Speech of Rev. James Reuter, S.J. on his 92nd Birthday
Saturday, May 31, 2008
After my beautiful birthday on May 21, many good old friends asked me: How does it feel to be 92?. . . . The only honest answer that I could give was: Very good! Like the good wine at Cana , the best days in the life of every man come at the very end.
You see the beauty of Gods world all around you, more clearly than you ever saw it before. . . . . above all, as you grow older, you realize that the most precious possession that anyone has is. . . . a friend!
And I have so many good friends! My ancient, medieval original Ateneo Glee Club has been singing with me since 1952 56 years! And, so help me, they are singing better now than they did 50 years ago. . . .
Now, the songs that they love come from their minds and hearts, grown rich and mellow through the long years. I feel that their harmony comes from their deep friendship for each other. Their very souls blend together.
And those who have acted with me in their youth remember their adventures on stage as one of the happiest periods in their lives. We toured around the world twice, playing off Broadway in New York , in Her Majesty's Theater in London , in the great audience hall of the Holy Father in Rome .
Travelling through Europe, we slept in the bus at night, and spent the days in beautiful historical cities Florence , Venice , Vienna , Prague .
Trips like that bound us together then, and the bonds have remained to this day.
The athletes that I have coached in basketball, when they were students, call me when they are sick. I have visited so many of them in the hospital, heard their last confessions, anointed them, and then said Mass for them, when they had gone home to God.
And the retreats! I receive such touching letters! I am humiliated by these letters, because the one who makes the impact on their lives is never the priest it is Christ Our Lord.
But it is consoling to the priest to feel that God has used him as an instrument as a channel through whom his grace flows down to his children. The priest is only a faucet sometimes an old and rusty faucet the living water is the grace of God.
Whenever I hear confessions, I know that the one who is confessing is reaching out to God. The priest is only the bridge. . . . But it is consoling to know that you can be a bridge between a soul and God . . . . . Every day I pray to be worthy of the good people whom God sends to me.
People sometimes ask: What are your dreams, your hopes, your ambition? What do you want to achieve before God calls you home?
Actually, I have no plans to achieve anything. . . . . But I have a gut feeling that God is preparing me for something big something I do not expect but something tremendous. And I am sure that God will not call me home until that big day breaks over me. . . . I wake up smiling, waiting for something that I do not know.
Of course I am in the pre-departure area. . . . Of course my flight will be called soon. . . . But soon for God could be five years ten years twelve. My good friend Jimmy Martin, S.J., who coached the Ateneo team long ago, and prepared them for the Berlin Olympics, lived to be 104. . . . I really expect that I will be around for years to come.
Death may come at any moment. . . . I know that. . . .but when it comes it will be the greatest of all adventures a journey into the unknown.
I have been blessed by my studies as a religious, as a Jesuit. I have been constantly exposed to the Gospel. . . . The word of God leads you to the fullness of life. . . . to peace of soul, to the joy of living, to happiness, to love, to everything that is beautiful and good.
Even if there were no heaven or hell, no last judgment I would never regret having tried to live by the word of God. . . . . If I had my life to live all over again, I wouldn't change a thing.
I have made a thousand mistakes . . . . . But with the grace of God I hope to make it to Purgatory. . . .Because, then I know that someday I will be safe with God, forever.
And I believe that: Eye hath not seen, nor hath ear heard nor hath it entered into the mind of man to conceive the joy that God has prepared for those who love him.
What does it feel like to be 92? You feel that you are standing on the threshold of a great, beautiful adventure. . . . .Life will begin when God calls you home.