It is Father’s Day, 2011. My father passed away 7 years ago. There are times when it does not seem possible. I still miss his presence at our family gatherings. He was the best and most influential teacher that I ever had. And he seldom spoke. St Francis of Assisi was quoted as saying: “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” My father was like that.
I was at church this morning at a little parish in Woodinville, Washington. For a moment, I wondered what I was doing there. And then it came to me. Church was where family could be family. It was like ballroom dancing where men can express themselves as men, the leaders, and women can be, for a moment, the followers. In church, the family stands, sits and kneels together. As families in our extended family have done for centuries, they listen to the readings from the sacred book, they listen to words of wisdom, and they partake in the sacred meal. Whether or not you believe that the church holds special keys to salvation it is hard not to see the powerful symbols that are present in these gatherings. Perhaps I understood a little more about who my father was when I saw him at church. He held my baby brothers, he kept the older kids in line, and he escorted my mother up and down the aisle. Even outside of church, he always treated my mother with kindness and courtesy. One day we were bringing him home from the hospital. He had hardly said a word all day. But when we arrived, he said with clarity, “Help your mother get out of the car!” You bet we did. Yes, he was a great teacher. And when I grow up, I would like to be just like him.