He was born in the height of the Great Depression, one of eight children. His parents were immigrants who never lost their native language and could mangle English like very few could. They worked hard, put food on the table and sent their children to the local Catholic schools.
When World War II broke out, two older brothers served. When his “turn” came for Korea he and another brother served. My uncle was awarded the Korean Service Medal with 2 Bronze Service Stars, the National Defense Service Medal, the Combat Infantry Badge and he also received a Presidential Unit Citation. He was honorably discharged in August 1954.
Coming home he married his wife, with whom he stayed married until her death one year ago. They bought their suburban home in 1960, a home they lived in their entire married life. They raised three sons, and suffered the unspeakable tragedy of the deaths of another two children.
In addition to being a husband and father he was a member of the Knights of Columbus, the Elks, VFW, and local Pop Warner football league. He worked at the same place for over 20 years before retiring, enjoying the fruits of one’s labor.
In the latter years, health issues took their toll as they do with most of us.
So there you have it. A person’s life is summarized in a few short sentences. Is that what it all comes down to? It sounds simplistic and even cold and sterile, until we reflect on those milestones in his life. Each event in my uncle’s life mirrored an aspect of our Catholic faith.
Let’s review those moments of his life in the light of our faith experience:
- As the child of immigrants he witnessed the collective community that comes when individuals stick together as they navigate a strange, new land. "So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:19)
- As a child of the Depression he experienced economic shortcomings, but learned people were “wealthy” in other ways. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6: 19- 21)
- Catholic education was a priority growing up. “As those first responsible for the education of their children, parents have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions. This right is fundamental. As far as possible parents have the duty of choosing schools that will best help them in their task as Christian educators. Public authorities have the duty of guaranteeing this parental right and of ensuring the concrete conditions for its exercise.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2229)
- The sense of duty to country was clearer and expected to be followed. “Submission to authority and co-responsibility for the common good make it morally obligatory to pay taxes, to exercise the right to vote, and to defend one's country.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2240)
- When the time came, marriage took place. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2: 24)
- Fulfilling the role of father and head of the household. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4)
- Realizing that witnessing in society takes many forms, even overseeing the football league. “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” (James 2:17)
- Health issues affect us in life, but do not shaken our faith. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)
- There is the hope of the resurrection. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11: 23 – 27)
When we look through the lens of faith we see lives are more than the sums of words in an obituary or memorial. When a love one passes on, it is like reaching the end of a book on salvation history where the themes of relationships, duty, life, hope, and faith are played out over and over. When we remember those who have gone before us, it is like taking a familiar book off the shelf to reread the parts that bring us comfort and joy, make us smile and maybe shed a tear or two. Good books, like good people, can also entertain us and instruct us.
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