Category Archives: Faith/Theology/Spirituality

Image

A Prayer for Writers

Today is the feast of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers/authors.  My prayer today is that every word I commit to print may glorify God.  Since I know that many of you, my readers, are also writers I pray the same for you.  And when we encounter others who weaponize their words, may God give us the grace to forgive.

desales

Amazing head of hair, too.

Advertisements

Having Run the Race

In a few days I will mark the passage of one year since my dad died.

 

 

The_Apostle_Paul_-_Rembrandt

Remrandt’s Apostle Paul (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Just writing that sentence made me feel a little weird.  My father remains the finest man I will ever know.  Not only did he give me life but he took care of me.  For the 39 years I had him on this earth with me there was never a time when I didn’t know in my heart that he cared for me.  Through my childhood he raised me, provided everything I needed and many things I wanted.  He gave his advice, though not always in a sit-down “Son, we need to talk” kind of way.  In fact, we never had a conversation like that.  He taught by example.  I never heard him complain, not even once, about a solitary thing in life.  We laughed one night at dinner a few years back when he made a comment about not liking pot roast much because Mom had been serving it for dinner almost every Sunday for years.  He was happy with the life God gave him.

But one year earlier the light seemed to go out of his life somewhat.  He was old.  He was tired.  And he had just been dealt a terrible blow.  In October of 2015 my oldest brother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  I still hate that term.  My parents watched as their son, who had lived perhaps not the most exemplary of lives, literally came home to die.  Thirty years earlier they had lost three children in a terrible tragedy.  Back then Dad didn’t have time to grieve.  Now, he couldn’t help himself.  No parent should ever lose a child.  To lose four…  I can easily forgive him for coming to the conclusion that it was his time to let go as well.

My dad was fond of a passage in Paul’s Letter to Timothy.  “I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.”  When he died these words came back to me.  The man was a fighter, stalwart in his faith.  That’s what he taught me.  I remember in the day or so after her died printing a copy of that passage.  Mom had asked me and my niece to read at his funeral.  I was honored to read at this mass.  My dad had been a lector for years when I was growing up.  From him I learned my love not only of the Catholic faith but of what was his passion – the liturgy.  I remember so many years, day in and day out, before I moved away where I would go with him to mass every day and later as an adult when I would take him with me.  I, too, am a lector and I think of him every time I read at mass.  My niece, a young girl of 13, had been reading at daily mass – the mass they’d take Grandpa too – for a while and I know how much he loved to see her read.  But something happened.  When we got to the sanctuary, she asked me where the reading was.  I mistakenly mentioned that it was in the book.  Instead it was in my pocket.  She read a different reading.  It was still very fitting but it wasn’t 2 Timothy 4:7.

I had to make this right for him.  At the cemetery I mentioned to Mom what had happened and asked the priest if my niece could proclaim that reading there at the grave.  She did.  Somehow it seemed more fitting here.

The last words spoken in the presence of his earthly remains were from his granddaughter and I know in my heart she was speaking them of him.

“I have fought the good fight, I have run the race, I have kept the faith.”

My dad impressed upon me the solemn duty of an Irishman to attend wakes and funerals.  “It’s just what we do,” he had said to me before.

And as if to show him I had learned his lesson I stayed behind with the funeral director as the last man, his youngest boy, until my father’s casket was lowered to his final resting place.  I dropped the rose from my lapel the fifteen feet or so and watched as it landed squarely on his coffin.  I was kneeling in the dirt as I said good bye to Daddy.

Other than the impending anniversary, I don’t know why this memory is haunting me at the moment.  I still talk to the man every day.  Typically I blurt out “Dad, help me!” with one of my many crises.  I’d like to believe he’s working overtime to obtain for me whatever particular grace it is I’m seeking at the moment.

img_0643

Dad doing a crossword.  He did one of these every day for decades.  I learned to love crosswords from him.

He was an amazing guy.  Anyone who’d ever met him loved him.  He was funny, smart as a whip, and incredibly loving and kind.  His family was his world.  And my mom…  She was the sun, moon, and stars to him.  There is one thing he taught me that I think I actually get right most of the time.  I learned how to love from the both of them but I learned how to treat my wife from him.  I never saw them go anywhere where he didn’t open her door.  He laughed with her.  He thought she was the most beautiful creature God ever put on the earth and he was always happy when he was with her.

In a few days I will board a plane and travel to see her and to celebrate and remember a remarkable man who gave me life and taught me how to fight, to run, and to keep faith.  I can’t say I’m much of a fighter or a runner and I often feel like despairing; but he taught me what to do.  The reason I was a teacher for so many years was because he first taught me.

As we draw near to that day, I will carry him ever more in my heart remembering the lives he affected and how much better we all are because he fought and ran and kept the faith.

