Lead article from the November 2017 bulletin, online now. Reminder: The November council meeting is moved to Thursday, Nov. 9!
OK, so in 1990 I ventured out of my indifference to embrace my higher power that was and is God almighty. I left behind my irreligious, if not atheist, upbringing that stood at odds with that which was all around me. I was no longer an agnostic; I was officially a believer. What then to do? It was much easier just to believe in God than to sort through all the organized manifestations of worship.
Because the beauty of my natural surroundings brought me to where I was, pantheism seemed the place where I stood. I saw God everywhere! Nature was God, and it left me underwhelmed. It gave me little passion. I could never bring myself to hug a tree. Nature was awesome! But God created nature. I was much more likely to cut it down and have a fire. My kids then came, and I remembered a commitment. My wife Gina was Catholic, and Father Joe at St. Gerard's would only marry us if we agreed to raise our kids in the Catholic faith.
We started going to Mass and enrolled them in the parish school. I found passion as I observed the way fathers and husbands led their families to Mass and conducted themselves. I then realized and embraced the truth of Jesus Christ. I went thru RCIA and was led into the water by Fr. Gregory Abbott at the Easter Vigil 2009, the same baptismal font my daughter Anna was baptized in five years earlier. I then went through CRHP and joined the KCs. I became hyperactive with all things Catholic. And then one day I was told it was my job to get my family to heaven. What?! Great, I was pretty sure I would not be allowed safe passage considering some things I left out of the introduction I just wrote. Now I was faced with a heavy task, like three tons laid on my shoulders. Just do good works, go to Mass and enroll them in the parish school? That was all I needed do, right?
All of a sudden it all seemed insufficient. I worked 60 hours a week and only saw my wife and kids on weekends, which were also filled with doing "good works" and such. Was I doing too much? Was it getting in the way of my task? It looked as if the train was going to derail. Flash forward eight years or so, and I am now retired with two teenage girls and a wife who still needed me to help get them to heaven.
I now have more time. I also have much more to do. I thought I could get it all in if I did not work. What was I thinking? I found myself losing ground to contemporary culture (they wanted to go to a movie about a homicidal clown bent on murdering kids) rather than a Christian one: smart phones, social media apps, pop song lyrics and teenage drama to beat the band! The train is still clearly in danger of coming off the rails. I sometimes search and long for signs of progress. Some evidence that my duty is not left undone. They are only going to be with us for five or six more years. I spend much time worrying about it, praying on it, thinking about it and trying to unwrap its mysteries.
Recently, following some significant turbulence there was a time of peace and enjoyment on a family three-day outing in Rochester, where these signs came in at a pace I was not prepared for. My daughters both made me aware upon arrival that we would need to plan for Mass. We toured the city on foot, ate at expensive restaurants, laughed and had the most fun we have had in a long time. Marina asked me if she could go with her friend to a Catholic youth retreat called Steubenville next summer. Anna wanted to listen to Christian pop music the whole time there. We walked our dogs in the park in between showing them in competition, and the girls worked together at the dog show. It seemed too good to be true, but it was true. An answer to my prayers?
We arrived home and my wife was at work and the kids were in school while I was chasing dust balls and dog hair bunnies with my "Shark" vacuum. When going by my little Anna's room I sent skidding across the room a piece of art that had been taped to her door and fallen. It had been there since the third grade. The artwork read, "Gods Not Dead He Surely A Live," and it was a drawing of Anna, God, God's people, the sun and a roaring male lion, maybe representing fathers trying to get their kids to heaven.
Was it a sign that the weekend had not been a fluke, that indeed the train to heaven was not derailed? Had God himself caused the bonds to be loosed? It was progress in my task to help get them where we all long to be. God can do anything. He can surely borrow a third-grader's illustration to bring his point home to a struggling servant on Earth.