This past Wednesday, when I went to pray my Holy Hour in the Blessed Sacrament chapel at our parish, I discovered that the door was locked, and realized that with all the priests of the diocese on retreat, things were more hunkered down than usual. So I told the friends who come with me every week that God was probably telling us, in the words of the Gospel, to "Go to your inner room...and pray to your Father" (Matt. 6:6). I went home and prayed there.
My prayer of reminiscence bubbled up a memory of my senior year, when I had gotten to know John Hazard better. It was our Easter break (and I think we even called it an Easter break even though we were in public school), and most of us were anxiously waiting to hear from the colleges to which we had applied. John had applied to five Ivy League schools and was obviously concerned about the responses.
I had asked him to call me when he heard, and he promised that he would.
When the phone rang, my mother picked it up and told me he was calling, and when I answered and he responded, I remember being almost stunned at how deep his voice sounded over the telephone. I asked him what his news was and he told me in a very happy voice that he had been accepted at all five. I remember several years later seeing a picture his mother had taken of him in front of a table with the five letters there. One of his friends had been accepted at Yale, and another at Princeton, but he was the only one in our class who had been accepted at Harvard, and that was where he wanted to go.
When I reflected on it Wednesday night, it was the sound of his voice and how much deeper it was than I expected that filled my mind. As I prayed about it, it occurred to me that every one we meet has depths we don't encounter casually, and that only when we take time to really listen and get to know them do we discover more layers of who they are. And even in our daily existence, we can deepen our experience of the moment by paying more attention to our surroundings, opening our eyes and ears and allowing life to enter in.