Sunday, July 6, 2008


The homily for my Dad's funeral was a partial reflection on our relationship with God and so I thought for this week to post it as the Monday Diary (it seems to work). As usualy with my homilies, it does not read well and changes with the preaching of it, but you get the idea. Thank you again for all your prayers and support. Especially surprising was the support from the cyber community. Wow. Thank you guys. May God bless you all.

I will tell you the truth, I was worried about my Dad. Not only was he not much of a Church man he was not much of a God man either though he tollerated my my foray into both realms. He once told me that he was glad that I was going to be a priest. “Religion is for weak people,” he said, “and at least you will be a leader.”

Dad was extremely practical and of a scientific mindset. For something to matter to him, for it to be believed, for it to make it on his radar screen it had to be out in the open readily available to touch, sight, and scrutiny. That bled into his life even about the house. Things were not in drawers or closets or boxes but out in the open. Even his desk was covered with papers and projects much to the consternation of Mom who liked things neat and tidy. “A place for everything and evething in its place,” she used to say. I like to think I am like Mom, but I am afraid that I am much more like my Dad in that matter. Fr. Klasinski, my last pastor, used to say, “You have so much STUFF.” I don’t think I did, it was just that all my stuff was out in the open.

This needing to see and handle and prove and use extended, for Dad I think, even to God. For most of his life God was just a bit too invisible, required to much quietness, was a bit too theoretical to be believed.

Those of you who knew my Dad know that he loved, relished, and adored life. The world was his playground. He woke up excited in the morning and went to bed regretuly at night that the day was over. Especially after retirement it was not at all unusual for him to wake up in the morning to work in the garden, then run out to see if the guys were windsurfing at the lake, take a trip out to the airport to see if anyone wanted to go up, then home to eat dinner and back out to go on a long bike trip which might include a visit to his sister in Pleasantview or Sue down at the city building. And this he did well into his eighties.

And though he loved life, one day we were taking a ride out to Silver Creek to go cross country skiing and he turned to me with tears in his eyes and said, “Do you know why I do all these things? I have to get it all in. Soon there will be nothing, this will all be over.” He truly believed that this life was all there was.

Now this is pretty serious stuff for a son who believes that all of this is temporary. It is nice and beautiful and enjoyable but is not the point of our existance. There is more life, more beauty, more joy yet to come and (I thought) my Father has no concept of it. He has no hope. For me this was sad and so I prayed for him in a special way every day that he would not live life merely in fear of death.

The first time I had an inkling that things might be different was when Mom died. Dad was destroyed; completely bereft. He may have not known Scripture but he did believe that they were one and part of him died when she died. It was made all the worse because he did not have the hope of a future meeting. For him his wife, Mom, simply ceased to exist. That was when Uncle Frank reported that he had taken Dad aside and prayed with him; perhaps the first time he had done so not under deress since he was a lad.

A few months later I was cleaning his house (something he was adament about not needing done) and I came across a prayer he had secreted away that someone sent in the mail. It asked for God’s help in belief. I quietly put it away. God and prayer were not topics about which we spoke civily.

Eventually it became clear that Dad needed constant attention and so he went to live at Pleasantview with his sister. (I must say that Pleasantview is an outstanding institution that bent way over backwords for Dad. I’ve yet to encounter a place that does so much for residents as this place did for Dad. Instead of medicating into oblivian they worked hard at just plain tuckering him out every day.) Every now and then I would ask him if he would like to be anointed (I didn’t want to force anything one him) and he would get a sour look on his face (a kin the look I might get if you ask me if I would like to have some fish) and flatly say, “No!”

I know some of my brother priests visited him from time and so I asked them to offer the sacraments to him should they be there in the off chance that he just did not want to receive them from his son. I thank you for your efforts.

It got to the point that I no longer asked or brought my oils with me. One day he was feeling particularly down and we had emptied our bag of tricks and so in an off hand way I said, “All that’s left is anointing Dad, I’m out of ideas.” “Okay,” he said. I was in shock. I said to my sister, “Keep him occupied, I am going to run out and get my oils before he changes his mind!” When we were done there was a quiet time and we could see him thinking. “Thank you,” he said in his most officious voice. That was amazing and my sister and I looked at each other with eyebrows raised.

