Sermon Text: The Tao of Poux
It took me a long time to decide to marry Paula.
We had our first date in the middle of October, and I did not ask her to marry me until the end of November. Six whole weeks. If I had it to do again, I would not have waited so long.
She is my heart and my life. Every day on my morning walk, I recite my wedding vows
I, Mark, take you, Paula to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow.
And if she's out doing her run at the same time, and we pass by each other, I yell those vows at her again.
Our wedding was many years ago, but the celebration continues to this day.
In my sermon last week, I said that two women have made me the priest - and the person - I am. One of them is my daughter, and I talked about that last week. Today, I want to talk about my wife's influence on me as a person, and as a priest. If you and the other the churches I have served appreciate what I've done as a priest, you owe Paula a huge debt of gratitude.
She has made my priesthood what it is. I've been your pastor, but she has been mine. My colleagues in ministry are fine, but I have never confided much in them. And I have certainly never confided in a bishop, since they are more supervisors than pastors. Paula has been my pastor, my priest, my counselor, my wisest friend. The support she has given me has gotten me through some tough passages in my work.
But in addition to that support, she has taught me, and demonstrated for me, two really important lessons. And these lessons can help anyone.
First, she has taught me about listening. She is a deep and sympathetic listener. She listens a lot more than she talks. That is a gift she gives me, and it is valuable beyond measure. It's a gift we can give to people we care about. Everyone needs someone to listen to them, to care about what is on their heart and mind.
Back in the 12th century, a man named Aelred of Rievaulx, was a monk, an abbot, and a great spiritual writer. He had this to say about friendship:
What happiness, what security, what joy to have someone to whom you dare to speak on terms of equality as to another self; one to whom you need have no fear to confess your failings; one to whom you can entrust all the secrets of your heart.
Paula has been that person for me, as I hope I have been for her. And I hope you have such a person in your life.
She also exemplifies the wisdom of the old proverb, "If you can't say something nice, don't say nothin' at all." That's my wife. She gently lets it go when people deserve criticism, at least when I think they deserve criticism. And that applies to me, too. I know she holds her tongue when I mess up far more often than she lets on. She thinks I don't know that, but I do.
Listening -- deep and thoughtful listening -- is her first lesson for me. And the second is related -- she is all about kindness. I have lived with this woman forty-four years, so I know her better than anyone. She can't hide much from me. And I will tell you that she is the kindest person I have ever known.
Not only that, but she teaches me to be more kind, as well. The best example I can think of is one time when I was deciding whether or not to make a pastoral visit. A fringe member of our church was in a rehab unit in Syracuse. This was not someone who was a regular attender at St. Mark's. Should I visit and offer some prayers? It meant a lot of time -- driving north 60 miles, spending a couple hours, and driving back 60 miles. And it meant the expense of gas and wear and tear on the car.
When I told Paula I was thinking this over, she said, "Well, you know, kindness is never wasted." That settled it. I made the visit, and I was glad I did. Kindness is never wasted. She has taught me that lesson in so many ways, not just with what she says, but what she does.
So those are the two really important life lessons I've learned from my best friend Paula: listen, and be kind. Thus, one of my mottoes is this: Be kind -- everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. So bring good cheer, and a listening ear.
Now, I have a pet name for my wife. Our last name is Giroux, which ends in o-u-x. So I call her "Poux," P-O-U-X. My grandchildren like that so much, they don't call her Grandma, they call her Poux. It sounds like Winnie-the-Pooh, which she always loved, but it's the French Canadian version. P-O-U-X, Poux.
Poux is my life and she is my heart. She is also my teacher. So before I retired, I wanted you to know what she meant in my work as a priest.
Be a listener, and be kind.
That is the Gospel according to St. Paula.
That is the Tao of Poux.