By Father Frank Lawlor
Administrator, St. Mary Parish, Westfield
The following reflection first appeared in St. Mary’s Parish bulletin.
This weekend I celebrate my 60th birthday! I officially become an old man! Unfortunately for the past year or two I have been feeling very old and this calendar marker has simply confirmed the obvious. But this occasion has given me pause to look back a bit and to reflect on how I got to where I am. One of the realities of my life these days is waking up on many mornings with a simple question or a prayer (depending on the day)…How did I get myself here?
The answer is unquestionably the Holy Spirit and I urge all of you to spend time in your prayer talking to this third person of the trinity, asking for guidance and strength.
A little more than 6 years ago I was sitting on the top floor of one of the tallest skyscrapers in Boston wondering why I wasn’t satisfied in my work. I had two secretaries and a large staff and lived a life that I could have only dreamed of 20 years earlier. I was in charge of hundreds of people who generated 30-40 million dollars a year….but I wasn’t happy. I prayed to the Holy Spirit for guidance and oh boy did I get it. Be careful what you pray for. This Holy Spirit has an incredible sense of humor and I am certain he was roaring with laughter as he sent me back to my beginnings.
In late August of 1976 my parents dropped me off at a seminary in Baltimore, MD. It took me 38 years until I was finally ordained. I must be a slow learner. I have to have the Guinness Book of Records for the longest stay in a seminary. During those years I lived and loved and grew. The Holy Spirit was always at my elbow guiding me along a not so simple path. Thank God he got me out of the seminary when he did and allowed me to experience life. I would have been the most naïve, rule-book-toting priest that anyone had ever seen. During my “year off” to “think about things” I experienced the joy of marriage, the awesomeness of a family, the challenges of a business career and all of the roller coaster of emotions that go with each. I was present for the birth of my children, and sat next to my son while he successfully battled cancer. I also sat through endless dance recitals and t-ball games. I stayed up late waiting for my daughter to come home from dates and walked her down the aisle at her wedding. I have even visited my son’s office at the top of one of Manhattan’s tallest skyscrapers. I have experienced the joys and tribulations of life in all of its vibrancy.
Now at sixty I find myself at a new place with new challenges. The road that began in the mid-seventies has now led me here to St. Mary’s, to a parish that I am both familiar with and learning about. I am excited about the prospects for the future and determined to do what I can to get us there. I am a lucky man.
The Holy Spirit and His sense of humor will continue to accompany me on this life journey. I really have no idea what the next intersection will bring but I am certain that by trusting in that Spirit and surrendering to His guidance we will all be okay. As I cross this “old-man” threshold I thank you for the trust and support that you have given to me and I ask that you pray for me and for each other so that we will all have the faith and courage to face the life that the Lord has planned for us.