The Gospel of Mark, Chapter 10: 29-31:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Hopefully, the last reflection gives me an adequate working understanding of the definition of Spiritual Poverty within the Franciscan charism. In the reflection on Penance, I asserted that the true definition of Penance, even though developed from a Franciscan perspective, applied universally across the Church. I think the same came be said about Spiritual Poverty. I do not think there would be large discrepancies from Order to Order in the Church on this topic. The Franciscan perspective just emphasizes Poverty to a much higher degree than other Orders do.
It is now time to shift my attention to the last major stop on my journey toward the final goal of eternal encounter with God. The last reflections in this work will be focused on defining and discerning the Will of God. This means moving on from Love’s Reply, except for one or two last quotes, and considering the other major book of spiritual reading that defined my trip last fall.
This book is titled Heliotropium, which refers to a sunflower that rotates continuously during the day to always face the sun. You might recall from chapter two that it was published in Latin by the German priest Fr. Jeremias Drexelius, S.J., in 1627. The English translation that is the basis for the edition I read first appeared in 1862. Please also recall that the subtitle of the book is Conformity of the Human Will to the Divine.
In the next chapter, I will concentrate on making the connection between Spiritual Poverty and conformity with the Will of God. But in this chapter, I wish to make a couple points about the nature of God’s Will.
To begin, I want to tell a story from the beginning of my trip.
My first stop was originally scheduled to be at Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana. I had visited there previously, and I wanted to go back to do some fishing. However, in August of 2021, Hurricane Ida made landfall at Grand Isle and destroyed much of the town. The state park also took considerable damage, and it was a few days later that I got an email saying my stay had been cancelled.
I began looking for alternative places and finally settled on White Oak Lake State Park in southern Arkansas. This park was close to the route that would take me to my second reservation in Texas. It was also a reasonable one-day drive from my home in Indiana, so I made a new reservation and was all set.
As my trip drew closer and I was making final preparations, I began to have doubts about one piece of my plan. Proximity to fishing was a major consideration in my itinerary and I intended to pack my fishing gear and strap my one-person canoe to the top of my van. But now I was having second thoughts. The primary purpose of the trip was solitude. I intended to minimize touristy side trips and to fill my time with prayer, contemplation, and spiritual reading. I can be intense about fishing, and that had the potential to be a distraction.
In the end, I decided to delay the decision. I took everything with me and thought “I can choose not to fish if it doesn’t feel right.” But when I got to the ranger station in Arkansas, the wall was covered with pictures of ten-pound bass, so I knew I was going fishing. I arrived on a Thursday and the park was full. But by Sunday, it had cleared out. I asked to move to a campsite on the water so I did not have to handle my boat on and off my van every day. They gave me my pick and I went fishing that evening and the next morning.
As I fixed lunch on Monday, I noticed yellow jackets buzzing around my food. They had not been present at the first site. After I ate, I walked away for a bit to give them some room, then returned to clean up. I noticed a wasp half hidden on a kitchen towel laid over the arm of my folding chair and thought, “I could have easily picked that up and got stung.” I had another towel over my shoulder, which I swung at the wasp, and it stung me on the wrist. (I know, not a very Franciscan thing to do, but I succumbed to temptation in the moment.)
A couple weeks before I had been stung at home. The tip of my finger swelled up, but that was it. I found out later that the effects of the stings are cumulative, which meant this time I had a severe allergic reaction. I immediately felt a severe fever come on and I was semi-delirious for about fifteen minutes. When I came out of the fever, I went back to cleaning up, but I still did not feel right, so I called 911 and went to the hospital.
In the first couple days of my trip, I had already read the first chapters of Heliotropium. Its teaching was front and center in my thoughts, so I quickly recognized that the sting happened as a direct result of the Will of God.
He wanted to remind me of the purpose of the trip. The distraction of fishing was incongruous. I acquiesced and I hauled my gear from Arkansas to California and back and never went fishing again.
It is easy to believe that the Will of God is present when things are going well. I can thank God when a blessing appears and think nothing of it. It is much more difficult to accept that the Will of God is active when negative things are happening.
But this is the main message of the opening chapters of Heliotropium. The book asks that I accept not just the positive, but everything that happens in my life as happening according to the Will of God.
The gospel quote at the opening of this chapter is from the same section of Mark as the quotes in the addendum to chapter six. It occurs at the end of the story of the Rich Man. It could easily have been included there as another reading related to Spiritual Poverty. The reason it is located here is because of the word “persecutions.”
