If I could name three defining elements in my life, beyond that of my parents, family and friends, it would be the ministry of Peter and his successors in the Church; the Maronite spiritual heritage; and personal spiritual direction. For now, because of the recent death of Father John King, S.J., my Spiritual Director, I would like to reflect on this last element.
At the Seminary in Washington DC it was Father Joseph Zolatay, at the Seminary in Rome it was Father Joe Propps, in Uniontown, Pennsylvania it was Father John Pietro, in Los Angeles it was Father Jack Boyle, S.J. In St. Louis it was Father Timothy Horner, OSB and in New York it has been Father John King, S.J. All during my seminary, priestly life and service as bishop, I have seen my spiritual director on a consistent basis each month. It has been the foundation of my spiritual life.
These wise priests were my confessors and confidants. I left no matters hidden from them and in each session I would be challenged, comforted, advised and by the grace of God, absolved of my sins.
Father John King, S.J., died June 13, 2008 while I was in Lebanon. He died of a brain tumor that took him in two months. I had visited him in the hospital and finally in the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University. Two weeks before he died, during my last visit to him, I asked if his right hand still worked, “are there any more blessings and pardon to be found there?”, I asked. I placed his hand on my head; he smiled and thanked me for being there for him.
I offered the Mass for his intentions in Lebanon, knowing that most likely he would be gone by the time I returned. John’s death was one more opportunity to “review my life”, as he would say each time he would give absolution.
Spiritual direction is not for everyone. But for those who want to be more accountable, more honest with themselves and more at peace with God, it is a wonderful way to put our lives together in a more loving and honest way.
I am now looking for another spiritual director as I grieve and give thanks for John. I found him by calling the Jesuit Retreat House on Staten Island. There I asked for an older semi-retired priest. By God’s grace John called to volunteer. Now I depend once again on that grace to help me find Christ’s enduring presence and influence in the form of a spiritual father. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord.
+Gregory John Mansour
(Reprinted with permission.)