These past weeks I have been looking at essays written by Brian Doyle, a Catholic writer who died of cancer in May at age 60, leaving behind a beloved wife and two children. He worked as the editor of the Alumni magazine at Portland University in Oregon, a Catholic College run by the Holy Cross Fathers. Doyle says stories are prayers and at his school there are zillions of stories including some that make you “shiver and pray.”
In his essay, ‘One Night’, in his book, GRACE NOTES, he tells of a concert held in the chapel at the University. The concert is for boys who are visiting from a rehabilitation home. The boys are ones “upon whom unimaginable crimes have been committed, boys who had endured and survived more species of pain and desolation than I could account in a year.” The concert was given by a famous alumni and his rock band. The music was so rollicking that no one could sit still. Doyle watches this one boy who is rocking and rolling but who then burst into tears and cried for an hour, all the while jumping and responding to the music.
At the end of the concert, everyone of the 100 boys present, went up to thank each member of the band for the great time. Doyle who watched it all says this: “I saw this. I was there. I’ll never forget that boy. Something hit his heart right amidships, right in the place where joy and hope were down to their last grains, and it was a man from, of, and about this university, who delivered that thrilling blow, and I saw it delivered, and I saw it land. That‘s what universities are for, hitting kids in the heart. It happens all the time. It happens in a zillion ways. I saw one way, one night, and I will never forget it.
Now I want to visit Portland University and that chapel and make a visit to the grave of Brian Doyle.