As Jesus tells His disciples that they will be rewarded one hundred times over for their embrace of Spiritual Poverty, He also tells them to expect persecutions. That seems strange. If we do exactly as Jesus asks, we would anticipate recompense, but we likely would not expect hardship to remain. But here Jesus has both outcomes present in the same verse and He makes no apologies. Hard times are to be expected. The incentive for embracing them, which is also found in the same verse, is eternal life.
This passage from Heliotropium speaks to this reality:
Nothing whatever is done in the world (sin only excepted) without the Will of God. No power belongs to Fortune, whether she smile or frown. These are but dreams of heathen, who used to feign that the changes of human life were disposed by some goddess or other.
Christian wisdom treats all idea of Fortune with contempt.
“Good things and evil, life and death, poverty and riches, are from God.” (Ecclus 11:14)
The use of the word “evil” in the bible quote is striking. I would not normally think of evil as something God is capable of. If I look at a modern translation from the King James Bible, I find the quote rendered as “Prosperity and adversity, life and death, poverty and riches, come of the Lord.” This meets my perceptions more readily. I would not think of God as sending evil my way, but I can envision Him exposing me to adversity.
The chapter goes on to give several important clarifications. God’s Will can be thought of as having two aspects. There is His Ordaining Will, and His Permitting Will. Acts of nature, like the hurricane that hit Grand Isle, would fall under His Ordaining Will. Acts of sin performed by individual human beings fall under His Permitting Will. He is not the author of sin, but He does permit it as part of His overall design. This is understandable when you consider that He can control outcomes, including the outcomes of sin. He routinely and always turns sin, which He did not author but did permit, to His purposes, and therefore to good.
This leads then to two different aspects of sin, the guilt, and the punishment. The guilt remains completely with the person who committed the sin. The punishment is the outcome of the sin that God has allowed because it is useful to Him to allow it. Here is an example from Heliotropium:
A man covets his neighbor’s possessions, so He sets fire to his neighbor’s house. When the community arrives to put out the fire, he joins in the efforts, but instead of helping to extinguish the blaze, he uses the opportunity to steal his neighbor’s possessions. The guilt of the sin lies squarely on the thief who set the fire. But the punishment that the neighbor suffered was allowed by God, because God saw fit to chastise the neighbor for reasons that only God might understand. God used the sin for His own purposes and the good of the neighbor.
I do not wish to delve any deeper than this into the more esoteric arguments related to the nature of God’s Permissive Will. The point to make is God is the author of everything that happens in my life, not just the prosperity, but the adversity as well.
Fr. Jeremias draws this conclusion:
Since whatever is done in the world happens through the Permission or Command of God, it is our duty to receive everything as from the Hand of God, so conforming our will to His most holy Will, through all things, and in all things, as to ascribe nothing to accident, chance, or fortune.
And it is not only to fortune or chance that nothing is to be ascribed, but neither to the negligence or persevering care of man, as prime causes. Vain and idle are such complaints as “this or that happened to me because this or that man hated me, or managed my affairs badly, or did my business carelessly.”
This kind of philosophy is vain and foolish. But true, wise, and holy is this, “The Lord has done it all.” For, as I have already said, good and evil things are from God.
Again, think adverse instead of evil if that makes the passage more accessible. This outlook aligns perfectly with the opening gospel quote from Jesus, especially if we substitute the word “adversity” for the word “persecutions.” Yes, we will receive good things from God when we obey the teachings of Jesus. But, because we are human, we will sin, and we will accumulate guilt accordingly. God is justified in sending us punishment, whether it be from His Ordaining Will or from His Permitting Will. The direction which the punishment comes from is His choice. Our only choice is not to question the punishment, but to accept and to seek to use it for our own improvement.
When I got stung by that yellow jacket, I already knew that I should not allow fishing to distract me on my trip. I felt this enough as I was preparing to leave that I should have taken it to heart. But, in my human weakness, I ignored what I was feeling and made the decision to do what I wanted to do, not what God wanted me to do.
Can you see Him watching me as I walk in the door of the ranger office and ask to move my site? Can you see Him nudging me toward the site that had the yellow jackets? Can you picture Him shaking His head as He watches me launch the boat? It might have been worse. He might have let the hurricane miss Grand Isle and I could have been attacked by an alligator while fishing from the bank of the lagoon there.
I had that sting coming. He was right to send it to me. In retrospect, I am even grateful He sent it to me. I might not be writing this if He had not.
He surely controlled it all. From the first sting at home to the storm to the second sting to pulling me out of my delirium. He also made sure I read the first few chapters of Heliotopium before the sting occurred, so I was ready to benefit from His chastisement when it arrived. I’m not saying that storm was arranged just for me. He likely had millions of reasons for bringing that storm to bear. But I was one of the myriad reasons, and He was able to keep that piece of His plan progressing even as He managed the rest of it.
