In Memory of a Life Well Lived...

By Roberto Mukaro Borrero

Father Paul Michael Mayer 1931-2013
Life is indeed a wonder… When we are young, new, and experiencing the world around us for the first time, we are amazed with everything... This amazement fades for many of us as we grow, hopefully to renew itself, as we get older and begin to see more family and friends make their final journey. It is at these times that many people start to once again see how amazing and sacred our own earthly journeys are… It is at these times we begin to understand how little time we really have... Like the flash of a firefly in the night…

So, here I sit contemplating what an amazing journey life is, having just returned from the incredible memorial service of an extraordinary man I had the honor to call friend, comrade, spiritual brother, and mentor, Father Paul Michael Mayer

I cannot help but to smile as I think about Father Paul…  He certainly knew how blessed we all are to be here on Earth and share this sacred moment in time together.

Father Paul Mayer was a young Jewish boy who lived in Germany during the rise of Nazism. Most of his family was killed in the Holocaust. In 1938, he along with his mother, father, and brother were able to escape this horror and come to the U.S. As a teen he converted to Christianity; Paul then became a Benedictine monk and an ordained Priest in the Roman Catholic faith. He always considered himself a Jew, however, often stating Jesus was also a Jew. Paul was relieved of his commitment to the Church by the Vatican when he fell in love with and married a nun, Naomi, he met while traveling to Mexico. He always considered himself a Priest, continuing his spiritual service as an ordained Inter-Faith Minister. During his days as a monk, much to the dismay of the Church hierarchy, he traveled to Selma, Alabama to meet with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 1965 voting rights campaign.  

Father Paul also had an immense respect for the World’s Indigenous Peoples. He considered “Black Elk Speaks” a holy book. He worked with indigenous Spiritual leaders around the U.S. and beyond.
Father Paul was also a fierce advocate for children, social justice issues, and the environment, especially climate change. He considered himself an Earth Guardian. 

My dear friend Pamela Kraft introduced me to Father Paul in the early 1990s. We became close friends and served together on the board of the organization Pamela founded, Tribal Link Foundation. On a personal level, he offered me much support and council during turbulent times. He helped me to see the connection between political and spiritual understandings, and the importance of teaching and activism. Paul seemed to always have a smile on, except of course when speaking about injustice. Then his face would change, become very serious, and warrior-like.  

During his memorial this evening, his audacity was mentioned. Many of us were very amused with this truth. It was Father Paul, for example, who arranged for me to meet and speak with Fidel Castro during one of his last visits to the U.S.  Paul met Fidel after he and others were arrested for defying the U.S. embargo to bring bibles and humanitarian aid to Cuba.  Fidel was impressed with his passion and commitment.  Father Paul’s commitment to social justice spanned half a century, as he was even active recently climbing a fence and then being arrested with a new generation of youth activists at Occupy Wall Street. As one can imagine, there are so many tales to tell about his life.

Father Paul succumbed to a battle with brain cancer in November 2013 at 82. He is survived by his son Peter, daughter Maria, and his grandchildren. Thank you Peter and family for blessing me with the opportunity to open tonight’s incredible memorial service and share some words and a Taino song for Father Paul.

Father Paul, my friend and spiritual brother, I miss your physical presence, but I know you are with all of us in Spirit. You have touched many lives on your incredible life journey, and I for one am a better human being for knowing you.  Yours was indeed a life well lived. 

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