‘Hey, Dad…I think maybe I owe you an apology.’
Funny how this thought occurred to me yesterday, especially since Dad’s been gone from us for close to 40 years now.
Funny…or is it just the most recent blessing I received from my father – as I did something in remembrance of him? You see, I took part in a half-day “Fatherhood Retreat” at St. Anselm’s Parish yesterday, and that’s something I know my Dad would have loved to do, too. He was big on retreats, and big on inviting us, his five sons, to share in his own spirituality.
Which, I guess, is something a good Dad is supposed to do. Like every Dad, mine had his faults. But upon further review, I can also see clearly that he often acted just like a saint would act. Among other things, he imitated the St. Paul we meet in today’s second reading on the feast of Corpus Christi:
“I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you…”
We spent some time reflecting on those fatherly gifts during our retreat yesterday. And we all had stories to tell – our remembrances of quirks and quips and expectations that many feared we’d never be able to meet.
One memory in particular bubbled up in me – how our Dad used to see to it that, as grade school kids, my brothers and I would get to Mass every day. Every single day. Even during the summertime.
I remembered how I used to chafe at this expectation of his. I remembered sitting in the pew, alongside my brothers, doing a slow burn. I remembered looking around and noticing how we were the only kids at 8:30 Mass. All our buddies were still in bed, enjoying their extra zzzzs. I remembered seeing my grandparents there, and wondering (with just a smidge of bitterness in my heart), ‘Where the heck is Dad?’ Why should we have to go to daily Mass, if he isn’t there himself?
I mean that’s only fair, right? If it’s a duty for me, then it oughta be a duty for him as well. Only now am I beginning to understand that Dad wasn’t trying to teach us about “duty” at all. Rather, he was inviting us to discover what he had discovered – something truly precious and sustaining, a blessing cup of inestimable value.
I began to connect the dots on this insight only a few months ago, when I asked my Mom to tell me more about the circumstances surrounding my long-ago memory. “Why,” I wondered out loud, “did Dad make us go to daily Mass, but he was never there himself?” And she replied, “But he was there almost every day: he’d go to the early Mass…and then come home to wake you boys for the 8:30…”
These days, I spend a fair amount of time at early Mass myself. I’ve become one of ‘the regulars’ – one of the Old Dudes who show up at dawn to take and eat, to encounter the greatest of mysteries in the simplest of substances, bread and wine.
And on some rare occasions, I see a grade school kid there. And I think of my Dad, and the then-confounding way he found to bless my summer mornings all those many years ago.
I think of my Dad, and hear from his (surely holy) lips the words of the prophet Isaiah:
All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come buy grain and eat! Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! Why spend your money for what is not bread, your wages for what does not satisfy? Only listen to me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Pay attention and come to me; listen that you may have life!
(Isaiah 55: 1-3)
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.