And the plan extended beyond the sting. The hospital was twenty-three miles from the state park. The first EMT on site told me someone from the park would get me when I was done in the emergency room, but when I called, no one was available. They suggested I call the county sheriff’s office. It was shift change and maybe an officer who lived that way was getting off. At first when I called, I was told no, but then they called back and said someone was coming to get me. It was a good thing, because no one in this rural Arkansas town had ever heard of Uber. I would have been stranded.
I had a nice conversation with the officer who gave me the ride home. When I told him about my sting, he told me all about the poisonous snakes and spiders in Arkansas. That turned out to be a blessing because the next day, when I went to take a shower, there were wolf spiders in each of the shower stalls.
By that time, I knew better than to try and smack one with my sandal.
These hardships do not happen because God does not Love me. Quite the opposite. As the Scriptural passage indicates, these hardships are part of the plan. They are meant for my correction and improvement. God uses them to get my attention. In response, I am supposed to embrace Penance and turn to Him with all my being. I am supposed to appreciate self-denial and not go fishing when His Will says otherwise. I am supposed to adopt Spiritual Poverty and forego my own selfish, worldly desires.
In short, I am supposed to participate fully in His plan for the expansion of Love as discussed in chapter two. When I get distracted, He uses whatever means He deems best to remind me of my primary responsibility within His Creation. When He sends me adversity, it is an act of Love pointed at ensuring my redemption and salvation. He turns my sin to Love through adversity, and I must willingly accept His correction in whatever form it takes.
Fr. Jeremias puts it like this:
Never certainly would such infinite Goodness permit so great wickedness in the world, unless it could thence produce greater good, and turn to salvation things which were devised for destruction.
Father then uses several stories from the Old Testament as examples. Joseph was thrown into a well by his brothers, but he was rescued and went on to high station in Egypt and was ultimately instrumental in saving his family from starvation. Saul sought the death of David, but David did not kill Saul when he had the chance. King David was a sinner in his own right, but in the end, his demonstration of mercy and repentance allowed him to become a great leader. Daniel was unjustly thrown into the lion’s den. When he survived, King Darius issued a proclamation telling his subjects to worship the God of Daniel.
All illustrations of God turning the sin of men to the larger benefit of mankind.
Father then seems to chastise himself for bothering with such insignificant tales when the greatest example has yet to be cited:
But why do I mention such as these? God permitted His Own Son to be crucified by murderers, but His Permission was for the ineffable good of the whole human race. And so from every Divine Permission there flows the greatest increase to Divine Glory, and the richest blessings to the human race. Hence the Goodness of God and His Mercy, hence His Bounty and Power, hence His Providence, hence His Wisdom and Justice shine forth in a way which is altogether wonderful.
If God is willing to permit His own Son to be crucified by desperate, sinful men seeking to affirm their own station in the world, why should I expect to be excluded from similar trials? Not only should I anticipate hardship in my life, but I should welcome it as a great gift because in this I can truly share in the human experience of Jesus.
In chapter eight of The Little Flowers of St. Francis, Francis speaks to Brother Leo about the definition of Perfect Joy. It does not consist in the brothers being perfect examples of holiness, in them being able to perform miraculous healings, in them having superior or complete knowledge, or in them being perfect preachers that convert everyone who hears them.
Thinking that all these things would be wondrous goods, Brother Leo is perplexed, so he asks Francis to define perfect joy. This is how Francis responds:
Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.” Saint Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at Saint Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, `We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, `What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.
And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, `Begone, miserable robbers! to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.
And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, `These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.
And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, `What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? And if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, `I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”
This definition is completely counterintuitive. If asked to define perfect joy, I would immediately start talking about all the virtues a man could have, and I would assert that perfect joy lies in these qualities being well lived. But from the perspective of Francis, all Goodness is the gift of God. I cannot develop, possess, or perfect these good qualities. I cannot call them my own and thus I have no basis in which to exult in them.
Love’s Reply puts it like this in chapter nine:
He who is poor in spirit must recognize that every good is the gift of God, and so render to God what belongs to God. To claim as one’s own what belongs to God would be the greatest obstacle to true inner poverty.
Francis argues that the grace to “overcome myself” in the face of adversity is the greatest gift that God can bestow. This gift is manifested when I willingly accept “out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt.” My sinful disposition urges me to defy the difficulty God sends me. Penance, self-denial, and Spiritual Poverty are pointed at overcoming this inclination. With the help of the Holy Spirit, they encourage me, in all situations, to turn toward God, deny my desire for defiance, and, to harken back to the quote from article ten of the OFS Rule, “follow the poor and crucified Christ even in difficulties and persecutions,” in a purposeful embrace of Spiritual Poverty.
