I had a friend named Bill who really believed in storing up treasures in heaven.

Friday, 6/20/14

Today’s reading about storing up treasures in heaven puts me in mind of a friend of mine who believed in that. His dad, Bill Maher, was a close friend of my dad a hundred years ago. Bill was a charmer, and after my dad got married in 1913 Bill Mayer kept carrying on, dinking a bit.

Bill had three younger brothers, and when their parents suddenly died, Bill put his little brothers into a rooming house kept by the French horn player in the St. Louis Symphony. That old man and his daughter Corrine were Lutherans, good people; and Corrine took loving care of Bill’s younger brothers,

With encouragement from my folks, Bill sobered up, and he married Corrine in the rectory. They had two daughters, then their son Billy. He grew up to be the friend I am talking about today.

Corrine, in speaking about her little Billy, would always say, “I just love him to death.” She would get him up to serve the early Mass, following him to church, doting on him from behind a pillar. Billy brought her into the church, and my parents were her godparents.

At our house, when we bought a quart of ice cream we would slice it ten ways. At Mayers, Billy and his sisters would split the quart three way. Billy was one big boy.

He entered the minor seminary, and he soon had priests around town talking about his mastery of languages and sciences.

Four years later I followed him into the seminary, and I was thrilled when he let me partner him in tennis. But then, I left that diocesan seminary to join the Columban Fathers to become a missionary.

Coming to the end of my novitiate with them, I received a letter from Bill. In June he was leaving to enter the Trappist Order at the Gethsemane Monastery in Kentucky He hoped I’d be home in time for one more tennis game.

I got home in time for that game, but let me come back to it.

Bill was five years in the monastery, still short of ordination when the Kentucky Trappists decided on founding a new monastery in upstate New York. They chose a new abbot for the Lady of the Genesee Monastery, and in selecting thirty monks to accompany him, they let them choose their own prior.  Surprisingly, they reached back into their seminary, choosing Bill as their prior.

Things didn’t go well then. Bill came down with cancer, dying a saintly death weeks after arriving in New York State.

But, getting back to my final game with him; afterwards we lay on the grass, with Bill enjoying a cold beer. I was telling him that with the way he liked eating and drinking, he was crazy to enter that monastery

He told me, “They have great bread and cheese.”

I said, “Yeah, but what happens when you get tired of them?”

He gave me a look that was asking if I had learned anything at all in a year of a novitiate. Then, he answered my question, saying, “Why, when I get tired of them, that’s when the merit starts.”

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