Normally, when corresponding with someone new, I’ll sign off, “With best wishes.” The second e-mail is signed “With warm regards.” The third exchange moves to “With warmest regards,” and finally, I write, “Love, Brian.” This shakes some people up because the word “love” represents so many feelings, from “I like you a lot,” to “We’re at a very intimate level.”
My friend Hayley Evans, with whom I do a bimonthly podcast, said she now uses the word “privilege” rather than “love.” It’s a privilege to have you read this post. I don’t love you for doing so, but I’m very grateful for your time and attention.
Ray has heard me tell him “I love you” every day for over 47 years, but the meaning might not always be the same. What I have tried to communicate more recently is how much I admire and appreciate all that he is and has done. “You’re an amazingly talented man.” “Ray can do anything, from electrical to plumbing.” “Thank you for handling the finances. I always know I can forward anything to you, and you’ll handle it.”
What I really want Ray to know is what a great privilege it has been, and is, to have him as my mate for most of my life. What an extraordinary gift that is. Ray gets just one spin of the wheel, and he’s put all of his chips on me. Yes, that’s deep, abiding love, but it’s also an amazing privilege.
My dear friend, Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, a group focused on Catholics who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, just recently had a private audience with Pope Francis. She was in Rome for a Synod where the church is getting input from a variety of sources on such issues as the ordination of women, a married priesthood, and blessing gay unions. I wrote to Jeannine that it was a privilege for her to meet the pope, and to feel his support, but it was also a privilege for the pope to spend time with Sr. Jeannine.
Jeannine and I started our ministry to straight and gay people about 50 years ago. She did so within the church, and I did so outside the guardrails of Rome. She’s a straight nun who used to teach college math. After meeting gay Catholic people and hearing their stories, she changed her life focus, and, as a result, was forced out of her religious order. But the Sisters of Loretto welcomed her. Pope Benedict XVI banned her from speaking in any Catholic facility, and she received hate mail and threats. Yet, she persevered. She’s a hero of our movement, and the pope was privileged to meet her.
Jeannine might have told Pope Francis “I love you,” but they each might have interpreted the word differently. To say, though, “It’s a great privilege meeting you,” is quite clear in its meaning.
My life is a privilege.