AGONY, BLOODY SWEAT AND FEAR were not strangers in the life of Harry Williams who died in 2006 and whose Church Times obituary described a priest who “distilled from his great suffering a spirit of realism, of compassion for fellow humans, and of awareness that God loved him and all the rest.” Over twenty or so years I kept up a little correspondence with him after reading his True Resurrection as a very young teenage would-be priest. Fr Harry is in the forefront of my mind tonight because a friend and parishioner turned up on my doorstep. Having suffered a minor stroke 8 weeks ago Dave had barely been able to walk when I visited him shortly afterwards. This man, previously one of this world’s action men, was in an agony of fear and despondency and we talked about both, openly and freely.
Things got a bit better. Dave and his wife headed off not to their planned holiday in Italy but instead to a short break in the Cotswolds, to an hotel my brother had once managed, years ago. And there it was that Dave found an old copy of Harry’s True Resurrection. Suffice to say that he was now looking for some more of that great priest’s all-too-human and so very wonderfully humane writing, and that, thrilled to bits, he was up and walking about again, growing in confidence. True Resurrection had given him courage and hope for the future because True Resurrection is rigorously, painfully honest. And I recalled the paragraph that so touched me, way back in the 1970s, the reason that I first wrote to HW.CR:
Jesus told us to love our enemies, for by loving them we may turn them into our friends. This applies supremely to the enemy within. For our own worst enemy is always ourselves. And if with patience and compassion I can love that murderous man, that cruel callous man, that possessive ennvious jealous man, that malicious man who hates his fellows, that man who is me, then I am on the way to converting him into everything that is dynamically good and lovely and generous and kind and, above all, superabundantly alive with a life which is contagious. That is the goal to which we are being led by means of our agony and bloody sweat, our cross and passion – to our glorious resurrection whereby vitality and strength and joy are brought to others in what is truly a coming of the Holy Ghost. For by a strange transmutation the enemy of mankind within ourselves is discovered as nothing other than the Eternal Word creating us – that Word whose characteristic manifestation is invariably in the form of a figure whose wounds are his glory and whose death is his resurrection. – True Resurrection, page 157
Fr Harry, your blessing, vitality, strength, joy and suffering recently touched someone in an hotel in the Cotswolds – True Resurrection! Dave has now borrowed The Joy of God. And – not for the first time – I want to say thank you.