Dad

March 22nd is the 39th anniversary of my Dad’s death.

I wanted to share this poem with you all because I believe even the darkest times come back to the Light.  It’s a good time to remember that.

The Call

The deepest groan
sound ever tore from me
was on the day
my father died.

My brother’s voice
ran through the telephone
in liquid sorrow,
like a strong willow weeping,
holding roots down deep,
but spilling over tenderly
at fragile edges.

With his brave and wounded summons,
a primal broken cry
escaped from me
without my willing it.
It welled up, ebony and viscous,
from the center of my being,
molten, from a fissure
in the rock where I am rooted.
At that moment,
I am certain of it,
my father’s spirit separated
from the earth, or went
down invisible to join it.

When I finally came to him,
through a long journey,
a failing warmth from his blue skin
was all that met me,
and the blue memories waving
in a somnolent field
over his lifeless body,
that I picked, one by one,
like flowers in the silence.

blue flowers

That bouquet is preserved
in my soul as in a white
glass vase.  I bring it out
for blessing rites upon
things my father would have blessed
had he not died.

The benediction of these flowers
has fallen now for years
on all the lovely, growing
things in family, in self,
and slowly, over years, they’ve
turned from blue to all the colors
they once were in his heart,
like rainbows
or glass the deeper stained
by setting sun.

Some beautiful music: Mi Mancherai

Always thanking God for you, Dad.

 

Let the Light In

Friday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time

August 9, 2019

Click here for readings

Today, in Mercy, we have the first of a few readings from the Book of Deuteronomy. In today’s passage, Moses gives the first of three speeches to the community. These speeches are a sort of manifesto a family patriarch might give before he dies, framing the family history and code to direct coming generations.

Ps77 crack


Dad

 

The reading falls on a most appropriate day for me.
Today would be my Dad’s 104th birthday.
The occasion invites me to recount all the blessings
given to him, me, and our family.

 


When we, as people of faith, step back from our lives in reverence, we realize God’s immense goodness to us. Moses encourages his people to do just such stepping back:

Ask now of the days of old, before your time,
ever since God created man upon the earth;
ask from one end of the sky to the other:
Did anything so great ever happen before?

We might ask ourselves the same thing. 

  • How has God been with me and my family through our lifetimes, and through the generations that preceded us?
  • In both our lights and darknesses, how has God continually called us to relationship?
  • How have we revealed God’s voice to one another by our love, honesty, support, patient accompaniment, generous correction and forgiveness?
  • How have these gifts to one another allowed us to become gifts to the larger world?
  • What am I passing on to the next generation of the fidelity and sacrifice which has blessed me?

When I think of my Dad, there are so many symbols that show how he answered those questions with his life. They aren’t big manifestos like those of Moses. Instead: 

  • a frayed prayer book that I watched him finger daily
  • an old receipt for my bicycle bought in incremental payments he could barely afford
  • his sincere distress one Assumption Day when he had forgotten to go to Mass
  • his steadfast attempt to work even when illness weakened him and his humble trust in God when that weakness appeared to triumph
  • a treasured conversation about his hope for heaven
  • the appreciation now, in my maturity, of his thousand quiet acts of faith and love

All of us might spend some time in gratitude for the legacy of faith and love we have received. No family is perfect, and the grace may come to us in clarity or in disguise. But it comes. 

There are fractures and tears in every family. There were some even in Moses’ “family” and Moses himself! And we cannot magically heal them all. But God asks us to remember that God abides with us even in any fragmentation. Just as the poet Leonard Cohen sings:

There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

Click here to listen to Cohen’s moving song

If what we remember in our family history are weaknesses, how have they made us stronger? If what we remember are strengths, how have they made us more generous? In either case, how have we heard God’s voice in our story? How have we let the Light in?

As Moses tells his people:

This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart,
that the LORD is God
in the heavens above and on earth below,

and that there is no other.

Music: As for Me and My House – Promise Keepers

Profession of Faith

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Readings: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/080918.cfm

Today, in Mercy, our Gospel reading offers us Peter’s magnificent profession of faith. 

profession Mt16

This profession might cause us to consider our own faith and how we profess it in our daily lives.

I think about that today in the context of my father’s life. Today is his birthday.

My father, gone to God nearly forty years ago, would have been 103 years old today.

He was born in the midst of the World War — called only that, because we never expected a second one.

His 28- year-old mother died when he was just two years old.

He grew up into a Depression which caused  him to cease his schooling at 7th grade and work the farm with the uncle who raised him.

Dad

By the tragic Second World War, he had grown to a man and  would fight in the fields and cities of Europe. He came home with pictures in his head that he would never talk about. And he never traveled again, at least not beyond Wildwood, New Jersey.

With not even a grade school diploma, he was a self-educated man in the skills of plumbing, electricity, painting, paper-hanging, and cement work.  Don’t undervalue this unless you have attempted these tasks yourself!

He was a hard-working, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth man who never owned his home but raised a family whose hearts he owned completely.

He suffered a heart injury at work when he was in his 50s and eventually – despite a valiant struggle – became disabled. After several heart attacks, he died a relatively early death at age sixty-six. In the intervening years, he read, prayed, and loved my mother, brother and me without reservation. He never missed a Sunday or Holy Day at Church. He prayed his devotions and novenas every day. He never put a single person down by his words or actions.

Some may read this short synopsis of his life and think it a little tragic. I read it and remember an everyday saint. He was made so by his resolute faith and trust in God; by his honest, inclusive patriotism, by his immense selflessness, and by his abundant kindness. These traits characterized many of “The Greatest Generation”.  We should never underestimate the contribution of their character to our national historical wealth.

My Dad died completely fulfilled and happy, leaving a heritage of faith, loyalty, generosity and love. That was his profession of faith, and I take great joy in it today. I think in many ways, Dad was a lot like Peter and I like to think of him that way as I pray this morning .

My dear readers, in your own family trees, I hope you are blessed to have such people- rough, tender-hearted heroes who carried you into the fullness of your life. Think of them, learn from them, and bless them today. Be them – if you have the courage.

Dad loved music. Toward the end of his life, this free and beautiful melody was one of his favorites. You might enjoy it as you pray this morning.

Verde ~ Guido and Maurizio DeAngelis