He was never my mentor, at least in the classroom, and occasionally, I only had a glance of him or a casual greeting along the corridors of Loyola. Typical of tempered souls, there was some lightness in his gait and smile even if his eyes projected some probing seriousness. He got a PhD in Physics afterall.
But without having him as our classroom mentor, it was as if we had known Fr. Green, the 20 of us Novices then, and the fire that keeps burning in his heart – directing souls to God. Paragraph by paragraph, even word by word, we were assigned to masticate and digest the spiritual food that his slim book Opening To God had laid on the table of our souls. We have to read the book within the context of our regular prayer times, and so Fr. Green had become a household name. I don’t have the book at hand otherwise I could have retrieved the pages I was assigned to discuss before my Novitiate community. I don’t remember the details but when one Jesuit mentioned in his tribute about praying as floating in the sea, as letting go, the metaphor suddenly became more vivid to me.
The book was written for those thinking of beginning to pray, lay or religious. But Fr. Green was wise enough to admit that everyone from time to time recoils to the fundamental simplicity of prayer – that of opening to God like a plant basking in the sunlight. Find time to be still, open yourself to the presence of God and the rest is waiting. If one can love, then one can wait. Nothing extraneous. The beauty of this slim book is parallel to the academic legacy of William Strunk Jr. who tagged his classic grammar book The Elements of Style as the little book: “Omit needless words!” Opening To God, it seems, is becoming a spiritual classic on its own that even the Basilian Fathers in their official website has listed it as one great read in modern spirituality alongside Ronald Rolheiser’s The Holy Longing, Eckart Tolle’s Practicing the Power of Now, Henri Nouwen’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, Brother Lawrence’s Practice the Presence of God, and Richard Rohr’s Simplicity.
Fr. Green bade goodbye before Good Friday. But the Easter mooring of his passion that many readers had anchored upon – his writings – remains steady and dependable as if he is just a shore away. Thank you, Fr. Green.
FR. THOMAS H. GREEN, S. J. died on Friday morning, March 13, at San Jose Seminary. He entered the Society on 7 September 1949 and was ordained a priest on 19 June 1963. Requiescat in pace.