Glenmary Brother Mike Springer passed away on June 20, 2019.
One of Mike’s favorite novels was by Henry Miller. The Smile at the Foot of the Ladder, a modern parable.
Auguste, a famous clown in a small traveling circus, removes his greasepaint and walks away from the circus in search of his own identity underneath the makeup and to try to discover how to bring “joy supreme” to people’s lives instead of just laughter. Auguste wanders, searching for some time but his journey eventually makes full circle as he comes across his former circus troupe.
Now knowing that joy can be found in simplicity. Auguste returns to the circus, not as a performer but as a hired hand, or a “roustabout” as we would say in the business. Auguste’s mantra in his daily chores is, “at your service” as he humbly served the circus workers doing his tasks joyfully and by doing so, he brings joy to each of the people he encounters.
“He no longer received applause, nor gales of laughter, nor adulation. He was receiving something far greater, far more sustaining – smiles. Smiles of gratitude? No, smiles of recognition. He was accepted again as a human being, accepted for himself.”
Auguste said, “To be yourself, just yourself, is a great thing. And how does one do it, how does one bring it about? Ah, that’s the most difficult trick of all. It’s difficult just because it involves no effort. You try neither to be one thing nor another, neither great nor small, neither clever nor maladroit… you follow me? You do whatever comes to hand. You do it with good grace, that is understood. Because nothing is unimportant. Nothing. Instead of laughter and applause you receive smiles. Contented little smiles – that’s all. But it’s everything… more than one could ask for. You go about doing the dirty work, relieving people of their burdens. It makes them happy, but it makes you much happier, do you see?”
Like Auguste, Brother Mike’s ministry of presence in the “Glenmary Circus,” gave joy to others and relieved people of their burdens. As a Glenmary missioner, he shared himself as he served the forgotten and neglected, the young and old, in places like Morehead, KY, Cullowhee, NC, or Baxley, GA, Lebanon, VA, or Chapmanville, WV. Places that only a Glenmarian could find on a map.
Mike was as a football coach, a baseball coach, youth minister, counselor, parish brother, an adult literacy teacher, musician, prayer leader, Activity Therapist, did Ministry among the aging, and so much more. A Brother to all.
Mike’s joy touched lives; this can be seen in letters he received, like this one from 40 years ago.
Dear Brother Mike,
I thank you for all you did in the athletic line. You are a holy, cheerful, friend! Even after we lost several games, you stayed with us. We learned the sports, rules, and how to play fair, and in a Christian way, that is, not to cheat or fight. If we were hurt in a game, you were right there to take care of us.
Brother Mike touched lives wherever he went, even when he was a resident at a nursing home for those with memory care needs, Mike joyfully served other residents. On the day he died, one of the activity directors came in to Mike’s room and tearfully said goodbye to Mike, she then turned to us and said that “Brother Mike always reached out to everybody else to get them involved in the activities.”
On his 25th anniversary of his Glenmary Oath Brother Mike said: “Imagine having a job you enjoy doing every day. I have since I professed as a Glenmary Brother 25 years ago. There have been some hard times, but basically I have enjoyed everything I have ever been asked to do.”
Mike’s philosophy was simple, “If you are going to be a missioner, become the best missioner you can be!”
Brother Mike, “Glenmary’s gentle giant,” was a faithful Glenmarian.
He was a humble servant to the people in the missions.
He was dedicated to his fellow Glenmary members.
And he had a great love for his family. Mike tried to be there for his family when he could. Just as they have certainly been here for him these last couple of years; His family members have visited frequently. And his is the only Glenmary family that I know that has rented a bus and brought forty or fifty family members to celebrate Christmas with Mike.
Thank you Mike for the joy you shared with us here on earth and I am confident that you are sharing that joy in heaven now.