I was born in 1935, the depression still running, World War II waiting over the horizon, and a record setting hot summer ready to make me one miserable baby. My father, Charlie, was a routine Roman Catholic, following the rules, a high degree of committment but with no particular enthusiasm for the church. My mother, Ruth, had been a Swedish Baptist, attended Northwestern Bible College for a while, was a hot shot secretary, She became a Roman Catholic because my dad followed R. C. rules and Ruth followed rules unless they were inconvenient. She did not mind the church except when they crossed her. Father Jimmy Donohue of St. Bridget’s decided to cross her by transferring money she had collected for the school to the general parish fund. Within a week it was back where it belonged and Jimmy treaded carefully from there on. I think he was a little in love with her. Charlie was equally bright and for some time the President of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 340, a bunch of men who did rough work and required straightforward and sometimes offensive leadership. So Ruth and Charlie’s clashes were momentous and the fall-out was continuous. Not the best environment for a little kid, but I felt loved and that made quite a difference.
Along with these two came one little sister, until I was eleven, and then it was two. I think we did fine together. Still meet amicably, although I must admit, we are a little strange.
And along came hordes of relatives on the Swedish side, and a few relatives on the Irish side but hordes of priests and nuns to redress the balance. Each group was heartily opposed to the other and considered the other misguided, ignorant and perhaps vicious. I was not torn apart by this. I liked both groups and dealt with their differences by deciding nobody really knows much about this stuff. With this attitude of smug indifference I entered the Roman Catholic Seminary system at age thirteen, well armored to allow the disagreeable to simply wash off. I suspect that is why I enjoyed the drill. Although there was much to grump about, for me these were happy times.
I was studying to be a diocesan priest but for twelve years we were on a monastic schedule of meals, prayers, classes, free time, dress, from adolescence until I popped out the end of the conveyer belt at age twenty-five an ordained priest, vowed to celibacy, and parish life ahead of me. My primary learning was to be on-time. Just happened that way and years later my clients would get worried if they did not see me ten minutes before the appointment. But as to learning, the first six years were challenging and in some cases interesting. The last six years there was not much really worth learning. I doubt if there is a single thing I “learned” during the last few years when we concentrated on religious teaching that I would hold today.
However the general bent of bowing to the awesome remains deeply in me. That was quite a gift!
In 1961 I began working as a parish priest as an assistant, (that means living in the same house) to a seventy year old who I think today would be diagnosed with a rather nasty case of Alzheimers. I later found out I was sent there because I was close to six foot tall and at two hundred twenty pounds was unlikely to be attacked, as the previous assistant had been.
My next assignment brought me to a more peaceful home and service. Actually each of my three bosses over the six years I was there had a life problem that could be the cause for their dismissal if discovered, but they performed their duties and let me perform mine. For a couple of them I have deep affection still. What kind of fifty year old priest tells you that if he had any courage he would quit and sell insurance like his dad did. I will tell you, “A very good one!” People could tell him anything and he accepted their secrets with a compassionate heart. He knew suffering from the inside. And he knew he was not measuring up and so how could he fault others.
As part of this parish, I taught at our own girls’ high school. We did some very innovative stuff. I once told a reporter who had come to observe a day of our “Planning for Next Year” week in which all the ladies were involved that, after I had shown him the men’s room and pointed to all the open door classrooms that he could just slip in and observe where he wanted to, I had to attend the faculty meeting which was already in session. He asked if all the teachers attended the faculty meeting and I said, “Of course.” And he asked, “So who is keeping track of the students?” I said, “Nobody.” Left him to find out how that worked.
Same setting, the President of the Junior class came to the principal to say, “Sister, tomorrow we need the entire morning without faculty present because we are having some serious quarrels we need to hash-out. Things will be said that we do not want you to hear.” And sister said, “Certainly! I will inform the faculty.”
However, I was noticing that often people would say about some old grouch of a pastor, “You should have know him when he was an assistant. He was such a wonderful priest.” I thought I have no reason to suspect that whatever disease caught him would not catch me. I even spotted some early symptoms. Much more annoyance at slow thinkers. Irritation at interference with my chosen schedule. Treating routine tasks as routine, when for the other person they were far from routine. I could prepare a pretty good sermon in fifteen minutes and often did.