Things began to change quite a bit after that. Dad was confused and could not understand what was the matter with him. His body in which he had put so much trust was turning on him. Once again, after everything else failed I said, “Well Dad, you could trying praying.” “Fine. How?” he asked in his gruff way in these matters. “Just ask God to help you.” “Fine. God help me. How’s that?” “That was a good start Dad.”

Then a couple of weeks ago I got the best present that Dad could give. Conversation was difficult. He could be right in the present or the very distant past. You could not ask what he had for lunch and he could not or would not talk about the future. So conversation was more of a monologue of current events from the speaker. I ran out of things to tell him and we sat quietly for a while and then I stood and said, “Well, Dad, I gotta go.” “Okay,” he said. But it didn’t seem quite right to end the conversation on that note and so on a whim, on my way out the door, I said, “God bless you Dad.” “John,” he said causing me to stop and turn, “God bless you too.” For a week I was in a daze. “Wow, I received my Father’s blessing.” This was something I never expected to receive and it was quite the thing to receive it.

Well, this is the way things stand; Dad died with the consolation of the sacraments and we rely on God’s mercy which I believe to be generous. The day before he died I told hom to say the prayer to the Sacred Heart to Whom our family has a particular devotion. “Just say, ‘Jesus, I trust you’ Dad. It is the most powerful prayer I know for you now.” And with that I put my trust in Him.

How appropriate then it seems to have buried Dad on the Feast of Saint Thomas. Doubting Thomas who would not believe until he put his finger into the wounds of Jesus’ hand and his hand into his side. Who know why or if there is a why Dad had to suffer so. But maybe he need to experience wounds, albeit his own, in order to believe and so be ready to go home.

In any event it just goes to show you never know. Never give up on a person. Never give up on love even for the seeming unlovable thereby becoming unloving yourself. Never give up on hope even with the hopeless. Never give up on faith even with the difficult cases. Everyone has their own journey and no two are alike. Some are hard and some are not. But I believe God never gives up on us no matter how “hard” we may be and we should, in turn, never give up on each other.

So Dad, we pray you find you way home and to joy and to God. May you find the best clouds to ski down and Mom to waltz with once more.

O Sacred Heart of Jesus, we place our trust in You. Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts, and especially that of the most troubled, like unto Thine.


Anonymous said...

Fr. V., that's beautiful...crying, here. Wow...God is so incredibly generous, we never have any reason not to trust Him.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful testament of love .

Anonymous said...

Father Schnippel said...

Fr. V.,

An excellent reflection on the undying nature of hope.

May your father be rewarded for his raising of a fine priest.

Anonymous said...

I wish I could have been there to hear this - however, it was beautiful reading it.

And what a miracle to die on the Feast Day of Sts. Peter & Paul - as well as the beginning of the Year of St. Paul. Sts Peter and Paul know all about conversion (heart, mind, and soul) - and I pray that they will help your father to finally meet the Father in Heaven.

Odysseus said...

-Dad died with the consolation of the sacraments-


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! It reads as well as it was hearing it. Thanks for posting it.


Terry Nelson said...

Beautiful homily; a lovely tribute to your dad and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Anonymous said...

There really is something special working here.

You experience a personal loss of this scale and are able respond with this overwhelming gift that should be declared as required reading for the entire planet!

I wish that I had been able to speak with you when I lost my dad.

(I wish I could write half as well
as you do, too)

Thanx Again

frival said...

Thank you, Father. This gives me some hope there is a chance to break through this barrier with my father as well. Well done.

uncle jim said...

I've linked this on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Not even your dad could resist grace working through you. That's the beauty of setting self aside, and allowing the Lord to be one's hands, one's words, one's pain and joy: a priest. Your good hands put him into Good Hands.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a moving and inspiring and consoling story.
Eternal rest grant unto him oh Lord and let your perpetual light shine upon him.

Michelle said...

grace abounds, indeed

There are many gifts here, from you to your father, from he to you, and with this homily to many others.

The Ironic Catholic said...

(Hello--I found you through Adoro....)

Father, this homily is absolutely beautiful. I agree with Michelle's comment above.

I'm sorry for your loss. Blessings these days.

Unknown said...

I'm Sorry to hear about your dad, I am catching up on my blog reading after having been in Germany. You are in my prayers.

Unknown said...

I am very sorry for your loss. Just happened to come across this looking for something else, and decided to read it because I met you a couple of times. We have some friends in common.
Pax tecum,