Ever Ancient, Ever New

Finding God’s Love in Unexpected Places

Referring to God’s love, a college theology teacher of mine once used the Latin phrase prorsus indebitum, “completely undeserved.” He told us the phrase came from St. Augustine, who taught that the love of God was pure gift and that there was nothing we could do to win it. I was nineteen at the time, and it would be years before I would find a link between Augustine’s theological fundament and my own experience of love and intimacy.

Three years earlier, the summer I was sixteen, I worked as a mail carrier, a job I got through my uncle, who worked his whole life at the city’s main post office. The branch to which I was assigned served black and Jewish row-house neighborhoods where I delivered mail from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., six days a week. Every Saturday, after completing the regular route, I drove the red-white-and-blue jeep to drop off mail at the city’s Catholic seminary, a formidable structure set back behind high iron gates.

The seminary was nearly empty in summer. The monsignor who took the sack of mail would offer me a glass of water, and we’d chat a bit before I returned to the PO to punch out on the time clock. After a few weeks he asked, “Did you ever think of becoming a priest?” I hadn’t, but, eager to please, I answered, “I was an altar boy”—and soon he was describing a college education that would be almost free if I did decide to think about it. I knew by...

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About the Author

Martin F. Connell teaches at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.