This past Thursday was a day curiously full of reminders. I don’t mean the sticky notes that frame my computer screen. No, I’m speaking of something more personal. Three examples:
First – Something in The Washington Post caught my eye early in the morning. “Georgetown chimney produces strange find: a 19th-century cannonball” by, Clarence Williams. Oddly the article was placed under the Crime section of the Local news page… but I digress. It seems a family in Georgetown wanted to use a long-dormant fireplace. Prudently calling a chimney sweep to make sure the hearth was safe, they discovered the reason it hadn’t been used in so long: A cannonball lodged in the flu! The article doesn’t specify to whom the munition belonged (U.S., British, Confederate), only that the family made an interesting conversation piece out of it.
Second – Later on Thursday I found myself at Strathmore Music Center with a colleague. We attended “An Evening With Jason Alexander,” (a.k.a. George from Seinfeld). It was a great night. Constant laughs and familiar tunes from my childhood made the event a great walk down memory lane. Among the music performed that night, the BSO presented the overture from Peter Pan, one of the first musicals I ever saw (albeit on VHS).
Finally – Coming home from Strathmore I knelt before a relic of St. Philip in my study. It’s one of the treasures I was blessed to bring back from studies in Rome. It was a great way to end the day in prayer and contextualize everything that had happened in terms of Christ.
Reminders can be tremendously important for us as people… not just to make our appointments but to remember who we are and where we’re going. Sometimes the reminders are solemn, even painful. The Georgetown cannonball was an instrument of war (Did I mention, it had to be taken away for army analysis to ensure it wouldn’t explode). Someone shot it with the intention of killing another human being… not something we like to remember, but it’s part of who we are. Hopefully it reminds us to pursue peace in our future. Other reminders are more affirming. The music at Strathmore brought me back to childhood, to memories of musical performances with my cousins and gifts from grandparents… a nice reminder that I come from a family, and a loving one at that. Finally there are sacred, eternal reminders: my relic of St. Philip. Macabre as it might seem to the uninitiated, these [literal] pieces of history are a beautiful way to aide and enhance the faith of the present generation in handing on our way of life to the next.
Catholics have a beautiful veneration for the past. The relics we keep remind us of our history, help us to remember who we are, and guide us in charting a future course. I feel sad for people who don’t have such a foundation. It’s hard to imagine navigating my life without such a constellation of reminders to guide me. Ultimately these reminders liberate us to move into the future with confident steps… and that’s a joy.