So I pulled out in 1969 with as little fanfare as possible. During that same period so did many of my classmates. I announce my resignation the same day Bishop James Shannon, a spectacular star of the diocese, announced his. Not much fanfare left over for me after that.
I went to real work. My last boss and pastor had told me that my issue was not celibacy but job dissatisfaction. After a bit I agreed with him. The men went to work and left me with the women and kids. If I had delayed a couple of years I would have been left with the kids. The women too began leaving in the morning for work.
So I went to real work. First with Honeywell, then with a small consulting firm, then with Control Data, then as an independent consultant. There are as many stories associated with that as I have told about my first thirty-three years. I am not going to tell them. You have the basics already of what made me me. Although I learned a lot from the workplace, ran into some jerks but mostly came out pretty impressed with the people I got to work with. For toppers try this one: The Honeywell Space Shuttle Control Team. I worked with them as their team development consultant for their initial year and one day several years later I watched the Shuttle take off and I finally realized that the Honeywell Space Shuttle Control Team was a big deal. I was a small and temporary cog, so don’t get too excited..
I met my wife, Edith, whom you can meet if you read the poetry section of this blog. There is a long poem in there about her. We had two kids, Ben and Dave, who are both remarkable men, and who married Megan and Sarah who are both remarkable women, and they have produced as of this point five small children, Beau, Isabelle, Bree, Maddie, and Zach who please me greatly. Zach is the one shown twice in the headers. We will see how they do but I am expecting they will do well.
When I left the Roman Priesthood in 1969 I declared myself an agnostic. But then I had to account for the fact that if I did not believe in God how come I was confident life was going to work out. So I had to say something was there guiding me. I realized that that guidance was for a greater good not necessarily for my good but I had deep confidence and still do that the all will work out well, ( maybe not for me,) if I follow the inner guidance.
I began attending the Episcopal Church. Then in 1980 my orders were received by the Episcopal Bishop and I carried on an ancillary religious career while working my real job consulting up to the year 1995 and then I continued in various parishes as the Interim Pastor until 2006. Some of my time was working with the Bishop as a strategic planner for the diocese. (Pro bono.) Then I retired and resigned from the Episcopal Priesthood. That makes two resignations from churches. I also was fired twice, from the same firm, and laid off once from a corporation. As a consultant I was never fired by a client, but while contract teaching I was fired twice, from different companies. (The feedback was that the class was great but the teacher lousy. Then they hired a better teacher and then the teacher was great but the class lousy. See the review on Carl Rogers for an explanation. That will explain a lot more about me as a matter of fact.) My life did not bound from success to success although I had enough success, as did my wife, to survive very well financially. My failures I often attribute to my stubborn adherence to the truth. Sometimes I was valiant in this and sometimes just stupid.
For a few years I studied with Buddhists heavily. Not as heavily as Buddhist teachers who put years of silence, meditation and listening into it, but enough to write a decent book on Buddhism for Christians. I never escaped being a dualist and finally came to peace with that. I like dualism. (If you have never looked into Buddhism you probably are misunderstanding “dualism” in this context. Short definition of non-dualism is that there is not “two.” But there is not “one either.” Short definition of dualism is “There is two”)
I became a Quaker. Through all of this I have appreciated the value of silence, the fountain of wisdom. Quakers supported me in this as no other religion can. From time to time some of these writings will be canted toward The Society of Friends of the Truth, that is Quakers. Forgive me. I cannot help it. I was born to be a Quaker. “Truth” should have been my father’s middle name.
I write this in 2017, I am 82 years old. I suspect I am close to the end. This requires no great skill at prognostication. Lots of people die at my age. Most earlier. Some live to one hundred. I have seen that. I would rather go before people think me cute when I drool.
In the course of this I have published five books:
The Self-reliant Manager, AMACOM, 1977
Small Decencies, Reflections and Meditations on Being Human at Work, Harper Business 1992
The Common Table, Reflections and Meditations on Community and Spirituality in the Workplace, Harper Business 1993
Taking Jesus Seriously, Buddhist Meditation for Christians,Liturgical Press 2006
Hawk Rising, Soaring on the Wings of Desire, iUniverse, 2009