One of the great blessings of being a priest is being able to offer Mass on the birthdays and anniversaries of family members who have died. Today my Great-grandfather Richard would have been 103 years old. I made a visit to his grave and left him some red roses – his favorite. I also offered a simple Memorial Mass for him.
Gramps as we called him taught me a great deal about being a priest even though he died seven years before I was ordained. He loved going to the early Mass most of his life. Many years ago he had an unfortunate encounter with a priest in the confessional. The priest yelled at him and told him to not come back until his marriage to my great-grandmother was solemnized by the Church. She was not Catholic at the time they married. Eventually she converted and their marriage was regularized by a priest. Unfortunately though, Gramps remained scarred and never went back to confession. He taught me so much about compassion in the confessional. I think of him often as I sit in the confessional asking the Lord to help me be merciful and compassionate. My greatest fear as a priest is that I may say or do something that would turn a person away from the Church or one of her Sacraments. I think its a good fear to have. It keeps me mindful and sensitive of the needs of others. That story of my Great-Grandfather helped me more than anything else to develop my priestly-pastoral heart. We’ve seen so much of Pope Francis and his call for mercy and most recently compassion for those Divorced and re-married catholics. I think Gramps would have been very fond of Francis as it seems so many around the world are. The gifts of the Priesthood are many. Celebrating Holy Mass for the repose of my family members ranks at the top!
REQUIEM aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen.