Saturday, June 11, 2016

shield the joyous

shield the joyous

My parents were married 82 years ago today, June 11, 1934, my father’s birthday, he would have been 105 this morning. He was born, and they were married, in Pensacola, where they met in high school while my grandparents were living there for a few years after Alfred’s death, before returning to StAndrews. After my father’s birth, my grandmother brought him home to StAndrews on the SS Tarpon, for which our Tarpon Dock Bridge is called. After my parents were married, they came home to StAndrews. I was born fifteen months later, in Panama City and taken to their home at the corner of 11th Street and Frankfort Avenue in StAndrews, where we lived until early January 1938 when the new house on Massalina Drive in the Cove was finished. We moved in there a week or two before my sister Gina was born, and I lived there for the next, what, fifteen years until I went away to the University of Florida and the rest of my life began. 

The only place I lived longer was the house on W. Beach Drive that my grandparents built in 1912 and sold and left in 1923, five years after Alfred’s death, that my parents bought back in 1962 and where Linda and I lived from 1998 through 2014. But I grew up and became a person on Massalina Bayou, so that house and the neighborhood still hold an emotional grip on me at least as strong as the WBeachDrive house. For example, my picture in yesterday’s blogpost is where Massalina Drive ends with a fork, choose: Linda Avenue to the left or Allen Avenue to the right. In my memory of that spot I am riding in the back seat of my parents’ 1935 Chevrolet. My mother is driving. I am standing behind her looking through the windshield. As always, she had her jet black hair, which I inherited, long and rolled up in a neat bun. As she rounds the bend up the dirt road and takes the right fork to Allen Avenue I ask, “Mommy, how old are you?” She answers me, “I’m 29.” 

That would have been 1941, I was five years old, almost six. These 75 years, the memory returns every time I round that bend, riding or walking, as yesterday. But to an amazing degree, in ancient aging, though not from my mind, I am able to let most all of that go from my heart because life here in 7H has become so joyous. 

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love's sake. 

is a favorite in our Book of Common Prayer, the evening liturgies. Attributed to St. Augustine of Hippo (354 - 430), our book calls it a prayer for mission but the Roman Catholic Church more aptly calls it “Evening Prayer of St. Augustine.” Googling the startling and seemingly out of place last phrase “shield the joyous” yielded 11,200 hits, and I checked the first dozen or so. Mostly blogs of Episcopalians, priests, lay, at least one bishop, each writer wades into the last petition of Augustine’s prayer that is surprising: "shield the joyous," what does it mean? There is no firm explanation but much conjecture. One of the best was a bishop recalling when his new puppy, an exuberant little creature bounding here and there as puppies do, slipped out of his collar while on a walk and, suddenly realizing that he was free of collar and leash, dashed immediately out into the street. The writer rushed out and stopped traffic both directions while he chased and finally recaptured the puppy. It clarifies “shield the joyous” like the fog lifting over StAndrewsBay. A friend lost her husband six months ago, changing her life that had been joyous and loving: shield her, Lord Christ. Joyous today, Linda and I both recognize that in +Time+ the Ref will call Game Over and one of us will be alone here in 7H: Lord, shield the joyous.


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