Jesus accepted the Will of God completely, including the adversity of the Cross. To “glory in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ” is to do the same. When I accept hardship out of Love for Jesus, then I accept the Will of God in imitation of Him. His acceptance was motivated first by His Love of the Father, and then by the subsequent obligation to fulfill His role in the Father’s plan for salvation. I can, despite my human desire to rebel, also choose to Love the Father despite the difficulties He sends me. I can then also seek to fulfill His plan for my life. I am not called to save mankind but returning God’s Love amid adversity is the epitome of successfully participating in His plan for the expansion of Love within Creation.
It is this gift’s association with the Passion of Jesus that makes it superior to all others. The other gifts cannot engender joy because they lack the adversity that makes this gift special. To celebrate a gift without hardship is to deny the ease of accepting the gift in the first place. But to successfully overcome myself and Love God within hardship in imitation of Jesus begets a joy that would be inappropriate in relation to pleasant gifts that I do not create but enjoy solely at the discretion of God.
- Everything that happens in my life happens according to the Will of God, both the prosperity and the adversity.
- Beyond that, everything that God Wills for me is done according to His Love. As the good Father, He chastises only those He Loves. The time to be concerned would be the time when hardship disappears completely. He instructs, corrects and Loves me all at once in the hope that I will embrace the road to salvation and sincerely return the Love He so generously bestows on me despite my unworthiness.
- Finally, He has the ability and the desire to turn everything to good. Nothing happens unless He expressly Ordains it, or expressly Permits it. He only allows adversity to occur with the foreknowledge that He will turn that adversity to even greater good.
My role is to unquestionably accept everything that happens to me, even when I may not understand the big picture. If I question God or get angry with Him, all I can accomplish is a delay in my comprehension. Instead, I must set aside my inclination toward defiance and concentrate on accepting and fulfilling God’s Will within the adversity He sends me. I must focus on Him, pray for understanding, and discover my place in the plan He is unfolding.
Romans 5:3-5 speaks of this in these terms:
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Adversity is the result of “God’s Love being poured out into my heart.” If the purpose of adversity is to build perseverance, then character, then hope, it follows that He will not ask me to endure more than I am incapable of enduring. But He will ask me to endure that which will increase my capacity for Love. That capacity is not expressed as strength, but rather as the wisdom to recognize the good outcome and the patience to await the next good outcome. As my experience grows, my faith grows with it, and soon I can face adversity with the certainty that God will turn every outcome to Love.
To fulfill my role, I must return to the lessons from earlier in this discussion. I must unceasingly attend to God with all my being. I must deny my own desire and outlook and embrace His. I must give away all the conclusions that I draw on my own and all the negative emotions surrounding my hardship, and instead create room for Him to communicate with me so that He can help me see the good that will come from each situation.
Here are a couple quotes from Fr. Jeremias that speak to this:
Without question the holiest men have ever held it as the most certain truth that all things happened to them as if God were the Doer of them; because turning away the eyes of their mind from the thought of another’s sin, they constantly viewed the Permission of God as the actual and efficient cause of whatever happened. For God is so Good that on no account would He ever permit evil, unless He knew that from it, He could produce greater good. St. Augustine speaks most admirably to the point: “God has judged it better to work good out of evil than to allow no evil.”
Excellently, too, does Theophilus Bernardinus speak: “God winds Himself in among our errors and sins in a most penetrating way, not indeed as approving and participating in them, but as turning us away from them and correcting them, since out of evil things He brings forth the more good, just as if it was fire out of water.”
This then is the shortest way to attain tranquility, —- not to regard the man who inflicts an injury, but God Who permits it. It was the custom of the Saints to think, not of him who for any reason might do them wrong, but of Him who did not hinder the wrongdoer. And so, with eyes ever fixed upon God, they rested on the Divine Will in everything, and waited to receive all things from God.
When I was in California at the end of my trip last fall, I was visiting a guy I have been friends with since high school. He had been contacted a few weeks earlier by another friend who was planning a trip near the same time. The first friend told the second, “If you come a week later, Tim will be here.” So, the second friend adjusted his schedule.
I had not seen the second friend in thirty years. The first kept the visit a secret. It was a complete shock when the second walked in. It was a wonderfully glad reunion, but, unfortunately, the reunion was tainted by some melancholy news.
