A Graceful Moment

Preface

This is the third volume of short stories, which were occasioned when someone several years ago asked me to write for a Web site called Washington Religion. My friend asked for something about a page’s worth (double spaced). These are neither homilies nor simply stories. They are observations and tales from my heart. They are written for those who are on their pilgrimage of faith in the real world.

In this volume there are some stories that are a little longer than my discipline dictates. I included them because they seem to have an intrinsic validity.

Most of the material is personal. All of it is true. I try to change names and places in order to protect others. If I offend anyone, I apologize, for that is not my intent.

I am greatly indebted to The Rev. Dr. Leander S. Harding, upon whose staff I serve. My work at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Stamford, Connecticut, is a gift from God. I love my work and those in my parish. The parishioners have listened to my stories and blessed me with their patience. It is a privilege to be their priest.

My wife and sons are a continuous blessing in my life and help make my ministry possible. As always, my black Lab is a faithful companion. Pax Vobiscum. - Fr. Gage, 1999

A Graceful Moment
Lk.18:9-14

This past summer my wife, Faye, and I spent a week on the coast of Maine. Our motel room looked directly out on the harbor. Boats glided in and out, were silhouetted against the sky, and the water was clear and chuckled against the pilings. We took our meals on verandahs and never tired of watching the water and the sky. Occasionally we explored roads or walked around what there was of the town, which was up the hill behind our inn. It took several days for me to figure out that we were at the end of the bay and that it was possible to cross to the other side by means of a foot bridge. Since there were a number of inns and docks on the other side, one afternoon I suggested to Faye that we walk over and look around. We sauntered over only to discover that there was nowhere near the amount of activity at these inns as there was on the side whence we had come. So we sat on the verandah of one of the inns and watched the comings and goings out on the water.

At the end of our dock was a very large sailboat, which was for hire. It was skippered by a woman in her mid forties, who was muscular, overweight, and sort of a modern day Tug Boat Annie. I was fascinated watching her raise and lower sails, haul on ropes, and shove around various cargo. Obviously she was rugged, independent, and self-reliant. After a while, a family came down the walk toward the verandah and dock. There was a grandmother, a mother, father, young boy about fifteen, and a boy in a stroller who was perhaps twelve and severely physically handicapped and mentally retarded. He could barely speak. His head lolled to one side, and his legs were about as big around as my wrist. After the father wrote out a check to the skipper, the mother, son, and grandmother climbed on board the boat. The father reached down and lifted his younger son out of the stroller and held him up to the skipper. She reached down and with one motion lifted up the broken child, cradling him in her arms, and turned and paused for a moment looking tenderly at his face. All of this was done in one gracious and graceful movement. There she was, a tough, homely sailor, balanced on the deck with her back to the sun, holding a young boy. I have never seen anything more beautiful in my life. Tears were rolling down my face as I turned to Faye and we both said, “It’s Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta.’ ” With utter ease and the gentlest of motions, this contemporary Madonna seated the child.

Faye and I watched the sailboat glide out into the bay and disappear. Neither of us spoke for a long time. We were overwhelmed by the image of the woman holding the child and the metaphor therein implied.

You and I live in a community of grace in which our brokenness is held in God’s embrace. Like the child in Tug Boat Annie’s arms, like the crucified Jesus in the arms of Mary, so we are cradled and carried in the arms of our gracious God upon whom we ultimately place our trust. Amen.