Allegany County Fair


It is near 100 degrees and high humidity but I’m happy to be sitting in the grandstand at the Allegany County fair in Angelica, New York. It’s my first visit here and I’m impressed with the quality of this small county fair. Fairs date back countless centuries and they are still important today. There are hundreds of folks here tonight. I have seen some familiar faces in the crowd. All of them are educators. Educators are people oriented folks and county fairs are a natural venue for them. There is a lot of teaching and learning going in here tonight. There are no high stakes tests and there are lots of smiles. There will be some tests at the rodeo tonight but everyone will enjoy them. I’m grateful to be here tonight.


Summer is a time of growth and my summer has certainly been that this year for me.  This spring or at least early June didn’t start out that way. I thought it was the end and that I’d be leaving and going elsewhere to begin a retirement and whatever that may have held. I even had a verse picked out which I liked and it was from the Second chapter of Paul’s letter to Timothy.

the time of my departure is at hand. I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith

This summer I discovered that there were other plans in store for me and one of them was to get a much needed break, a respite from my work of the past ten years. I spent much of the early part of this summer actually sleeping in and enjoying getting up at 7 or 8 and having a fresh cup of brewed Starbucks. A post card from St. Bonaventure University, a thought from my higher power, encouragement from friends and family and I’m back in the fray but with a slightly different direction.

This morning it’s a bit chilly. I think it’s 45 F outside. It feels like autumn, but it’s not autumn in my life any more. My life has a sense of spring in it, a sense of redemption and metanoia. I’ve thought often of Thomas Merton’s prayer, “My Lord God I have no idea where I am going, I do not see the road ahead of me, ..”. I’m not sure where it will end but I know that the power that animates and directs me is moving me forward. My friend David offered a word of encouragement yesterday as we met in the school parking lot. All around me people have encouraged my re-directed path. Yesterday, I thought a lot of my Dad and how much I missed him. Dad’s been gone 36 years, but yesterday his spirit was with me. This summer has been a pivotal time in my life, a new direction has been taken and I’m not really the author of it, I’m just responding to the direction and sometimes with a bit of hesitancy but I’m moving forward.

If anything this spring and summer I’ve had a sense of Psalm 23. Time after time I’ve been led beside still waters and each time I remember the verse, “He leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul.” My soul has been restored and I’m moving forward. Thank you to all who have prayed for me as it must be your prayers and thoughts that have sparked this transformation. I am not the author of these changes. I am reminded of another favorite prayer and one that hangs near the coat rack at Mt. Irenaeus.

It is not you that shapes God
it is God that shapes you.
If you are the work of God
await the hand of the artist
who does all things in due season.
Offer Him your heart,
soft and tractable,
and keep the form
in which the artist has fashioned you.
Let your clay be moist,
lest you grow hard
and lose the imprint of his fingers.

– St. Irenaeus

I have not lost the imprint of his fingers.