Remembering Father John Boddie
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— Death does not bring an end to a man’s ideas. This column writes about many beloved citizens of Middlesex County that have crossed the proverbial bar. Today we remember an all-time favorite—Father John Boddie. Especially his ideas.
With Easter Sunday approaching it’s a good time to remember such a man. The adored Catholic priest for many years at the Church of Visitation, John Boddie connected to all who lived in our fair county: religious or not, Christian or not, Catholic or not. He was truly ecumenical, perhaps because he was raised by a Baptist aunt and educated in Catholic schools, and the end result was a lovely mix of tradition and reform.
I interviewed John Boddie during his battle with cancer. Perhaps because he knew his time on earth was limited, he opened his heart and soul to me. I was deeply moved by his sentiments and impressed with his intellect.
John asked me a question I still recall, perhaps the most religious question that has ever been posed to me. “Mary,” he said, looking me hard in the eye, “suppose it was you that Easter morning that rolled back the rock to the cave where Jesus had been laid? Suppose He was still there? Would that have destroyed your faith in Christianity?”
No, I was quick to answer without a moment’s hesitation. Whether Jesus had “risen” or not was never the point of faith to me, as my faith was built from science and not Sunday school. My faith is cemented on the Sermon on the Mount.
Let the theologians argue back and forth from century to century as to whether Jesus was myth or reality. My faith is in his message. I believe in a creator, loving and forgiving one’s neighbor, and the Golden Rule. I also believe our own behavior…the seven deadly sins—sloth, anger, greed, pride, envy, lust, and gluttony—are what destroy man, and not the motion of the stars.
Yet, John’s first question was not the one that caused my reflection. It was the question that came after that. “Mary,” he said, “the real question is not whether Jesus rose or not. The real question is whether Jesus has risen in you.” That is a question I still reflect over all these years later.
It’s my understanding that John asked his parish the same questions one Easter morning. If that is the case, I can imagine all that heard him speak in the Church of Visitation were as profoundly moved as I was. For his question takes all those who profess to be Christians in the same way as someone taking the bull by the horns. Forget the age old cacophony that argues whether Jesus is myth or reality. Consider the real question. Has Jesus risen in us?
So Easter has come once again. For almost 30 years I have written in the Sentinel of many Easters that have come and gone. I have described children growing up, going to church on Easter morning, family gatherings, and even the comings and goings of Easter bunnies along the way.
I have spent 70 long years celebrating spring, relished in the warmth of the sun, and gathered bouquets of daffodil, iris and japonica. I have breathed in heady fragrances of lilac, rose and cherry blossom, watched my children grow into adults, and gloried in the birth of grandchildren.
I have cuddled puppies, kissed dogs, attended hundreds of church ceremonies—some high, some low—and cared for a loving husband for 50 years. I have thanked God day in and day out for the simple blessings of life.
I have worked hard and paid bills and taxes for years on end, hired as many people as possible, and given money to dozens of worthy causes. I have loved my neighbors as best I could, along with my dear friends, the Town of Urbanna and Middlesex County. I have written 13 books, and called the issues that face us in life as honestly as I could each week to faithful readers.
Even as hard as we try to do the right thing to help our fellow man, and be responsible for ourselves and our world around us, is there ever enough time for us to do all that we should and could do in return for the gift of life?
I’ve done much in my lifetime and I’m so busy that on some nights I’m so tired from work and projects that spread out before me like an ocean that beckons me onward to sea, I can barely think of even one more thought.
And yet the question still nags at my heart. The question that John Boddie asked me some years ago. A question those of faith might ask themselves this Easter these 2,000 years after Christ’s brief time on earth.
Has Jesus risen in me?