Sunday, July 15, 2007

Living lives of deep faith

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 15, 2007:

Psychologists like to tell us how important it is to be in touch with our “inner child.” Well, I have to tell you, on Thursday of this week, my inner child took charge and I had one of the most fun days I can remember. As you know, we just concluded our annual vacation Bible school called Summer Spirit. We had 140 young people here for the week, along with another 100 counselors and volunteers. It was an awesome week of Scripture, faith and fun. What more could you ask for? Now, the Thursday of Summer Spirit is always water fight day. Everyone comes armed to the gills (sorry, I couldn’t resist that pun), and it is a day of all-out water fighting. Now, last year, the kids ganged up on Fr. Mike a bit, and in a struggle ensued over the control of the water hose. Let’s just say that Fr. Mike lost, he ended up in the Emergency Room with a sprained arm, and I had to take all the Masses for the next five days. But, as we left for the Emergency Room, Fr. Mike could be heard saying, “Wait until next year.”

Cut to last Tuesday after morning Mass and Fr. Mike and I are talking with Deacon Roland about what we want to do. We had been searching for really good super-soakers, but hadn’t found anything good enough. We said, off-the-cuff, “What we really need is a fire engine.” Deacon Roland’s eyes perked up and he said, “I think I can arrange that for you.” At quarter of 10 in the morning on Thursday, Fr. Mike and I got a quick training on how to work the fire hoses, and with the help of five fire-fighters, we entered the Church parking lot at 10 a.m. sirens a-blazing. As the fire chief told the kids some nice things about fire safety, he gave us our cue. He said, “It is important to see how the hoses work on a fire engine.” With that we came around from behind the engine, backed up by our fire fighting buddies, hoses on full. Let’s just say, the kids never knew what hit them. Talk about letting that inner child out – my grandfather was a firefighter and I can remember from my youngest days as a child always wanting to ride on the fire truck; add to that working the hoses – a dream come true. By the way, you have no idea how powerful those hoses are. My arms are still killing me!

By my child’s day didn’t end there. Back in May I had the honor celebrating Mass back in Massachusetts for the 90th birthday of my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Ledoux. It was a great celebration and connected me with a lot of people I hadn’t seen in years. At that Mass, one of my grade school teachers, Sr. Louise, asked if I would come and concelebrate at a Mass to celebrate her 60th Jubilee as a Dominican Sister of Hope. To understand my connection with Sr. Louise, she was my teacher in Second Grade, Fourth Grade, Seventh Grade and Eighth Grade. I had an almost exclusively Sr. Louise education in grammar school. Interestingly, by the way, my school back home was also St. Francis Xavier. So, of course, when she asked I was beyond honored and said immediately yes!

This celebration was also on Thursday. So, once I dried myself off from the water fight, I drove to Newburgh, NY where the sisters have their motherhouse. We enjoyed an incredibly beautiful Mass surrounded by more than 220 Dominican sisters, followed by a meal. Now, talk about feeling like a little kid again! Can I get a show of hands from you – how many of you were taught by nuns? You know that it doesn’t matter how old you are, when back in their presence you are instantly a child again answering every question with the most polite, “Yes, Sister,” you’ve ever uttered. So, for this dinner, I sat sandwiched between Sr. Louise on my left, and Sister Mary Martin, who was my principal all those years, on my right. Although, I have to say, watching Sr. Martin toss back a few scotches was certainly a side of her that I never saw in grammar school.

But as I was celebrating with these holy women, I was remembering so many beautiful moments from my childhood. I was looking at them and realizing that I am the person that I am today, in such great measure because of them and their influence in my life. For example, a simple moment that I will never forget from fourth grade. At the end of the year, as everyone was signing the little yearbooks that we had each year, Sr. Louise wrote on mine, “Tommy, I think you would make a wonderful priest. Pray about it this summer.” That was the first time I ever remember anyone saying that to me, and the seeds of a vocation were planted.

At the Mass to celebrate these sisters marking 50, 60, 70 and 75 years as nuns, the priest who was presiding said, “We do not gather here to mark the passage of time – 50, 60 or 75 years – we gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and lives touched by Jesus through these holy women.” And isn’t that what it is all about? This is the common call that we all have – to live lives of deep faith, and to make every effort to touch the people we come in contact with by letting Jesus shine through us. We gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and lives touched by Jesus.

I want to invite everyone to close their eyes right now for a moment. I would imagine that for many you, as I’ve been speaking, certain people have been coming to your mind – people, maybe religious sisters – who have been witnesses of Jesus, images of holiness in your life. Let us call them to mind, see their faces, remember their words. Repeat after me, “Jesus, I thank you for their presence in my life.” With your eyes still closed, let us ask Jesus to help us be the same witnesses of holiness to others. Again, repeat after me, “Jesus, make my life a witness to You.” Pray it like you mean it, “Jesus, make my life a witness to You.”

My brothers and sisters, we gather here today to celebrate lives lived with deep faith, and to live lives that will touch others through Christ Jesus.

May God give you peace.

1 comment:

  1. There is nothing in this world, but the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. He eventually delivered me from my HELL, when I got down on my knees and asked for mercy and forgiveness for my sins. I have recovered my INNER CHILD - that CHILD is GOD.