Raised in a very Catholic Berwyn in the 1950s and 1960s, the question of whether I was called to the priesthood had to be dealt with, eventually. And so, on a day in 1973, when I was 19, one of my very first journal entries addressed the matter. I wrote:
Right now – I don’t want to be a priest. I don’t want five years of seminary. I don’t want celibacy restrictions. I’m not a Catholic in the standard sense of the word … I don’t want all that theology. I want to love without restrictions.
Though I did not go into the seminary, I did nevertheless ponder what God called me to do with my life. I kept that inquiry alive in my journal over the years, and still wrestle with it as an unfinished query, as I turn 70.
Were I to give my journal a title, I’d call it, “The Rest of Me.”
It’s been the place I’ve gone to express, investigate, and uncover stuff going on inside that I haven’t been ready to bring to my roles in the world. I’ve prayed there when I haven’t felt that prayer would be welcome or appropriate in the office, social gathering or classroom. In it I’ve laid out fears, dreams or visions that I have not deemed ready to put on the table with friends, family or colleagues.
A few entries have been somewhat prophetic. In one reflection in 1999, at age 46, I saw myself as an old man who was in certain respects not unlike the man I am now — a walker and one who enjoys watching people on the street below his window:
There will be a day
When I will be an old man
And all I will want again
Just as I wanted years ago
Will be a small apartment
With a wooden door
A window with shutters that open onto the street
A glass of red table wine
And nothing more than that.
I will awaken in the morning
For a walk amidst the people …
I will walk
I will observe
I will smile
I will walk some more
I will eat at a café where my name will be known to a few …
In the journal, poetry has flowed, even though I have never thought of myself as a poet. Thirty years and several thousand entries after my musing about the priesthood, I penned this reflection while gazing through the window one morning on our backyard garden on Elmwood in Oak Park:
Blue delphiniums … blue woodland phlox …
Blue flowers wait expectantly behind the misty, opaque window
of a backyard greenhouse, peering into the morning like dew-eyed children.
Blue flowers rest on spindly toes reaching into the shallow soil of their humble containers, taking a deeper hold for yet another day, emitting hope.
Over the decades, the journal has served as an inner workshop, a study, a sanctuary and an inner church.
In my inner church, I’ve contemplated my beliefs, hoping for God’s guidance. Long ago, my inner church embraced the feminine in the Divine — the Holy as Mother and Father. It has seen women and men as leaders in the world, equally called to serve. It’s embraced the Spirit moving in the world where love has been most free to flourish, inside and outside the outer Church. But I know that my inner church would not have become what it is without the outer Church.
Born and baptized in 1953, in this year, 2023, I now turn 70. Birthed in 1973, graced by the freedom to let my soul run in her pages, The Rest of Me turns 50.
Rich Kordesh grew up in Berwyn and raised his family in Oak Park where he now does a good deal of grandparenting.