Faith of Our Fathers
I guess that this could just as easily have been titled Faith of Our Mothers, or Faith of Our Grandmothers. I believe that I was inclined to go with “Fathers” because my Dad was indeed a man of faith, and also because boys and young men have a natural tendency to see their dads as being the strongest, the bravest, and the best. Apparently, even all these years later, my Dad was the first person that came to mind when I got the idea to write this post…
Growing up as a child, and even through my adolescent and adult years, I always knew that someone was praying for me. How did I know this? Well, because they told me!
My maternal great-grandmother lived to be over 100 years old, and she spent most days in prayer saying “Novenas” for a particular person or intention. A Novena is a Catholic form of devotion consisting of offering a special prayer or petition for nine successive days. Whenever I’d visit, “Mama” would inform me in her broken English (thick with her Italian accent) that she’d said a Novena for me since I’d last seen her.
My maternal grandmother, Mama Rosie, lived to be ninety, and just like her mother, spent the majority of her later years in prayer for others. Mama Rosie loved to say the Rosary, another Catholic form of devotion offering a specific series of prayers for an intention, keeping count of the prayers using a string of beads that were quite fittingly called Rosary Beads. Mama Rosie was always saying the Rosary, especially for her family and friends. Through the years Mama Rosie said Rosaries for my education, my career, my marriage, my health, and anything else for which I need prayer.
My Dad, Paul, spent the majority of his later years, not only in prayer, but also in church. Around the age of sixty, Dad began going to church just about every morning, and did so until he died at the age of seventy-four. My Dad would always ensure anyone in need of prayer that he was “storming the gates of heaven” with prayers for them. I know that my Dad was always praying for me because he told me, and even if he hadn’t, I knew that he was praying for me.
What I’m saying here is that someone was always covering me in prayer for my every need most all the time, which was an absolute blessing. I mean, who wouldn’t want to have a litany of prayers being said for them, right?
There was one thing wrong with this scenario: I got complacent. You see, I never really learned how to pray, because I didn’t need to. Well, I did pray, but at the time I believed that they were desperate pleas for help that God may or may not have heard. I really didn’t know, and I didn’t have to. I mean, everyone else (including my Mom, who still prays for me) was sending up Novenas and Rosaries and prayers for me. Why should I have to pray? My great-grandmother, and my grandmother, and my Dad, and my Mom were praying for me, and they obviously had a better relationship with God than I did because I never knew the God that they talked about all the time. Somehow I must’ve missed something along the way, because I just didn’t know this “amazing God” that they did. Of course, that never kept me up at night. I figured that was okay. I didn’t have a connection with him, but they did, and they were praying for me, so it was all good.
Then the inevitable happened: One by one, the people who were covering me in prayer died. And with the passing of each one of them, I felt a little more “uncovered.”
My great-grandmother died when I was in my late teens. My grandmother left us when I was thirty-seven. My Dad died quite unexpectedly at seventy-four in April of 2002, five months before my fiftieth birthday. We were all devastated, and especially my Mom. They had been married for over fifty-years, and the death of my Dad shifted her world off its axis.
Suddenly, there was no one praying for me, or at least not someone that had a hot line to heaven. And you know what? I felt vulnerable, almost childlike. I’d never had to really pray for myself, because someone had always done it for me. I had convinced my self that I’d never pursued having a real relationship with God because I didn’t need to. (I came to realize years later that the real reason was that I didn’t believe that I was worthy of having one with Him.)
Someone had to pray, and I figured that I was that someone. Consequently, I found myself offering seemingly hollow prayers for my wife Jackie, our sons, our families, our business, and myself to a God that I neither knew nor understood.
November 5, 2006
It was my Mom’s seventy-fifth birthday. It was the day of my “epiphany,” and it’s documented in an earlier post on this site. It was the day that I began reaching out to God, not only for His help, but more importantly, to know Him. I wanted to know that God that I’d always heard about, the God that my Dad and my grandmother and my great-grandmother turned to for everything. The God upon whom they were able to cast all their cares and concerns, the God that they raved about all the time. That God. I wanted that.
I didn’t just want the faith of my father. I wanted my own immovable, unshakeable, unwavering faith. I wanted to know how to pray. I wanted to know Him. I wanted. I wanted. I wanted.
And every morning at four o’clock, for the next seven months, I’d sit in a chair, in my chair, in our still-dark kitchen and ask God to show me what I needed to see, to teach me what I needed to learn, and to fill me with more of Him. Every morning. Back then I didn’t read the Bible, and I didn’t know what worship music was, and I really didn’t know how to pray, and it really didn’t matter because I was hungry for the God that I never knew.
We often hear of people “finding God” in church, or in a life or death situation, or in the midst of a crisis. Strangely enough, I found God at a time when my life had never been better, when everything was on the upswing, and when I seemingly had all the trappings and surroundings of a full and happy life.
I did, but there was still one thing missing:
The Faith of Our Fathers.
And now it’s mine.
It is my prayer that you have it too.