Bishop Richard Lennon died today. He was the bishop in Cleveland until about 2016 when his health took a downslide and he retired early.
I am not of the Catholic religion. I don’t generally agree with the philosophy of the Catholic church, or any church for that matter. I’m also not particularly impressed with celebrity. I am not saying this to be contrarian, but to set a background for 5 minutes that made me a better person.
I used to work for a provider to people with developmental disabilities that was based in the Catholic church. It is a very old provider, we worked in a very old building, and that’s where the children in our care lived. There was a chapel inside the building that housed many treasures and (some people believed) ghosts, including most of us who worked there. I had the experience of the elevator going up and down randomly, and my coworkers had multiple encounters that they tried to talk themselves out of. It was in this building I met Bishop Lennon.
He had come to decommission the chapel before we moved out. My office was just off the lobby of the second floor, by the copier and facing the elevator. It overlooked a senior living complex across the street with two pools in front and preturnaturally teal water continuously shooting in the air. I never did figure out what was in that water to give it that color. Nothing could live in there but maybe mermaids. Anyway, my boss was showing him around, and for some reason he came into my office.
Why did he come in? I was nobody noteworthy, not on any list to meet. He walked in and shook my hand, introducing himself. When he did, I can’t explain the feeling that his grip conveyed. There was a power in this person beyond what I had ever expected or known. This was probably in 2016, just before he retired, and I can still feel the aura. He stood there, and I told him I loved working in a place where I could put up religious items. I had a plaque of “Amazing Grace” hanging up that he walked over and looked at. Could he tell it was my mother-in-law’s, who always thought of herself as Catholic even though she had been victim of the anti-divorce judgments decreed by her church? He stood for a minute, and it felt like time stopped for awhile. My office was peaceful and the windows were open…could he have felt a minute of calm too?
We chatted about work, about the things in my office (thank heaven I had put away my “how to say things without swearing” chart..) and just life in general. He shook my hand again, said good-bye, and left. Feeling completely awestruck I had to sit down. I then furiously texted my friends of course! I had been completely calm and cool until then. I didn’t know what had happened, but I felt different. I had not come to work that day even knowing he would be there. Our paths intersected for a few minutes, and I met a Godly person.
Later someone asked why he talked to me. I said I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. Does there have to be a reason? I’m not Catholic. I’m a nobody. But I was blessed to have had this experience, and I will always remember. Amazing Grace indeed, Bishop Lennon. May you rest in peace.