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“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith* in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
* And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.
Where [I] am going you know the way.” *
Many of my commentaries include the description of a journey. It could be a journey to a new home, job, marriage, school, or even from your “old” home to your “current” home in a new car. These are different life experiences, different opportunities, different dreams, different “baggage”, different beginnings, and endings. But, so many times, our plans, hopes, and dreams are shaped by our lives with our fathers.
This is not a Hallmark card description of what we WANT our fathers to be like. This is a description of how we act as fathers, through our sometimes-clouded lenses.
I knew I wanted to be married someday. I knew I wanted to have a family. I knew I wanted a home, which could be a house, an apartment, a condo, heck, an RV. It would be a place where love is found. When I met the person I knew more than anything I wanted to marry, I knew we discussed those other dreams, but I did not understand the most incredible and difficult journey was ahead until I was called on to be strong and prepare to be a father.
Our oldest son, Steven, died soon after he was born. That is a long-ago event and remains in our hearts these many years on. But, he lived, and it was by the Father’s intervention that one of my Dominican confreres and in an irony a few years later, associate pastor at our suburban Chicago parish, told us later, felt the message to come to my wife’s hospital room to see us, and was told, as he arrived on the labor and delivery floor, that our son had been born and was in their intensive care unit. Dick baptized Steven. Dick told us later giving the sacrament in that setting was a first for him. He also told us some weeks later he had used that example in his engaged couples’ meetings as preparation for what the Father may call on us, in his love, to endure. Many years later, the three of us stood in a beautiful area of a cemetery, over the grave marker we finally we able to afford. We prayed in thanksgiving for Steven’s brief life. The Father had provided the time for us to be together, to not grieve, but to rejoice, as the circle was complete. Steven lived, died in faith, and is in his Father’s house.
Our son, Thomas, is a wonderful, energetic, ALIVE individual, married to an amazing lady. His early journey had very some difficult times, but he is just fine, thank you.
We had moved from Chicago to Minneapolis about four months prior to his premature birth. We were trying to just stay calm, and to work together to minimize the challenges of a high-risk pregnancy. Some days, I truly wondered what message God was hearing from us, and what message He was sending in return.
At the time, we were “adult” members of the Newman Catholic Center at the University of Minnesota. My memories of the Father’s Day before Thomas was born have been coming back to me. The mass was beautiful in the participation, the music, the outpouring of joy among the mostly adult members and year-round students who were in attendance. The Director, Father Paul Zak, O.P. delivered a wonderful homily on fatherhood, recognizing his father, and invited anyone to offer their thoughts. I felt the Spirit directing me to say something, I did not know what, but I knew the Father was standing beside me as I raised my hand and walked to the podium. I remember little of what I said, more of a stream of consciousness, but I remember recounting Steven’s story, knowing that he was with Our Father. I prayed that I had been the best I could have been for those few hours of his life, and that He would lead me and guide me to be as good a father to my unborn child as He is to all of us. I remember making my way back to me seat, people are standing, applauding, crying, I embraced my wife, and all I could think was “Lord, thank you for letting me know what to say and do”.
That is my prayer today. Even as the years, the decades, have sped by, I pray our beautiful family, which has had its many joys, and more than a few sorrows, has stayed true to the journey the love of Our Father provides. I am blessed to be a father, and I pray for all the dads, and dads-to-be I know. We know of Your love and tenderness, and, we hope, are prayerfully ready for our next points in this journey, surrounded by Your love.
Image: Flickr, therbby.