An honorable tribute to a great man

IMG_0098This past Friday could not have been written as beautifully as things occurred. I felt the urge to a head early to Sacramento, even earlier than normal, knowing traffic during these December days could be more congested. As I approached Fairfield, I received a text stating that Brother Benny Ruiz was in his final hours at Vacaville Kaiser … the next city over.

It was a decision that did not take much thought. Even though it had been years since I saw Bro. Benny, I knew I owed it to him to pay this final visit.

I made my way to the second floor, to find a room filled with the presence of so many people. In their midst, the priest, finishing the Ritual for the Anointing of the Sick. Auntie Revel noticed me immediately even as I wore the medical mask over my face. I waited patiently as many others stood next to Benny’s bedside at the threshold of the great mystery we know as death.

When the room cleared for a moment, Auntie Revel gestured me toward her to stand at the bedside of her husband. She called his attention that I was present at his feet. As he breathed through his oxygen mask, I reached out to for his left hand to grab and hold for only a moment and to thank him for his life, his faithfulness to Christ, and his ministry. It was a moment similar to Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam … a reach toward love …. a reach to remember where we come from … a reach to the man whose faith informed and formed my adolescent years! That was it… a brief moment to be still in life and say thank you.

It has been difficult to put this blog post together, not because I am short of words. Rather, the experience of knowing of his death has brought a deep reflection of my own spiritual life and it’s immense journey. Whether you agreed with him or not, during those early years, he led the largest Catholic youth renewal in the Solano County. He was stern, precise in his own doctrine, firm in his decisions. Perhaps it was all rooted in the Christ he has loved his whole life.

So much of who I am has been defined by my roots in the Recollections movement. So many of my lifelong friends were formed in the White Gate House of Prayer those countless Friday nights.

Without a doubt, Brother Benny saw something in me and allowed me to lead in many capacities in my young years in ministry. I owe my deepest gratitude to him and his life of service.

I am grateful for that small moment, to enter a room and see the leader I knew my whole teenage life, as he faced what he has rehearsed his whole life… to stand in front of death and behold the goodness of the Father.

Here, in the center of Christmas, he stood before the awe-filled mystery of the Eternal God becoming a baby for this very reason… that we may know him in for eternity. Brother Benny died on the morning of Christmas Eve to know God as he is.  Well done, good and faithful servant! De Colores! May you now drink from the vine which we have sung so many times. How beautiful God’s time truly is.

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Simply stated: A message for Advent

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Sing Handel! Sing!

 

Last Thursday, I enjoyed San Francisco music in its 43rd year at Davies. The Grammy Award Winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus took the stage with distinguished artists in performing the timeless piece of Handel’s Messiah. It was led by Swedish maestroRagnar Bohlin, and comprised of 32 professionals and over a hundred community singers.

In my earliest recollection, I remember my grandmother dressing me up in a tuxedo and joining her at Davies Symphony Hall to sit the first row of stage left on the side terrace. It’s a memory I cherish, remembering how copies of this choral work were available at the entrance and I carefully followed the music, enjoying each passage singing of the Messiah.

Here’s a clip of one of my dear friends conducting the Dominican Chorale last month, performing the most familiar masterpiece in this whole work!

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