When Jennifer arrived from God in 1979, I became a brother for the first time, and for that alone she will always have a special place in my heart. Before I was a brother to anyone else, I was a brother to her. Thus Jennifer was the first person to teach me how to be a brother.
But when Nicholas arrived from heaven in 1984, God gave me the greatest gift I have ever received, next of course to my own life and my own share in the body of Christ. Because when Nicholas arrived, God gave me a brother of my own.
Nicholas is my best friend, closer to me than any person in this world. Although he is seven years younger than me, he made a quick leap from childhood to maturity, and then we bonded deeply. We are kindred souls, sharing similar aesthetic, political, philosophical, and religious perspectives. From Nicholas I have discovered the gift of righteousness and learned how to do justice and practice mercy. Much that I know about fraternity comes from our relationship. In this relationship lies the germ of my vocation. God has spoken to me through our love for one another. Nicholas is a brother in spirit as well as blood, the brother of all brothers.
Today, Nicholas came to visit from Babylon, NY, where he lives and works. He and I chatted for a while at St. Michael Friary over oranges and popcorn, and then we made a trip to Manhattan and the Wall Street occupation. Along the way we had our usual life-building conversations. Our conversations are everything: story, history lesson, reminiscence, spiritual direction, symposium, stand-up routine, counseling, dinner speech, benediction. We had about four hours together, but they felt like twenty-four.
Since I have grown up from and grown beyond my original family into the family of God, I have befriended many men and women who have been to me like brothers and sisters, some longer and more lastingly than others.
But Jennifer will always be my first sister.
And Nicholas, who is as close to me as the clothes I wear, will always be my first brother. Thanks be to God forever for him.