When Your Father Dies

In reaction to my post of Saturday, my friend Colleen sent me this poem by Diana Der-Hovanessian, titled Shifting the Sun. It has been a busy couple of days in New York (I fly back to the Twin Cities this morning), so it took me a while to get to her e-mail. Even though Father’s Day has past, I thought it worth sharing for all of us whose dads have died.

When your father dies, say the Irish,
you lose your umbrella against bad weather.
May his sun be your light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Welsh,
you sink a foot deeper into the earth.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Canadians,
you run out of excuses. May you inherit
his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the French,
you become your own father.
May you stand up in his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Indians,
he comes back as the thunder.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Russians,
he takes your childhood with him.
May you inherit his light, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the English,
you join his club you vowed you wouldn’t.
May you inherit his sun, say the Armenians.

When your father dies, say the Armenians,
your sun shifts forever.
And you walk in his light.

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I Believe in God…

Yesterday was the second meeting at the University of St. Thomas of the Fall reflection series on the creed I am offering at UST, at St. John’s Episcopal and at St. Hubert this fall. Our focus today was on the first part of the creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and Earth. (As I explained in my post last week, we are using the Apostles’ Creed for purposes of this program.)

During this past week, the participants prayed with reflections by a number of spiritual writers on this first part of the creed. We began the sessions (as we usually do) by giving the participants time to share in small groups a little bit about their prayer experience during this past week.

After the sharing I spoke a little bit about each of the four declarations in that first part of the creed: that God exists, that God is Father, that God is almighty and that God is creator of heaven and earth. After that, I opened it up for a discussion, allowing others to share their insights into one or another of those declarations.

You can stream the podcast of the talk I gave today from the icon below or can download it here. (The podcast runs for 12:59). You can find a copy of the prayer material the participants will pray with this week here.

Fathers and Daughters

Today is the day my father would have turned 74 if he were still alive. But he died seven years ago of pancreatic cancer (not one of the better cancers to get).

Seven years and I still miss him my dad. Seven years and my joy at anything I achieve is dampened by the fact that I can’t share it with him. Seven years and one of my first thoughts when I hear my daughter sing or play something new on the piano is how much he would have enjoyed it.

My father’s impact on me was enormous. I sometimes joke (actually only half-joke) that he had a significant hand in both the best and worst of who I am. But what I tend to remember now are little things..the ordinary things that make up the fabric of our past:

Being a young girl about to go to her first recital and my father walking in with flowers and telling me that a girl’s first flowers should come from her father.

Dancing with my father at one wedding or another..often to My Way, which I always thought of as our song. (That is the song he and I danced to at my own wedding.)

Belting out Harry Belafonte tunes with him in our living room.

He and his friend Jack driving my high school debate team to a tournament…and having to deal with the motel proprietors when we left the rooms a bit worse for the wear.

A box of Russell Stover chocolate appearing every year on Valentine’s Day, wherever I was.

And so on and so forth.  All those little things add up.

Happy Birthday, Dad. I miss you.

May your soul and all the souls of the faithfully departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace, Amen. (And see you around sometime.)

St. Joseph

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and human father to Jesus. We rightfully put a lot of focus on Mary and the Annunciation when we think of the events leading up to the birth of Jesus. But today invites us to look at Joseph’s part in the story.

Joseph was a young carpenter with his whole life in front of him. He was happily engaged to a young woman named Mary, whose virtue was beyond reproach. Joseph doubtless imagined the life he would live with Mary and with the many children they assuredly would have. He worked at his trade, developing his skills as a carpenter, and dreaming of all that life had in store for him.

But then Mary became pregnant, and Joseph knew it was not his doing. He must have been heartbroken, thinking that Mary had betrayed him.

Joseph also knew that the penalty for adultery was death by stoning, but he was too compassionate and loving a man to inflict that on Mary. So, perhaps at some potential cost to his own standing in the community, he decides to quietly divorce her and to pick up the pieces of his life. But before he can do so, an angel appears to him in a dream, telling him that Mary’s pregnancy is the result not of another man, but of the power of God. Thus, says the angel, take your wife into your home and raise her son with her.

How many people, hearing such a tale, would have had the reaction of Scrooge in Dickens’ Christmas Carol, thinking the vision to be the result of imagination or a badly digested dinner? How many would have believed that Mary’s pregnancy was not the result of sin? And how many would have been willing to endure the snickers of the other young men in town at taking Mary into his home?

But Joseph was a man of strong faith, tremendous faith. He believed in God’s plan and so cooperates in it. He takes Mary in, and not unwillingly, but with love. He trusted God and worked to see God’s plan fulfilled. And Joseph cares for and protects Mary and Jesus, who he raises in love as his own son.

Joseph is an inspiration. And so on this day on which we remember him in a special way, I pray for his faith and his courage and for the ability to cooperate in God’s plan even when the potential cost is high.