17 June 2006

Father's Day and Corpus Christi

I recognize that Father's Day is, for a great many Americans, a day to relax in the company of their father. It is a day, and a most fitting day, to honor the fathers who care for their family and raise their children well. It is a reflective day and a joyful one.

For twenty years now, the first has been true for me, but the second day not so much. When I stop to realize it, it seems simply impossible: my father has been dead now these past twenty years.

They have been good years, but they have also been difficult. Not a day goes by that I do not think of my parents (mom has been dead now these past eighteen years). While I fully know that my parents continue to care for me and protect me and pray for me - and for all this I am eternal in their debt - the pain of their loss still is great and, of course, some days it is worse than others. Father's Day happens to be one of those days.

In his song, "I'll Carry On," Rich Mullins sings,

I kissed the earth on my daddy's grave / said goodbye to brave young companions / but when they hoist that sail I know my heart will break / as bright and as fine as the morning / I don't know where this road will take me / but they say there's a place there for a man / and I'm only afraid that my dreams may betray me / and I'll never get home again.

Today I make these words my own.

It is because of the honesty of his music that I have greatly admired and loved Rich Mullins' music since I was first introduced to it on my first Teens Encounter Christ weekend (special thanks here are due to David, who has since become a spiritual father to me [thanks to Sharon, too]). My Aunt Mary and Uncle Bob, who raised my brother and I and after dad died, raised me well. I grateful for their love, encouragement, and support.

There is one thing that my uncle said to me on several occassions. He has been a factory worker most of his life and in this way has provided well for his family. It is difficult work, and yet he always goes.

When I younger, probably twelve or thirteen or so, I remember saying to him that I wanted to work where he worked because the money was good. He said to me, on three occassions that I can remember, something to the extend of, "You're too smart for that." He may even have said it this way, I cannot recall properly at the moment; I wrote them down but I do not have that notebook with me. He never said this to disparage himself or anyone else, but only to encourage me and to foster the natural ability for learning that he saw in me. I know that it is because of his words that I am now pursuing my fourth degree and have always valued academic work above "manual" labor. For this, too, I am grateful.

At any rate, in my heart I have kissed my father's grave, and my mother's, as well.

I have a vision as to what will happen to me once I have died and, according to the grace and mercy of God, I come to enter into his heavenly kingdom. I cannot help but see me entering into Paradise and being greeted and welcomed by my exhuberant parents. We will very quickly - and very briefly - embace lovingly, but they will then hurriedly grab my hands and together we will run and they will bring me before the Lord himself. And that will be our reunion; after this we will adore the Lord together and share in the Beatific Vision.

I am grateful for this vision because it brings with it great comfort and love.

Tomorrow I will have the tremendous opportunity to adore the Lord Jesus with my parents on the Solemnity of Corpus Christi. We know that in every Liturgy we join in the worship of the angels and the saints; we join in the worship of heaven itself. As such, the angels and the saints are present to us at every Mass. This a reality of the faith that I think we pay too little attention.

Tomorrow, as I mourn the loss of my father I will at the same time be united with him in prayer. How beautiful are the ways of the Lord!

Pray for your father tomorrow, whether living or dead. Pray also for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all fathers, that they may learn again the great importance and seriousness of their role as the head of the family and the first teacher in the ways of faith.

Mom and Dad, pray for me!

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