"I only want to be so Catholic....I don't want it to limit me too much…" Like a foolish child refusing to listen to his parents, I limit my trust in God. "Ignorance is bliss" and who doesn't like bliss — there are perhaps some things I don't want to know about Catholic teaching because it might burden me. I live in the "real world;" I am not a monk or a priest. I wish I could, but I can't always be "perfect." That is the job of the religious....no one expects lay people to be saints. If I get too "churchy" I will never have any fun. I have real problems I have to solve; if I don't worry about these issues I will be in big trouble...I need tograb control....
Amazingly, God does not give up on me. He patiently waits for me to come to my senses. Like He gave sight to the blind man, sometimes He makes it abundantly clear to me at how foolish I have been. I become embarrassed and see my foolishness. I ask God for forgiveness and promise to repent and He does forgive me, even knowing I am going to fall, most likely before the end of the day....
I had an awesome earthly father. I think that is why I love God the Father so much. I knew my father loved me so much, I would never want to do anything to hurt him. And he had some really crazy expectations; like you must go to church on Sundays and Holy Days. You must not eat meat on Fridays during Lent. You should go to confession and receive the Holy Eucharist. Sex was meant for married couples. Marriage was permanent and you should not get divorced. I mean, this was the late 60s and everyone knew these were outdated ideas and rules of the "old" church. Why, everyone knew God loved you and accepted you just the way you are. In fact, He didn't even expect you to follow such rules… just be a "good" person. Didn't Vatican II say so? All the priests and nuns were "shedding" these old ideas. No more homilies of gloom and doom, only ones that made us feelgood.
Poor me. What was I to do? My dad didn't seem to "get it." Well I decided I would respect my dad anyway and go to Mass every week. Besides, there were almost always pretty girls to look at. I could be a good Catholic....just had to be careful to not be toogood...
My father had serious health issues all his life. If he and my mom would have listened to the doctors, neither I nor my younger brother would have been born. There was no question who was directing things at our home — mom and dad were following God, not man's advice.
Dad's health issues limited his ability to do well financially. He might have to go a few years in the same old suit, but if need be, he could get credit at Montgomery Wards to buy new shoes for his children to start the school year. When I was old enough to understand his financial situation, it only reinforced my understanding of his love for his family. Dad did not think of himself as "poor." In fact many times he made it perfectly clear: He was the richest man alive; his wife and children made it so. I wanted to be rich like dad someday.
By his late fifties, dad's heath worsened. It seemed like no sooner had he recovered from a major surgery, he was back again. In between hospital stays, he insisted on going to Mass. "Sunday obligation doesn't count when you are so sick," mom argued with him. You see, she couldn't stand watching the physical pain he endured going to Mass. It must have been like Mary watching Jesus climb the hill. One day, as I — Mr. "Utilitarian Relationship with God" — watched this humble man weakly approach the priest to receive the Eucharist, his obvious love for Jesus almost knocked me off the pew.
The recoveries became more and more difficult. One day, as he lay in the hospital with extensive suffering, I could see Christ on the cross. As he wrenched in pain, I thought he must be suffering more than Christ; after all Christ "only" hung on the cross for three hours. Dad had been in this situation for days. I wanted to take him down, but was helpless. The Holy Spirit (unknown to my thick head) smacked me and told me I could go to daily Mass for dad and receive the Eucharist, since he could not go. I was excited; dad loves the Eucharist; I can go for him, I can do something for him. I launched a lifetime habit of daily Mass. I don't know how long it was before I realized I was not going to the Eucharist for my dying father, but rather, my father was dying to bring me to the Eucharist.
So I want to be like my father. I have wanted to be like my father as long as I can remember. I have wanted my children to learn the joy of God's love for them from their mom and dad, like I did. I prayed to God for me to find the right woman to be my wife. And God blew me away with a woman beyond my dreams, beyond my imagination. God tends to do that when we stop trying to tell him how to do things. My wife knows true love. My wife wants to help me get to heaven. My wife wants to help me be like my father and our Father.
So we have these crazy ideas: like being married for life; like letting God decide how many children we would be blessed with; like going to church on Sundays and days of obligation; like doing special sacrifices on Friday, perhaps not eating meat. (The sacrifice helps remind us of Christ's suffering); like fasting an hour before receiving the Eucharist… and loving all of it! You see, sacrifice is a strange thing. Sacrifice is difficult, but love makes it easy. Perfect love makes it a joy. I find, the more I follow God and His Church, the more joy there is in my life.
Recently, my wife and I shared tears of joy at Corpus Christi Catholic Church as we watched Father Perera sacramentally bind our 5 th son and new daughter in a Holy Catholic marriage. The night before, they received the sacrament of penance. They desire God to be a partner in their marriage. They know that without God, they don't have a chance, but with God, they can't miss. They want to lead each other closer to God. I am amazed how my children sometimes remind me of my father.
It was an exciting week. Our four grandchildren were enjoying each other, as well as Nana and Papa and their aunts and uncles. They felt secure and loved as the family gathered to help with final preparations. They are too young to understand God, but they know Him well through their moms and dads. It's funny, but I think they, too, are starting to remind me of my dad.
Today, I have been thinking, I am the richest man alive; my wifeand children make it so.BACK TO LIST