God bless you for reading this far.  Say a prayer for my family if you would be so kind.  And say a prayer for me.  40 years from now if even one person could say of me that I kept the faith I will die a happy man.

Oh, and I started running again.  I’m 40, I’ve got a major spinal problem, I just quit smoking after 22 years, it’s cold, and I suck at running but I’m doing it.  Dad is probably laughing.  But perhaps I’ll be able to say literally that I’ve run the race.

Impossible: Day 9

Well friends, we are there!  We have reached the ninth day of our novena.

The prayers, as always, are found here.

I don’t know how this one will end – for me or for you.  Know that I have been praying for your intentions as well as my own and that I am grateful for all of your prayers for me.

I will share that many years ago I prayed this exact novena for a special cause.  On the ninth day in the evening I stood face to face with the woman I would marry.  And yes, I knew at that moment that my prayer had been heard and answered favorably.

St. Rita, advocate of impossible causes, pray for us!

11b955b5ba6e9104ab28ee61a686a35b--sainte-rita-catholic-saints

Impossible: Day 8

linoln tunnel

What will it be?

There is a point when driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, well past the mosaic tiled state line divider that always amused me as a boy, where the bright fluorescent lights mounted to the ceiling give way to the grayish light gently streaming into view in the distance.  It is exactly and not proverbially the light at the end of the tunnel.  Even though the tunnel lights are somehow reassuring – bright, constant, warm – in contrast to the uncertainty of the “natural” light ahead, there is a real sense that the light ahead is just that – natural.  Whether it be bright sunshine densely packing a deep blue sky powered by high pressure or faltering light struggling to find the room to breathe in a sky choked cold with winter’s thin and biting air; that light is still natural.  Natural is always preferable to artifice.  As I reflect on the sentences preceding this one I am struck by how forced and formulaic they are.  My apologies.

state line

rita-5a.jpg

St. Rita, pierced with a thorn, pray for us!

The novena we’ve been praying, found here, is drawing to a close.  The thing is that the light at the end of the tunnel is scary.  I’m confident it will be natural but what will it look like?  I have a vision in my mind of what I want it to look like but God painted that sky and it might be nothing like what I’m looking for.  It might even be darkness dotted by even more man-made lights.  And that can be pretty too.  Many times I emerged from the Tunnel at night to be surrounded by high rise buildings lit up like Christmas trees.  There’s a real beauty in that.

The point is that ultimately I’m still going to drive forward.  We shall see what awaits us.  Until the end, though, know that I am praying your light will be as impossibly marvelous as mine will be.

Impossible: Day 7

Posting a little late…

On day 7 of our novena to St. Rita, found here, we continue to pray for my intention and yours.

IMG_3484

Mom, my niece (named after my mom), and my son with St. Rita standing guard.  From an elevator in the National Shrine of St. Rita, Philadelphia.

The reason I’m posting the next morning is because I was out at the airport last night picking up a very special guest.  My mom flew into town for a few weeks.  And there’s a big connection here (other than the obvious).

My mother it the one who first introduced me to St. Rita!  The story she always tells is that when she was about to make her confirmation way back in 1946 she was searching for a saint to take as a patron.  Wanting to impress her mother, she took the name of a visiting aunt who happened to be named Rita.  There are worse reasons to pick a saint.  The point is that many years later when I was in 8th grade I read a story about St. Rita in a book on Catholic world culture and remembered my mom’s connection.  Years after that, with both of us having a “fascination” about the saint of the impossible we discovered that her national shrine was a mere hour and a half away from home.  We took a trip to visit and the devotion was established.

St. Rita, help of those in need, pray for us!

Impossible: Day 6

More than halfway there in our novena to the saint of the impossible.  I hope that those of you who have been praying with me have been able to set your heart on the goal of peace.  As much as she is a saint of impossible causes, Rita’s entire life speaks of a desire for interior peace, peace in one’s family life, and peace in the world.

In the prayers, found here, we read:

“St. Rita, generous in forgiving, pray for us!”

Often times the first step to accepting the peace of Christ is imitating Our Lord in forgiving those who have wronged us.

rita window

“I would like a rose… and some figs.”

Tonight’s image of Rita comes once again from the beautiful stained glass windows found in the Shrine in Philadelphia.  This one depicts Rita on her deathbed, thorn ground deeply into her head.  Look closely and you will notice a bright red rose laying delicately on her lap.  The rose is a powerful symbol of God’s power to make possible that which is impossible to human skill and effort.

Impossible: Day 5

Our novena continues.  Click here for the prayers.

I prayed mine this afternoon on my drive home from work and I thought of each of you joining me and I prayed for your intentions.  St. Rita will come through for us.  I am confident.

With that in mind, a friend who has been praying with us shared the following picture.  She captioned it thus:

“Thought you might like seeing the image of her inside of the devotional handed down to me. The copyright says April 1924!”

 rita advocate