Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Therapeutic swearing in Gabon

Here are a few paragraphs from my memoir "Driving Straight on Crooked Lines: How an Irishman found his heart and nearly lost his mind." The book is about my experiences in the Legion of Christ and with the founder, Fr. Marcial Maciel.

When I was in Gabon, Luis Lerma (another Legionary) and I were about to leave the mission house for the Sisters’ at about 5:30 pm, the heavens opened. Powerful lightening lit the sky, accompanied by earth shaking thunder-claps.

Luis engaged the all wheel drive and we set out on the muddy track towards the convent. The windshield wipers couldn’t handle the volume of rain. About halfway, the road skirted a big steel pole supporting the main electrical transformer. We were within 10 yards of it, when a bolt of lightening hit the transformer. The brightness of the flash was intense. I could feel, more than I could see, the massive electrical charge light up the pole. The hairs on the back of my neck and bare arms stood on end and tingled.

My recollection is of blue, crackling light running down the pole, chasing across the ground and enveloping our car. For an instant, the hood of the car and the window posts appeared alive with blue light. Frighteningly loud thunder followed and the transformer burst into flames, crackling and hissing.

Once I saw the flames, I realized I was still alive. Luis and I looked at each other, making sure we were both OK, but without acknowledging we almost expected the other to be dead. Neither of us said anything until, spontaneously, we both let loose with most un-Legionary, un-priestly expletives. I can’t remember ever swearing more intensely or therapeutically. Luis used some choice words I hadn’t heard for a long time. I’m sure God understood our outburst was a prayer of gratitude and relief at being alive!

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