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Author Topic: Father John Powell writes about an atheist student dying of cancer
TrishDaDish
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Good Lord, this is a long one. Grab a beer first. (Terrible grammar mistakes left in place, as always.)

quote:
Worth Sharing

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his
shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.

I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day I was unprepared and my emotions flipped. I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange. . ..very strange.

Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course. He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at
times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?"

I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically. Why not," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then called out, Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line --- He will find you! At least I thought it was clever.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer. Before I could search him out, he came to see me. When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe. "Tommy, I've thought about you so often I hear you
are sick," I blurted out.

"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."

"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked. "Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.

"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?" "Well, it could be worse."

"Like what?"

"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies' in life."

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under 'S' where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me . Then you said, 'But He will find you.' I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time.

(My clever line. He thought about that a lot!)

"But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God. And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven. But God did not come out.. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success? You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit.

"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an after life, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered
something else you had said: 'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.'"

"So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. "Dad."

"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.

"Dad, I would like to talk with you."

"Well, talk."

"I mean . . It's really important"

The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"

"Dad, I love you I just wanted you to know that."

Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.

"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me "

"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years.

"I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long. Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to.

"Then, one day I turned around and God was there. He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give You three days, three weeks.'

"Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour. But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."

"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love. You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.' Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them
what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell it."

"Ooh . I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class."

"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."

In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date. However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time.

"I'm not going to make it to your class," he said.

"I know, Tom."

"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . tell the whole world for me?"

I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best"

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy as best I could.

If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two. It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

With thanks,
Father John Powell, professor at Loyola University in Chicago

Did that last line sound like a lawyer wrote it, or what?

--------------------
I would prefer not to.
My blog

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Mitochondrial Steve
Deck the Malls


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quote:

"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . tell the whole world for me?"

I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best"

I know that I've seen that exact exchange in an after school special.
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Tabbymago
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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quote:

"Will you tell them for me? Will you . . tell the whole world for me?"

"And while you're there, tell the team to bear down."

-Tabby
the "couldn't let it pass" princess with claws

--------------------
If you don't appreciate the irony, the irony appreciates.

"Sappiness and medieval violence: it's a wonderful combination. Like chocolate and peanut butter for the mind." -me on my fantasy novel-in-progress

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kmcm
We Three Blings


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This is out of a "Chicken Slop for the Bowl" book. Almost verbatim.

--------------------
Of course this land is dangerous! All of the animals are capably murderous. Especially the penguins.

i'm a figment of my own imagination, sometimes i don't exist

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Hell's Granny
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He's got malignancy in all his organs, including both lungs, he's just weeks from death - yet he's still walking and talking? Wow - that God stuff is good!
This is just garbage. I've known people with cancer. Even when it's just one small tumour, they are still very ill; they're often too doped up with painkillers to do much talking and certainly not in the mood for walking around and having deep philosophical conversations with people they barely know.

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Oakleaf Circle - Elfin Magical Diary-Transit: the astrologers' newsletter

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PatYoung
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by TrishDaDish:
Good Lord, this is a long one. Grab a beer first. (Terrible grammar mistakes left in place, as always.)

[QUOTE]Worth Sharing

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his
shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.


Except for, you know, that Jesus kid.

--------------------
pat "Megadittoes Rush" young

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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PatYoung
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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Anyway, I looked for Fr. John on Loyola's web site and of course found no metion of him. The piece may have been written a long time ago. It refers to long hair just coming into fashion then" 12 years ago, but long hair was much more fashinoable in the 1960s than in 1993 (12 years ago). So this might have originated in the 1970s as a typed piece by a priest who is now retired or dead.

--------------------
pat "Megadittoes Rush" young

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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PatYoung
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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This site says Powell is long since retired and stands by the story
http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/j/johnpowell.htm

--------------------
pat "Megadittoes Rush" young

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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PatYoung
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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More on Powell:
http://www.faithalivebooks.com/profiles/profiles_powell.html

--------------------
pat "Megadittoes Rush" young

THUMP, THUMP, THUMP

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Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Red and the Green Stamps


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I guess the moral of this story is: fear of death can make people believe irrational things.

It's a good thing God gave this boy cancer, or he might have never been terrified into accepting him into his heart and might have been condemned to a hell this God created for violating the rules that this same God created: believe in me or go to hell. Truly, this is an uplifting story of faith in a loving and just Heavenly father.

Also, notice how the atheists in these stories are always rude and cynical? And they are all self-centered and only care about themselves and their personal gain? Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?

