When Christ commanded us to let our lives so shine that others would see our good works and glorify the Father in Heaven, I have little doubt that, among the great throng of saints who have held up a light to the world, our Lord also meant Walter Hooper. And now that this faithful servant has heard “well done!” and finished a long and devoted life of deeply important labor, it falls to us to take up his torch.
But not only did Walter seem to have all the time in the world for my inarticulate enthusiasm, he also had a gift far more gracious.
I met him years ago at Wheaton College, and, as the fates allowed, I was asked to take Walter to dinner one night. I could hardly believe my good fortune as the two of us sat cozy across from each other in a both at Muldoon’s over blue cheeseburgers and white wine. I didn’t let him pay, and he never let me forget it, offering almost every time we visited in later years to recompense me for that most memorable meal. But of course, he already had.
I expected to be regaled with Walter’s recollections and opinions about Lewis, and I certainly would have gladly sat there and listened in rapt attention. But Walter mostly wanted to hear what I had to say, wanted to engage with my thoughts and responses about the import of Lewis’s books and ideas. At one point he said to me, “Why, you know Lewis’s works rather well!” Astounded, I could only stammer out that if I knew Lewis’s writings at all, it was mostly thanks to Walter’s work. I would have been glad to hear him repeat all his old anecdotes (and I indeed did hear a few), but I never dreamed that Walter would have such a taste for actual conversation, and such a humble, winning way of inspiring delighted talk about our favorite topic.
Reflecting back on that night, I realize now I had expected only two of what Lewis calls “genuine pleasures:” that of sharing a tasty meal, and that of hearing from someone who knew Lewis, the leading light in my intellectual and spiritual life. But I also found, unexpectedly, a third pleasure awaiting, that of enjoying mutual conversation, of engaging in deep discussions of topics that mattered most to me. To discover a meeting of the minds on what Walter made feel like almost equal footing—this astounded me then, and still does today.
Whatever else formed his apostolate, his charism for gracious generosity will ever remain the gift that characterized each meeting with Walter Hooper, a charism deeply challenging as I contemplate a life of fulltime ministry. Walter’s thoroughgoing welcome, extended to me as to so many others, this example of Christ’s particular and practical love, has marked me deeply. And as I count my many memories of Walter as a rich man surveys his treasury, I also know that his modest but spend-thrifty grace of time and attention calls me also to extend such willing welcome. Likely, he learned this lesson from Lewis himself. In showing me such a welcome in turn, Walter Hooper bore great light to me in the shadowlands of this world, and showed me what the love of Christ can look like when it shines out in a humble servant.
Farewell, dearest friend, and may light perpetual shine upon you as you rest from your labors of love. And pray for us left here as we continue your efforts and try to take up your torch.
The featured image of Walter Hooper is taken from his last portrait session with Lancia E. Smith. It is used here with permission for Cultivating.
He is currently a Postulant for Holy Orders from the Diocese of Texas, preparing for Episcopal priesthood at Virginia Theological Seminary, while also pursuing a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry at Northwind Seminary, studying Romantic Theology, furthering his ongoing work on Till We Have Faces, Lewis’s last novel and the one he called “far and away my best book.”
He is also a longtime friend of Cultivating and glad husband to the prolific and inspiring author Christin Ditchfield.
For more: http://www.mythoflove.net
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