The Pope's ring was crushed last week, as papal tradition dictates it must be upon the end of a particular pope's papacy. A new Vicar of Christ will be chosen within the next two weeks and a new Papal Ring will be crafted with his name on it. That got me thinking about other rings...
Super Bowl rings came about with Super Bowl I - The World Championship game, as it was originally titled. Vince Lombardi helped design the Packer's first ring. He had a unique experience in viewing the important nature of large important rings.
You see, Lombardi coached football at West Point for 5 years. He saw the importance of West Point Class Rings each year - gorgeous rings of immense size. Rings that announced their owner was in the room. He couln't help but transfer that "ring tradition" into the culture of what became the following year's new world championship name: The Super Bowl. Lombardi won another ring that year, too.
I attended West Point and saw many, many class rings.
As a member of the West Point Class of 1978, I was sworn into the US Army on July 8th, 1974 with my class on Trophy Point on the "west point" of the Hudson River. I was at the academy as a cadet and saw the Classes of 1975, 76, 77 78 and 79.
As Class President and member of the Ring and Crest Committee, I had the honor of helping bring a most beautiful ring and class crest into existence - I helped the committee as we designed our West Point Class Ring.
Near-tragedy interrupted my studies at West Point when my mother attempted to take her own life due to divorce and I was called on as the adult child closest to the east coast (where she lived at the time) to help her. My wonderful mom recovered during my absence, my grades did not.
I transferred from West Point to Cal Poly Pomona - always remembering the ring I had helped design but never worn.
Upon my graduation from college, I ordered a Cal Poly class ring and wore it during the early days of my professional career, eventually sliding it off my right ring finger and placing it in a family jewelry box for safe keeping. I was proud of it - having been the first member of my entire Mansfield family line to graduate from college. The ring meant something significant to me. It still does today.
And yet I always remembered my class' ring from West Point.
So, when my youngest son decided to apply to West Point, I was pleased for him. His grades and preparatory academic work, coupled with a stable family environment would combine to help him stay at his chosen school and graduate. Colin entered in Summer, 2010. He will graduate in just 14 months (May, 2014).
Recently, he sent me a pic of the West Point ring that he had just chosen - a ring that tradition now allows him to place on his right hand's ring finger at the start of his senior (or Firstie) year. It is beautiful and I am so happy for him.I looked down at my own right hand, to the two rings that occupy the space where my Cal Poly class ring rode life through my twenties and thirties and I see two different rings now.
A few years ago, my father, Bill Mansfield, gave me his personal ring; one he had owned since 1948, bearing his initials WEM. It was a ring given to him by my grandfather; one he wore for all of his youth and on into my middle age - until he took it off his finger. I then slipped it on mine. It more-than-fit, becoming a part of me.
Near the same time, my oldest son, Nate, passed away at 27 years of age. Among his belongings was a ring I had given him when he turned 16. It was a ring of remembrance - to live life for God, to live life in purity and to remember me. You see it had been part of my second wedding ring - a replacement ring I wore for 10 years. I'd had a jeweler divide it in half, width-wise and gave a ring to each of my sons, Nate and Colin. Nate eventually went to jail and then to prison. His ring, stayed rolled up in a sock, hidden away in a drawer as a treasure for us to accidentally find. Colin owns his still to today, given with the same meaning behind it.
Upon Nate's incarceration, I regained stewardship of that ring. On the day of his death, I regained ownership of it. I slipped it on my finger within hours of hearing of his death, directly next to the ring my father gave me. Both men together/forever on the ring finger that I had hoped to wear my West Point ring, so many years before.
This week's news that the Pope's ring was crushed when his resignation took effect reminded me that even the most powerful people on the face of the earth will lose their symbols of power. The signet rings of kings and drug addicts are both set aside, aren't they?
Then, I smiled, remembering...
My Dad passed away this past summer and as he lay in the casket I touched his right hand, his ring finger, absent his ring - which had long since been mine... and I smiled.
My dad and I always hoped I would have a West Point ring on that right ring finger. It's an honor to receive such a ring - especially when the recipient helped design it.
It's significant to wear such a ring. Every Pope, West Pointer, Father, Son and Super Bowl player knows that to be true.
And as the following story tells us, it's just as significant to see a ring "lost and then found" as it is to have even been the recipient of any of the rings I mentioned here. The meaning behind all rings is the same: temporary identification with a person, place or position - each to be worn proudly while we have it and ultimately to be given over to someone else one day for their benefit - and maybe even returned to us, if need be!
Watch and see.