubt that bothers Art at all. Yesterday the tree found me. “It’s gotten so big!” I whispered.
Stillness and beauty, the blessings of autumn.