This article was originally published in Sword & Spade magazine.
I met my wife in 1996 while I pursued a marketing degree from the University of Alabama. I had for many years longed for the day that I would find my spouse and begin a family. I read many books about marriage and studied the Church’s teaching on the sacrament of matrimony. For some reason, at the time, I was attracted to the books about the sanctity of marriage but I had never really considered the subject of fatherhood. Perhaps this reality seemed too remote for a single young man to grasp.
A couple of months after Allison and I were married we conceived our first child. Four weeks later, we experienced our first miscarriage. Allison has always experienced our miscarriages in a different way than me. Certainly, this has something to do with the heart of a mother, but undoubtedly it has more to do with the fact that our baby was really in her body and there exists an immediate connection between the two. I, of course, mourned the loss of my child but it is so difficult for a man to perceive that which we cannot see.
A couple of months later we were excited to receive the news of another child — our firstborn. On the day our son was born I held him in my arms and I understood for the first time the reality of unconditional love. This child had done nothing to earn my love; he simply existed. And yet, I would sacrifice my own life to save his if it were asked of me. From that day onward, his mother and I have committed ourselves to his (and all of our children’s) growth and well-being without any expectation of repayment. Of course, all of our children have been an incalculable gift to Allison and me, but we never parented with that expectation.
This past year, filled with fear, confusion, distortions, and suffering, revealed another reality – I will die one day. We all will die one day. This past year ripped open the thin veil which covered our often hidden faith, and for some of us it exposed an empty whitewashed sepulcher. We know that we were created to be with our Heavenly Father for eternity, but many of us have not embraced this truth.
In the midst of all of this chaos, longing for a return to sanity, I rediscovered what I had learned in those first years of marriage – my Heavenly Father loves me as a son. I am His. I know it sounds a bit scandalous that a 46 year old, born and raised Catholic, didn’t grasp this sooner, but I am describing here the difference between an intellectual knowledge and a lived reality.
In an age where we rely so heavily on the revelations of science, we must remember that some realities can only be discovered through prayer. We were all afforded a great grace this past year to spend extra time in prayer. As our world returns to what we call normal, we face familiar challenges to our prayer life. The gospel from the Second Sunday after Pentecost reminds us of these challenges,
“At the time of the banquet he sent his
servant to tell those who had been invited,
Come, for everything is now ready. But
they all alike began to make excuses. The
first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and
I must go and see it. Please excuse me.
Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke
of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse
me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ The
servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the
owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go
out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in
the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’…‘I tell you, not
one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”
As I pass through this earthly existence I am comforted more and more by one unseen reality – I am my Father’s son and he wants me to be with Him for eternity.