Sunday, September 15, 2013

Gateways Part 2

To my son Tommy,

I have been thinking more and more about the gateways and stepping stones that have brought me to this point in my life.  As promised here are some of those gateways that led me to a point in my life where I willingly go to courses and lessons to explore my religion more deeply and I attend daily Mass when I can.  These are probably not in order and any one of them alone can be a gateway to a deepened faith or at least another invitation to continue along the path.

  • Found the woman of my dreams
  • Learned what true love is
  • Decided to get married Catholic
  • Had to go to church to become a parishioner to get married Catholic
  • Had some great parish marriage sponsors who taught us more than they know
  • Had to go to a long overdue confession before getting married
  • Did not burst into flames during that long overdue confession
  • Got married
  • Had you.
  • Learned more about what true love is
  • Decided to get you baptized Catholic
  • Had to go to Sunday Mass more regularly to be part of the parish
  • Decided to go to confession more regularly
  • Watched you begin to grow
  • Learned more about true love as I fell more and more in love with you and your mother
  • Joined the St Agnes Mens Club because your Pop-pop was re-joining
  • Decided to start actively listening at Mass
  • Got upset about some people's point of view who share our faith
  • Argued and reasoned it out with some priests that showed more patience than I probably deserved
  • Looked deep inside myself and decided that other people's point of view will not keep me from a relationship with Christ.
  • Started to say prayers with you at night
  • Learned yet more of what true love is when we had and lost Sal
  • Learned about loss and heart break and suffering like I never had before
  • Got angry with God
  • Started talking to your Grandpa Leo more about faith
  • Started going to church daily sometimes to yell at God sometimes to pray for His comfort
  • Considered the sacrifice of His only Son and looked intently at a cross and learned more about true love
  • Started attending Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Began praying the Rosary
  • Took more interest in Saints and read a book about Padre Pio that your Grandmother Roro gave me
  • Started blogging, in an effort to pass on any useful nugget of wisdom about life that I might have to you
  • Realized writing letters to you is more about exploring life and myself, and by exploring myself and life with you through these letters I have the most potential to pass on something worthwhile
  • Continued to watch you grow and decided to send you to St Agnes for school
  • Started praying before meals with you leading us in the singing grace prayer you learned at school sung to the toon of Frère Jacques 
  • Asked you to start leading grace even when we were out at other houses for meals like at your Grandma Roro's house
  • Added the prayer to Michael the Arch-Angel at night to go with the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be we already were doing.
  • Made a self-commitment to go to confession almost weekly if possible
  • Took a Discovering Christ course to look deeper in my faith
  • Discovered I can email my questions and concerns to priests in our parish and they would actually read them and reply with (once again) more patience than I probably deserve
  • Looked upon and deeply examined the examples of your grandparents and great grandparents for their faith
  • Started attending more special events like Missions and vigils and courses and such
  • Heard a homily on how to pray in conjunction with God's will
  • Started using that prayer "technique" and even became witness to the power of prayer in my daily life
  • Continued to grow in, and learn of, true love with you, your mom, and Christ
As you can see, there are many steps that have brought me to this point in my life.  And trust me, this point in my life is far from some of the depths I had reached in my past.  Many would laugh incredulously if I told them I go to Mass all the time and pray daily.

Some steps are obvious progressions.  For example you have to attend church to have a chance of hearing anything.  The more you attend, the better the chance you learn, the more you learn the more you want to attend.  Another example is prayer.  It started with praying at church again.  Then it moved into our home with prayers at night and then to prayers with dinner.  Now it has grown to the point where if I have any free time or just a lull in the conversation that I might spend that time in silent prayer or you might even see me with my hand in my pocket working through some Rosary beads.

Some steps you would think were a setback and some gateways honestly could have brought me in either direction.  Losing Sal was a big turning point in my life and I think to most people it would make more sense if I had decided to turn away.  But I didn't and my faith has actually deepened.

Surprisingly the biggest hurdle was dealing with other people's views and how politics and laws and misinterpretations of the Catholic religion (both theirs and mine) and even pink ribbons can distract the most devout from their true mission of sharing Christ.  But again, I didn't let that stop my growth in my faith.  It actually solidified in my mind why I was seeking this path.  The similar sentiment was echoed in a recent letter by Pope Francis in which he writes, "Believe me, in spite of its slowness, the infidelity, the mistakes and the sins that may have and may still be committed by those who compose the Church, it has no other sense and aim if not to live and witness Jesus"  If the Church ever becomes about other people, or even about your own dad, and not about your own relationship with God you may have to re-evaluate.  People will fail you. Clergy will fail you.  I, despite my best intentions, will fail you.  So make sure your foundation is based on Christ. 

The one thing that I am convinced is the ultimate stepping stone, the ultimate gateway to all good things, the one thing that has been a recurring theme in my life, even though I often did not see it, leading me in the right direction no matter how hard I tried to resist, is true love.  I learned more about religion by looking into my heart and seeing and feeling the love of family and friends and the love of Christ.  That is why it is so important to share of yourself and to share true love so that other people can have their hearts touched and, just maybe, open a few new gateways for each of those that we touch.

Sincerely with love from dad,

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