To Days Gone By

At the end 1877, the young Scottish poet, Rabbie Burns, found himself with mates and muckers at a pub where he embellished ancestral ballads passed down by older muckers who recalled times that evaporated into history.  Whether sober recollections of old and spirited souls or from the drunk tank of their harking back, he penned the song, “Auld Lang Syne,” which translates as “old long since” or “days gone by.”  While sometimes referred to as “everybody’s favorite song with words nobody knows,” it laments the passage of time and beckons us to pay tribute to trusted forbears and treasured memories along with tried-and-true friendships.

Returning to Rockhurst College in the summer after a forty-year absence and to the inner city after twenty-five years serving elsewhere, it is a blessing for me to reconnect with ole acquaintances.  Things have changed in both places—some for good and some for not—while other things seem unchanging.  These places hold sacred memories for me.  I periodically receive pleasant surprises by encountering people I knew long ago, as we catch up on life and talk about days gone by.  From September homecoming to December baccalaureate and random urban Masses in which associates from my youth or young priesthood greet me afterward, I seem to have reconnected with people from just about every stage of my life in these months.  Maybe because I am older now (playing the back nine, doing the seventh inning stretch, entering the fourth quarter…), I am more willing to find grace in reminiscing.

Soon after I became a college student in 1977, there was a horrible flood that turned nearby Brush Creek into a raging river, washing away parts of the Plaza, and claiming many lives.  Soon after I graduated in 1981, the Hyatt Regency tragedy of collapsing overhead walkways occurred taking life from over a hundred more.  When serving in the inner city in the 1990s, parishioners were murdered, and I sat with families trying to understand how people deal with the horrors of loss and devastating tribulation.  But as college life and parish life would have it, there were incredibly joyful experiences, amazing friendships, and personal achievements that are also long lasting.  But things change.  It seems to me that college is not as fun now as it was then (though a colleague informed me that kids are having just as much fun but in less obvious ways).  A favorite college bar where I and friends often hung out is now a gay bar (which another colleague informed me after I had unwittingly taken many current students there; I don’t have very good detective skills).  Troost Avenue has changed—it is far less a symbol of division now: more a symbol of unity in diversity.  I have not yet figured out if there is less or more violence in the streets of my urban parishes, but I recognize that humor and gratitude for blessings remains strong among its people.  Sadly, some wonderful saintly souls there passed on to heavenly shores without successors to take their places—or so it seems.

I am left, at the end of another year and beginning of a new horizon, to offer my own words to the ballad paying tribute to days gone by.  Among my former school mates, some are influential, some are rich; some struck out in life; some are dead.  Some have big hearts that impact their surroundings in wonderful ways.  “These old acquaintances are not forgot, they swirl within my mind; a nod of honor to them all, a toast to auld lang syne.”  From Pope Benedict XVI to Queen Elizabeth II, children of Uvalde, and tens of thousands of innocents in Ukraine, we face another yearly passage.  Invited to take one another’s hand, let’s walk together toward the hope life holds: “…and here’s my hand, my trusted friend.  Now put your hand in mine.  We’ll lift a cup of kindness then and drink to auld lang syne.”  To all that has been, let us give thanks.  To all that will be, let us surrender to God’s will for us and our world.

13 thoughts on “To Days Gone By

  1. Wow Father you never cease to amaze me! This is beautiful. Three of my family members my daughter, brother and cousin graduated from Rockhurst College. Natalie completed her Nursing and nurse practitioner masters degree at Rockhurst college after she graduated at MU with her science degree! I finished my degree in evening classes at UMKC! I remember I took one evening class at Rockhurst College -Business Law after high school and at that time I was the only girl in the class! I worked on the Plaza for the McGees at Old American Insurance after the horrible flooding!
    Father please let me know where you serve Mass or how I can get this info so I can attend some of your Masses.

    Say hello to your beautiful family for me♥️♥️



  2. My 23 year old nephew died this week and we are all reeling. This time of year is always one of reflection but this year in particular I am focused on the gift of relationships. Old ones that we forget and renew. And the enduring ones that may need more attention. Thank you for your consistent beautiful insights. They are a blessing.


  3. Happy New Year, Fr. Don! May your year be blessed with amazing opportunities and great happiness! From your favorite Arkansas parishioner….


  4. Dear Father Farnan, Thank you for this very good essay. It hits the spot as a relationship is a legacy of love.

    As a reminder, please make an appointment with Lourdes and Jack Fisher. We have discussed this in the past couple of months. I bring the Holy Eucharist to them every Tuesday as Jack is homebound with the necessary 24/7 Oxygen. There is not a week that goes by when he asks if I know or have any news about his friendship with Father Farnan. Please take the time as he is now 93 and only God knows when he will be called to his home.

    I am grateful for your help with this request. God bless you in your work at Rockhurst University and the neighborhood nearby.

    “These old acquaintances are not forgotten, they swirl within my mind; a nod of honor to them all, a toast to auld lang syne.”

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

    Tom Bauer 816-564-1763


  5. Beautiful thoughts to move forward with , and memories of ‘days gone by’ that pull at heart strings— more so as we try to gracefully move in to that ‘old age ‘group we never thought possible in out 20’s, 50’s, 70’s and beyond!! Memories of our time with you Fr Don will forever have a special place in our hearts ! Thank you and please ‘KEEP ON KEEPIN ON’! Pat n Julie Donnelly!


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