Friday, October 29, 2010

Al di là

Today I went to the funeral of a man who lived in the parish in San Francisco where I studied as a novice. The Mass was a simple and beautiful testimony to a loving dad and family man who lived a good long life and now has gone on to heaven "filled with our love" as the program said. One of the blessings of wakes and funerals is that they call us to revisit places we once worked and lived and prayed. Most of us move about so frequently within the course of a day, a week, a month, a year, that it is hard for us to build the kind of lifelong friendships that these dear old parishioners know. To me it is so touching to meet people who have been friends and neighbors for over 50 years, whose children and grandchildren now are friends. The homily was sincerely affectionate and filled with the kind of tender insights a priest can only have when he has known the family through thick and thin times. The testimony given by the man's grand daughter gave us glimpses into the life of a family man growing up in Italy and San Francisco from 1922 to 2010. This is the kind of old neighborhood many of us remember fondly and long for even though we many not be Italian. We all had them, German, French, Mexican, Irish, Russian, Polish, even English immigrants. We still have that desire for connectedness in the neighborhoods where we live in now but it is harder to find it, harder to build it. There are places we might find it in a parish, a coffee shop and a family business, but we have to look past all the chain stores and evangelical entertainment centers to find it. The closing song, Al di là, must have been the favorite love song of this man and wife when they were young. Now the husband has gone to heaven and his tearful wife is surrounded by neighbors who know how much she will miss him. How blessed she is to have this neighborhood to keep her memories alive and well. My sisters and I didn't know what the words to the song meant, but we could tell it was a love song. I looked the words up and now I like it even more! Here they are for when you are mourning someone a loved one who has gone beyond:


Al di là

Non credevo possibile,
Se potessero dire queste parole:

Al di lá del bene più prezioso, ci sei tu.
Al di lá del sogno più ambizioso, ci sei tu.

Al di lá delle cose più belle.
Al di lá delle stelle, ci sei tu.
Al di lá, ci sei tu per me, per me, soltanto per me.

Al di lá del mare più profondo, ci sei tu.
Al di lá de i limiti del mondo, ci sei tu.
Al di lá della volta infinita, al di la della vita.
Ci sei tu, al di la, ci sei tu per me.
La la la la la...
La la la...
(Ci sei tu...)



I couldn't believe it was possible
For these words to be said:

Beyond the most precious good, there you are.
Beyond the most ambitious dream, there you are.

Beyond the most beautiful things, there you are.
Beyond the stars, there you are.
Beyond, there you are for me, for me, just for me.

Beyond the deepest sea, there you are.
Beyond the borders of the world, there you are.
Beyond the infinite vault (=the sky), beyond life.
There you are, beyond, there you are for me.
la la la...
(There you are).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Meeting with the Dalai Lama

I attended the teaching of the Dalai Lama on the eight verses of training the mind in the San Jose Convention Center and the interfaith gathering of clergy afterward. The eight verses are all centered on building compassion. They are similar to the Beatitudes in the way they recommend specific practices that lead away from self and toward love and humility. One of the assets of the Buddhist tradition I really appreciate is that because they have no belief in God, they concentrate all their study and practice on developing the human characteristics that most other faiths attribute to God. This is something very practical about Buddhism that admire, and I think many other people do too. We concentrate a lot of study and practice on identifying and defining God and establishing rules for being in right relationship with God. This can have the effect of drawing us away from instilling the attributes of God we most admire.

The Dalai Lama pointed out that an asset we Christians have is because we believe in God, we do not have to work so hard at avoiding taking credit for our own growth in perfection. We know it is all grace and that it is God alone who deserves praise. We know we are subject to God and not in charge of the universe. Buddhist teaching places great emphasis on humility so that the monks and priests who seek to progress on the spiritual path do not do so for their own sake. The ultimate goal is spiritual union with all that is. We seek this too in our own way. For us, our personal relationship with God, Jesus, Mary and the Saints is woven into the spiritual path. We look for different signs and assurances along the way than our Buddhist brothers and sisters, and we have a rich heritage of stories to guide us.

The Christian mystics teach us that the path moves through stages of purification, illumination and contemplation...all of which require discipline and devotion. The mystic way is not for the faint-hearted or feeble-minded.... although meekness and simplicity are most welcome. These are the lessons I am pondering today as I go about my daily business of photo editing, website administration, data security and coordinating senior transportation options. I am grateful for the eight verses today. They help me with ordering daily life in accordance with what really matters. If you are interested in learning more about them and the Dalai Lama's visit, you can find more online at teaching the mind.