I received a text early Sunday from a dear friend, and she wanted to let me know that Father George Lane, SJ had passed away. Fr. Lane was the longtime Publisher at Loyola Press, and that’s how I got to know this wonderful and holy man. A chance encounter with Fr. George at a dinner one night in Chicago literally changed my life and I will always be grateful for his kindness to me.
More than a dozen years ago, I was invited by Loyola Press to come to Chicago for a little gathering of people from all around the country who engaged in faith formation at Catholic parishes. We all used Loyola Press textbooks in our programs. In all honesty, I said yes to the invitation because I had never been to Chicago and I was being offered a free trip. Loyola Press was and continues to be a very generous and caring company, and on that first of what turned out to be many visits to the windy city, my fellow travelers were wonderfully cared for and listened to.
On the second day of my trip, after a long day of presentations and conversations, our group went out to dinner, and we were a large group. I ended up at the end of a very long table, and after I sat down, Fr. George sat down across from me. After we placed our orders and got our drinks, Fr. George asked me “so, Paul, what do you know about Ignatian Spirituality?” “Not much at all” was my honest but timid response. This led to a very nice conversation about St. Ignatius and Loyola Press’ mission to publish books regularly on Ignatius and the spirituality which flowed from Ignatius’ conversion and his Spiritual Exercises. Dinner was served and we moved on to other topics.
The next morning, when I arrived at the room where our group was meeting, sitting next to my name tag was a little stack of books, tied together with a red ribbon. I was surprised to see that there was nothing placed at anyone else’s place. With that, Fr. George arrived and came up to me. “Those are from me, and I hope they help you learn about Ignatian Spirituality.” In all honesty, I was surprised that he remembered our conversation from the night before. In my mind, I thought it was only small talk and he was just trying to be polite. I thanked him, put the books in my backpack, and later checked them out at lunch. Here’s what Fr. George gave me: What Is Ignatian Spirituality by David Fleming, SJ, A Simple Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney, and Inner Compass by Margaret Silf. These books became my nighttime reading for the rest of the trip. Later that day, Fr. George came by again said that he had continued thinking out our conversation the night before, and he encouraged me to attend an Ignatian retreat sometime after I got home.
As Providence would have it, about a week later, I had another meaningful conversation with someone at a meeting at my parish who just happened to work at a retreat center nearby. I learned that they were offering an Ignatian retreat that summer, and I signed up right away. At this point, I had begun to understand that God was at work in all this, that He was nudging me onto a new path, an Ignatian Way. This new way became a life-long journey which continues to this day. This website, Making All Things New, is one of the many fruits which have come from that providential conversation with Fr. George at the Mystic Celt restaurant on Southport Ave., just down the street from the Loyola Press offices.
I will be eternally grateful to Fr. George’s kindness to me, for his little gift of three books which truly set me on a new path. May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!
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