Update: As you know, John Glenn died the other day. I thought I might re-publish this article in honor of he and his wife and the encourgement I also take from his hero.
A great Australian lady who had once been invited to be an astronaut with NASA sent me a story written some years ago about the still very much alive American hero John Glenn and his heroine, his still very much alive wife Annie Glenn. My own father must have known John as they followed each other around the Pacific at the very same time as USMC fighter-attack pilots, at one time both flying Corsairs, both flying a zillion combat missions, both getting planes filled with bullets. So, the story caught my eye. Very moving. Well worth the read. This is the beauty of marriage, for better, for worse.
Annie Glenn, mind you, is the heroine who stands out amidst all the hoopla about John and his extraordinary career. She had a terrible stutter which made some people fairly disgusted with her. Meanwhile, what comes to mind for me is my absolute inability to preach with my eyes open. I just can’t do it. And for some people, this is unforgivably disgusting. They feel used and abused, as if I couldn’t care less about them, or didn’t believe what I was preaching, blah blah blah. All pretty hurtful I must say. I now and again get told off pretty severely after Mass by those in the pews of whatever parish (not mine, as I not infrequently beg my congregation’s forgiveness for this disability). Those who criticize create all sorts of scenarios for the psychological genesis of such a phenomenon, not excluding it being all my fault for moral reasons. Through the decades, priests have been the most awful in their attacks, condemning my total lack of pastoral sensitivity and holding this against me. I regret that some blind themselves to the message of the homily just because I have my eyes closed. A bit of irony there, perhaps?
I have often joked that this is like the Irish monks who made a practice of closing the eyes during Mass since there was Someone more important to whom we are to look during Holy Mass than each other. And if that bit of ecclesiastical history doesn’t work then I add that this eyes closed thing has surely saved me many times. For instance, if I speak about prostitutes as I did recently (what with the Gospel from Luke 7), wouldn’t it be terrible if every time I said the word prostitute I happened to look at this or that woman who thought that I was then judging her in front of everyone else? Yikes!
Anyway, I could certainly identify with Annie Glenn. She overcame her difficulty. I wonder if I’ll just continue with my own little cross until I die. Anyway, no eyes closed in heaven. There is the beatific vision, after all! Please God I get to fly up to heaven better than any astronaut after this life is over and see the Most Holy Trinity, including Jesus, who will, of course, come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire. Amen.
A quick read: The story of John and Annie Glenn