EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark submitted this column the morning his retirement took effect.
I have already used about three trees worth of paper trying to find a graceful way to tell you that this will be my last "Along the Way." There, I did it, and it was as difficult as I thought it would be.
To be honest I shall miss very much doing this column. Over the years it has been a regular part of the week’s rhythm; and it has been a point of reference, a focal point that has helped me stay aware of God’s loving presence in the daily and ordinary aspects of our lives.
I have loved it because its major focus was you — what you do, how and why you do it, and your impact on others. Having a column to do in the offing helped me to be more attentive to what you were doing, what it meant to you and to others. It has all been a beautiful and daily reminder that God is very much alive in you and in me, and depends on us to communicate God’s own love to others.
As I recall I began "Along the Way" during Lent in the very early ’80s. Our diocesan theme that year was something like "At the Crossroads." I traveled to several regional sites for evening prayer and faith sharing. I wrote about the program once or twice indicating that in the future I would be doing an occasional column for the then-Courier-Journal.
Now, some 1,300 or 1,400 columns later, we come to the end of this phase of the journey. The experience of writing has been a wonderful one because it has opened avenues of communications and opportunities for conversations that I might never have enjoyed without it.
People seemed to identify with the simple themes about which I wrote — a wild ride to the mall with a new driver, the pleasure of a ball game, preparing spaghetti carbonara, the challenges or joy of prayer on a retreat, camping out with thousands of teens.
The whole experience has taught me many things. Some examples: 1) that when we are willing to share simply and honestly what shakes our spirits or fills us with delight, people receive that as an invitation to do the same. Connections are made. Good things happen; 2) people enjoy being asked questions they would not readily think of in the course of a busy life, but, when considered, open new possibilities for them; and 3) people respond positively when they are reminded — and it can be done in many ways — that we are all called to holiness. They receive it as a consolation and a challenge, and it enlivens them.
I have often said that my way of spirituality constantly calls me to an awareness that — to use a well-known biblical image — God consistently molds us and shapes us through the loving hands of those with whom we share our lives.
I can only thank God for the ways God has touched me through you and the people of this marvelous diocese for the past 33 years. It has been and will continue to be, I am sure, a most memorable journey.
While this is my last column, I hope to see you along the way very often in the years ahead. For all past and to come, I offer you my profound gratitude and promise you my constant prayers.
Peace to all.