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an Em Dash of sugar
Xboxing Day


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As kmcm noted, this was published in the Glurge Factory. Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul (the original one, I think they've done like 15 more since then). It came out in 1997 and I got it as a Christmas present from someone who didn't know any better...I have to admit that I liked some of the stories at the time, though. But this particular one always confused me.
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inkiemouse
Let It Wasabi


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Apparently, God can only find you after you have a better relationship with your crappy dad.

That always happens in stories like these... kid hates family and doesn't believe in God, kid gets sick, kid ties all loose ends with family, kid likes God, kid dies, end.

I've come up with better stories while sitting on the toilet...

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A dyslexic man walks into a bra.

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Mickey Blue
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?
No such thing

--------------------
"All people are responsible for the good that they didn't do"

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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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I'm a relatively well-mannered atheist who does charity work, and some people deal with it by saying "But he's a good boy anyway", each time somebody asks me which church I go to and I answer "I don't".
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TrishDaDish
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Bela Lugosi's Dead:
I guess the moral of this story is: fear of death can make people believe irrational things.

All I can say is my Da came close to dying recently, and since then he has been more "Go God" and sending me about a billion glurges like this daily in my email. So yes, it is possible.

On the other hand, my Da was never a dillweed snickerdoodle atheist, like the story, so maybe that fact gives less impact. Or something. I dunno. Recently, I wrote that there were 13 commandments, so my brain ain't right lately.

--------------------
I would prefer not to.
My blog

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DawnStorm
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Hell's Granny:
He's got malignancy in all his organs, including both lungs, he's just weeks from death - yet he's still walking and talking? Wow - that God stuff is good!

Amazing ain't it? [Wink] Maybe he spoke to Earnest Angley first. [lol]

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Leashes?! We don't need no stinking leashes!!

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Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Mickey Blue:
quote:
Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?
No such thing
I hope you mean that ironically.
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an Em Dash of sugar
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quote:
Originally posted by Bela Lugosi's Dead:
quote:
Originally posted by Mickey Blue:
quote:
Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?
No such thing
I hope you mean that ironically.
I'm under the impression Mickey is an atheist himself, so yes, it was ironic. No worries [Wink] .
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Brian O'blivion
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quote:
But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me?
Nothing like parading a dying, cancer-ridden ex-atheist to liven up the class.

Obviously written some years ago, they might want to revise this part in light of certain developments in the intervening years:

quote:
I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. My eyes and my mind both blinked. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders. It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.

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Bela Lugosi's Dead
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Em Dash's Last Theorem:
quote:
Originally posted by Bela Lugosi's Dead:
quote:
Originally posted by Mickey Blue:
quote:
Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?
No such thing
I hope you mean that ironically.
I'm under the impression Mickey is an atheist himself, so yes, it was ironic. No worries [Wink] .
That was kind of what I figured.

Once, when I was in college, I was asked by a young agnostic to speak with his dorm mate, who was a very pushy Christian. When I was speaking with this young man, he kept bringing things back to the moral question: the importance of living a good, moral life. I explained to him that it was indeed possible to live a good moral life even if one didn't believe in God. He insisted that it was impossible, that if someone didn't believe in God then they MUST live an immoral life. It was simply impossible for someone to do one without the other. I explained that this was kind of insulting, because I myself did not believe in God, but I try very hard to live a moral life. He then said that this wasn't possible. I then asked him if he meant to say that I was an immoral person, and he said that no, he believed that I strove to live a moral life. His explanation for this was that I actually did believe in God, I just convinced myself that I didn't. He said that the proof of my belief in God was that I tried to live a moral life. He said he would only believe that I was truly an atheist if I also lived an immoral life.

Well, I couldn't very well argue with that...its a tautology. Then again, so is most religious thinking so I just left it at that. This is also a logical fallacy known as affirming the consequent, but once again there really wasn't any point in arguing this with him. I found the implication that I subconsciously believed in God far less insulting than an accusation of being immoral.

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Mickey Blue
Let There Be PCs on Earth


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quote:
Originally posted by Bela Lugosi's Dead:
quote:
Originally posted by Mickey Blue:
quote:
Would to completely blow these wacko's minds if they actually met a well mannered atheist who has dedicated his life to public service?
No such thing
I hope you mean that ironically.
Yes, Irony, I myself am an athiest (as some have pointed out) and you could argue as an EMT I have dedicated my life to the public (although i'm still young, plenty of time to turn to the path of darkness).

--------------------
"All people are responsible for the good that they didn't do"

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