19 December 2009

Angels Unawares

There are persons whose entry into one's life has far greater importance than, perhaps, the persons themselves ever suspect.

My high school physics teacher, James Anthony Rossas (known to us as JAR, of course) was one. He suffered through my pretty gross junior and senior years (5th and 6th form equivalent) - I mean my grossness in those years; the years themselves were ordinary years :-) - and bore with my failure to apply in time for University, so pulled strings to get me in anyway. Later, when I became a Christian, still writing to him, he was delighted - only to have me lecture him on the errors of his Catholicism.

I wish he were still alive now, that I might ask his pardon. But if, through God's grace and infinite mercy, I am granted the inexpressibly good gift of eternity in His friendship, I expect to find Jim Rossas there - and to be told how much his prayers helped me merit the gift of faith.

When I became a Christian, at the end of 1969, I rushed into my friend's office at the University of Hawai'i in early 1970 to convert him. To my astonishment, Greg - a reader of this - exclaimed, "that's impossible! My adult Sunday School class has been praying for you for two years!" :-) I had not known that Greg was a Christian. I had scarcely known that there was such a thing as a Christian.

Over the succeeding years Greg was such a friend! He still is, although he lives in Hawai'i and we in New Zealand, so we have - alas! - little contact.

Father Horgan is a very special case.

Greg's own encouragement, in 1974, led us to Yap, in 1976 - and to Father Horgan.

I was very suspicious of anything Catholic in Yap in 1976. Nevertheless, Father Horgan somehow became our friend. I remember that I never thought of talking to him at all of matters of faith. We spoke - and I think this very accurately expresses the reality of the situation - a different language from that of Catholics. I did not know how to talk to him.

Every Thursday evening he came to our house - quite near the Catholic Mission in Yap - and we had ice cream together and talked of family matters. Once, indeed, religion got involved. When Adele was born, the local Protestant church would not baptise her - they had decided they believed only in "believer's baptism" - they meant "confessor's baptism," of course. And of course it never occurred to me to have a Catholic priest baptise her.

Our Protestant church in Auckland gave us authorisation to baptise her, which we did - with Father Horgan signing as one of the witnesses :-) Father's aunt (Rita??) rather adopted us overseas waifs, sending us Christmas gifts and writing letters to us. The importance of these persons in our lives cannot be exaggerated - yet I little recognised it at the time.

In about 1986, as I recall, Father Horgan was enabled, using Frequent Flier points, to visit us in Pukekohe. Some years later he told me that he had been a little hurt that we had not invited him to come to our Protestant church worship. I had, in fact, been almost afraid of our Protestant friends' finding out that we had a Catholic priest staying with us.

One of the greatest joys of my life was my being able to tell Father, in 1995, that we were about to be received into the Catholic Church. And I think our joy was matched by his astonished surprise.

Father Horgan is now in New York, after many years in Yap as a missionary priest. Sue and I talked with him yesterday. He does not know what his future holds. He is a reader of this blog, so I can only say, Father, what a blessing it has been to know that you are our friend, and that you pray for us. We pray for God's blessing on your ministry and life. May we be finally united indissolubly in His presence!


Xafinac said...

John, I was a student Jim Rossas (we called him "JAR head") at Oroville High School somewhere around 1979-1981. I have thought about him often and wondered if he was still alive until I read your post. When did he pass away?

John Thayer Jensen said...


I wish I could give you better information! Clearly it was after that. And to tell the truth, I don't know if I can confirm that he is dead, but I had postal correspondence with him during that time, and still, I think, in the early 1980s.

Can you e-mail me? j [dot] jensen [at] auckland [dot] ac [dot] nz