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Happy Birthday and Thanks, Mom and Dad!March 11th, 2013
My parents’ birthdays have come around again. They are hovering near 80 years old, which is as amazing to me as my oldest son moving that much closer to 30. As I watch each of these two generations age, and my own bones get creakier, thoughts about the passing on of faith beliefs increasingly occupy my mind.
A parishioner made a comment to me last week along the lines that “Sometimes we wait…our entire life, for life to start.” To the contrary, I learned early that life is to be explored in its possibilities, reflected upon and thoroughly appreciated (even the tough times!). My favorite St. Irenaeus quote about “[human beings] fully alive” is only fulfilled through a heart that has the fortitude and faith to trust that well-discerned new endeavors – if not ultimately roaring successes – will somehow be worthwhile.
What does this have to do with Being Catholic? This active, bold approach should also extend to our spiritual growth. For too many of us – due to apathy, doubt or fear of what might be expected – growth in the spiritual life ceases by the age of 20. Sure, we might continue to participate in Sunday Mass….and maybe even watch EWTN. But when did you last read a really good Catholic book? When was the last time (if ever!) you sat and talked about your concepts of God with another Catholic? Learned about and discussed the effects of the Second Vatican Council…or the Reformation? Tried a new form of prayer? What are YOUR excuses? Are you still waiting on God to start the effort?
Now, my parents – well, I remember my dad making the time to be a catechetical leader, one of the first at Ascension parish. Note that he usually worked six days a week, and they had a large, young family with only one car! He and mom would also gather with other couples every few weeks to discuss scripture and Catholic family life, and were very involved in early Fair Housing initiatives, desegregation efforts, and welcoming immigrants. In the ‘90s they became coordinators of the local food pantry, and subsequently Benedictine Oblates. When I taught at U.D. in Religious Studies they were Senior Fellows, taking my courses. Now they continue to drive across town to participate in the classes I offer in our pastoral region.
This kind of involvement had a tremendous impact on me as a young child, and continues to do so today. Certainly their example influenced my own understanding that additional possibilities to become more “fully alive” always exist, regardless of age. They taught me that God continuously calls us to something new. Who we are as we stand before the divine is not static – but needs to be renewed throughout life. At the heart of our faith is that dynamic relationship with God.
I only hope my own children are learning something similar from me. In the meantime – Happy Birthday, Mom and Dad, much love, and thanks!
Photo credit: S. Sack photo, used with permission