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A ‘Second Wind’


Supreme Chaplain Archbishop William E. Lori

My friendship with Cardinal Hickey helped me to understand how God’s grace works in our lives

Archbishop William E. Lori

FOR MANY YEARS, I had the privilege of working directly with the late Cardinal James Hickey, the former archbishop of Washington. Assisting him on a daily basis as his personal secretary, I saw firsthand that he was a man of prayer, deep faith, integrity, courage, pastoral sensitivity and love for the poor. No matter how tough the day had been, he ended it on a positive note. To say the least, his example greatly influenced me.

Along the way, we developed a wonderful friendship. It’s not that I didn’t sometimes let the cardinal down or get under his skin, but our enduring friendship continues even now. Not a day goes by without my praying to him and for him.

There was one thing, though, I found difficult. On the rare evenings when Cardinal Hickey didn’t have a commitment, he would go back to his office after dinner to sign letters and go through his mail. Usually, we finished around 9:30 p.m. — so far so good. But sometimes we were working on a big project that took lots of research and writing. Around 10:30 or so, the cardinal would announce that he had just gotten his “second wind.” Once that happened, he could go until 2 in the morning. As I struggled to keep up, he would come to life and shift into high gear. In time, I came to fear the words “second wind.”

One day, while reminiscing about Cardinal Hickey, it struck me that my friendship with him provided me with a way of understanding a bit better some aspects of what friendship with the Lord is like. Please allow me to explain.

First, in my friendship with the cardinal, as he shared some of his life and his work with me, I was certainly the junior partner, but a partner nonetheless. Surely that is even truer in our relationship with God. In his wisdom and love, God called us into existence. The Father graciously sent us his only Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, and through Word and Sacrament, we continue to share in God’s Triune life.

Second, even though the cardinal was my boss, our friendship was mutual; so also our friendship with God is mutual. In God’s grace, we are enabled to respond to him in love, even if we do so only imperfectly and haltingly. And as we live in his presence, the Lord begins to influence and shape our thoughts, words and actions. We begin to love what God loves, reject what God rejects and love others the way God has loved us. Thus God’s friendship becomes integral and central in our lives. This is sometimes called “habitual grace” — the grace of habitually living in the presence and friendship of God. What a wonderful blessing!

Third, in the midst of my friendship with the cardinal, there were moments of weariness and crisis that demanded an energetic response. So too, God comes to our aid as we wrestle with life’s challenges. When we’re weary in our struggle against sin, the Holy Spirit offers us “a second wind,” an infusion of divine life and friendship, to help us “fight the good fight” (cf. 1 Tim 6:12). When we’re in danger of falling into sin, we receive a “second wind” to help us to speed away from danger. When we’re facing a situation requiring of us an extraordinarily wise and generous response, the Lord provides us with fresh energy, wisdom, and resolve, if you will, a spiritual “second wind.” Such special help from God is called “actual grace.”

As Knights, we should welcome this “second wind,” especially in our efforts to live our vocations in charity, unity and fraternity, through thick and thin. And may Cardinal Hickey, who taught me so much by word and example, rest in peace!