Sweet Lord, you are meek and merciful. Who would not give himself wholeheartedly to your service, if he began to taste even a little of your fatherly rule? - Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621)
Last night, at RCIA, I taught on the Catholic doctrines of Justification and Merit. We have a HUGE class right now, and most of those in the class come to us from a Protestant or Evangelical background. It is refreshing to teach these people. They are hungry. They have the gift of Faith and they treasure it, guard it, nuture it. I have been able to teach much but learn more because they come in with eyes wide in anticipation - they have been taught well, but not in a complete way, and to see them start to just come alive with ideas and attitudes and, well....JOY.
I do not mean to imply that they were unhappy before - many of them are simply building on the joy that was theirs when they walked through the doors of St Joseph's. In fact, we have to remind them that The Church is perfect, Her members are not and to be wary of that 'pink cloud' many people early in substance abuse recovery experience. Everyone in their 12 Step program is wonderful - honest, hardworking, relying solely upon a Higher Power to get them through the day - and then the first time someone steals their wallet during a meeting they are crushed. If they have been given a strong foundation, they get angry, sad, laugh it off and stay sober and active. If their spiritual house has been built on sand, they go for a bottle. The same holds true for Catholics. If someone new sticks only to Catholic Radio (Immaculate Heart Radio - 1230 on the AM dial!) or EWTN they will get the idea that we are all skipping merrily on the path to heaven; accepting our sufferings, confessing our sins and never wanting to stop our cars in the middle of the freeway, get out and yell "BUT WHAT ABOUT ME???" at the top of our lungs. Then the first time we run into a Kerry Kennedy, a Nancy Pelosi or that mean secretary down at the Parish Office, we want to chuck it all and run down the street to the Big Giant Grace Cathedral of The Wonderkids, embrace the health and wealth gospel and enjoy the better music.
I recently told Ryan ('my' eldest) that it was time for him to start developing a deeper prayer life. He wants to go into Law Enforcement so he has a wonderful Patron Saint to call upon - the Prince of the Heavenly Host himself; St Michael the Archangel. I reminded him that his father has done much to improve himself over the years; however, the bottom line is that he left his Catholic Faith and has been floundering morally ever since, unsure and defensive and convinced that if he just keeps trying harder he can 'do it' (whatever 'it' might be).
The love of a Father for a child is unique. For girls it gives us a compass to use for future relationships with me. For boys, that love can demonstrate to them true strength - the kind of strength that does not bend in times of stress and does not give into the prevailing fashion in an effort to be considered 'cool'. A real father does not mind being told, occasionally, that they are hated by their offspring, or that they are unfair or unfeeling or uncaring or 'un' -whatever, because they know that ultimately the fruits of holding fast to objective, moral Truth will come to fruition.
I did not have a good, moral father. To pretend that he was anything other than who or what he was would be an insult to the man. He was difficult to love. Reading the Modesto Bee series on the Dust Bowl has brought back buried memories of my Dad. He was Irish/Texan/Tough. A WWII Vet of the Aleutian Islands Campaign, he came back damaged by what he had seen in combat and damaged by the terrible harships of his youth. Married three times, fathered 3 (that we can name) children, he drank too much, was immoral in his behavior, racist in his beliefs and the hardest working man I ever knew.
He was also the guy who tracked down Lenny's Boot Parlour in LA because I had read about it in 16 Magazine....and he took me there so I could buy the coolest pair of red, white and blue bell bottom pants in the WORLD.
He taught me how to train dogs, how to build a campfire and fire a gun. We shared a love of history and is the only person in my family who would ever wander through an old cemetery looking at gravestones and wondering about the people with me.
Ten days before he died (unexpectedly) my father returned to The Church after 45 years. He received the Sacraments for the first time in a state of Grace.
Personally, I believe he died because God knew he was sincere when he did it but it probably wouldn't last - the first time one of the priests said something he didnot like he would have been outta there.
God's time is not my time. I know that I would love to see my brother fully reconciled with God before our mother leaves this earth. I also know that what I want is not always what is best for the world...and so, if God's plan is perfect then I must be willing to trust in Him.
Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Eternal Father, Second Person of the Holy Trinity, I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice. May all those who wander away from You in the Eucharist return to Your Loving Embrace. May the Graces of Your Love fill the hearts of the Faithful. May the Holy Spirit renew the face of the earth.