The second friend has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. It is in its early stages, so he is still in good shape. He is a physician, so he was able to understand the diagnosis and put the recommendations to delay the disease into action. But in the end, there is only one possible outcome. His condition will slowly decline until he loses track of just about everything.
My recent trip to Florida was initially inspired by that visit. The first friend was already planning a trip and the second friend was on the agenda. I said, “I’ll come too.” I planned a short vacation with my wife and then moved on to see these two friends again.
When we were at dinner a couple nights ago, the conversation took a turn away from remembering our past antics to the current situation. Then the second friend told a story that goes something like this:
There is a list of about ten things that can be done proactively to slow the progress of the disease. These include medicines and exercise, but also meditation. So, he is meditating as part of his regular routine to combat the illness.
He is a cradle Catholic who went to Catholic schools, but the practice of his faith has slipped. His wife describes herself as more “spiritual” than “religious,” so she is not a reinforcing factor. My friend said that at first, he was angry with God, which is easy to sympathize with. “Why, God, are you doing to this to me?”
But then he related an experience he had one day while lying still in bed.
A profound feeling of Love settled over him and he felt as if he was experiencing the Trinity. All three were present to Him in Unity, and yet he could recognize each individually. He felt as if the Trinity was asserting its own reality to him and testing him, asking him to confirm his belief in them. It is difficult for him to explain, but he has no doubt that he experienced something extraordinary. It was an out of body experience that he thinks only took a few seconds, but that felt like it went on for twenty minutes.
Once he confirmed his belief and understanding, the vision was accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of contentedness and, more importantly to him, connectedness. He knew intrinsically that He was part of a whole that included all people everywhere, and that this whole was governed and sustained by the Love fed to it continually by the Trinity. This vision was an experience of heavenly eternity and the Trinity wanted him to be aware that it was waiting for him.
And then He was offered a choice. His illness could be removed from him, but the enjoyment of this vision for all of eternity would not be guaranteed to him. Or he could persist and endure his illness, and the vision would be secured as a result.
The vision was so profound that He chose to keep his illness.
There are many in the modern world that would speak about this as something concocted by my friend’s subconscious to help him explain or accept his diagnosis. I suppose that is possible.
But I think the version that my friend believes is equally plausible.
It sounds harsh, but perhaps God has given my friend this disease for the express purpose of making him open to this encounter with the Trinity. My friend, in his life before the disease, had never meditated. He felt no need to seek God in this manner. If his life had continued in the status quo, he likely never would have opened himself to new possibilities through the art of meditation. He had not been seeking God specifically in his meditation, but the door was opened enough for my friend to be receptive to an encounter with the Trinity. He was living a life that took him away from regular interaction with God and the world around him was consuming him. Perhaps his eternal soul was in danger.
Now he sees his life differently.
God had many options to deal with this scenario, but He chose this one. He wants my friend saved and God saw this as the most likely path to succeed. No other path would have included my friend telling the story of his vision to me so that I, as a believer, could affirm it for him. No other path included a scenario where that same believer, because he was writing a book on the subject, would talk to him about discovering and accepting the Will of God in adversity as part of his coping mechanism. Perhaps no other person would have suggested that he include Scripture reading as part of his meditation practice or invited him to attend Mass.
My friend accepted that invitation and it has him thinking. There is a long way to go, and I cannot say whether my friend will continue going to Mass, but I hope he does, and I know God hopes he does as well.
We cannot see the outcome of events like God can. In our hubris, we might look at the plan of God and condemn it as too harsh or unloving, but we would be mistaken. We cannot predict results like He can, so the only proper response is to trust His Judgement. We can have confidence that His motives are pure and that, if we cooperate, the best possible end will ensue.
When we recognize and accept that everything, both the positive and negative, happens according to His Perfect and Holy Will, then we cannot help but be filled with the immense hope that the above passage from Romans speaks of.
He is Love. He is All Good, the Supreme Good, everything that is Good.
His primary Will is for our redemption and salvation. Regardless of our sinfulness, He can and will turn all things, even something like the disease that my friend has been asked to endure, to good. If my friend achieves Heaven and an eternal encounter with God, the fleeting hardship of his illness will become nothing.
My responsibility is to actively participate in seeing His Will fulfilled, even when that Will includes a heavy dose of adversity. I hope I do not have to endure what my friend is enduring. But I hope even more that if it comes to that, I will have the wherewithal to accept it with the grace that Francis spoke of in his definition of perfect joy.
I hope that I would have the courage to accept God’s Will with the same faith, belief, dignity, joy, and hope as my friend. (Yes, joy! He is still as funny as he ever was!)