Darwin's Torment

“Thank God though; the pain does not go away.” These words, by a Spanish writer, which provoked John Waters enough to share with us at the New York Encounter, will forever be imprinted in the way I live...

“Thank God though; the pain does not go away.” These words, by a Spanish writer, which provoked John Waters enough to share with us at the New York Encounter, will forever be imprinted in the way I live.

This year was my first trip to the Encounter. I was lucky enough to have my wife join me at School of Community a few months ago, and this led us to decide we would go to NY together. One of the first things we did was go to St Patrick’s Cathedral. For me, going to St. Patrick's was a pilgrimage, and it began weeks and months prior, in “friendships” with particular Saints.

St Therese of Lisieux, St Maximillian Kolbe, and St Michael the Archangel have become part of my life. I didn’t choose them, but objective circumstances have led each of them into my life. With this fact of my history, spending time at the Cathedral wasn’t simply to look at the beauty of things, but a meeting of friends. I sought each of them out and began to speak the things of my heart to them with gratitude. Face to face! As Kellie and I walked this journey through the Cathedral, we came upon St Maximillian Kolbe. Being moved to share with Kellie what I knew of his life and his sacrifice, I simply wanted to say to her, “He gave his life for a man with a family.” I tried, but I couldn’t utter a word. After the tears streamed down my face, I finally was able to speak out those few words and we embraced each other in gratitude. Shortly afterward we were in a public place, with many people snapping pictures and taking in this site; humanity. But it was the Mystery that was suddenly a part of my banal existence. This Beauty which penetrated into a seemingly random existence and gave sense and purpose to a collection of cells, blood, and skin, where my “I” emerged in the glory of being fully alive. I realized that St Maxillian Kolbe was Christ, and that man, who was given new life and the undeserved gift of a family, is me.

We left the Cathedral and spent the next several days at the Encounter in such joy and gratitude that we are both forever changed. Our relationship with each other, but also with people we met, gained the distinction that randomness does not win out. People we met seemed to exude this same presence we encountered in the Cathedral; John Waters, Richard Cabral, Fr Tom Collucci, Elisa, Giuseppe, and many others. Each of these people has been an instrument in which Christ has fascinated me again with His incarnation, here and now.

Michael Waldstein spoke of something Charles Darwin wrote. Darwin said that every time he saw a peacock feather, he got a headache. Its beauty was so unnecessary that he simply couldn’t deduce a reason why it even existed. So I looked at a trip to NYC, a busy NY Cathedral, my own workplace, and even my family, and pick out the painful faults of humanity. These faults would lead to doubts, and eventually despair, at not attaining human perfection of the Ideal. What happened to me in NY was the entrance of the Other. One who precedes me and has thought of me before I even wake up. My failures, and this suffering in reality, are not obstacles to the Mystery, but the precise way in which the pain leads me to know that everything good comes from Him.

My wife and I spent two more days after the Encounter with family in Brooklyn. We took a walk from their apartment on Monday morning to see the Brooklyn Bridge and get a slice of pizza for lunch. As we walked, Kellie stopped and snapped a picture of something on the sidewalk. After everything that happened, there it was: a peacock feather lay right there on the concrete. Without Kellie I would have missed it. Thank God he gives me another. Someone who I simply walk with, and all my inadequacies. The Word became flesh.