My Grandparents and My Journey to Sainthood
Growing up I was blessed to live pretty close to both my grandparents on my mom and dad’s side of the family.
My parents met in high school in the early 70s, and were actually just a few blocks apart. Their parents continued to live in their homes in north Minneapolis, and visiting them was a regular part of my life from when I can first remember on up through seminary.
On the one hand like so many people, there are great memories. Let’s face it, you sometimes get extras at grandma and grandpa’s, like an extra cookie or treat, a little extra sugar, or when sleeping over you maybe get to stay up a little extra late. There’s plenty of those memories to be sure. My grandma Pat for instance made home made cinnamon toast that was 80% cinnamon, 20% bread, and I’d also be treated to corn flakes which became homemade Frosted Flakes with generous amounts of sugar. She also made the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. My grandpa Henry would take me on rides in his 1973 Caprice Classic; my grandpa Mike his 1972 Buick LeSabre, and there were no car seats but I was given the freedom to ride on the arm rest. Grandpa Mike was a deputy sheriff; so I got his old hat to wear. He also was a TV repairman, so had old TVs in the basement along with some very cool equipment. My grandma Evelyn would often walk with me up to a train yard (Humboldt Yard) where we’d watch Soo Line and Milwaukee Road locomotives roll on by, (which fostered a love for trains I still have which is why you may see a guy with a camera photographing trains every so often by the historic depot off of Robert Trail). Needless to say there are many more memories that would fill many pages in this space.
However from my grandparents I also learned a lot about my faith.
I’d often see my grandparents pray in the morning or evening when visiting. They’d faithfully go to church. And as I became more aware of things, they would explain the faith to me such as what happened at Mass, the meaning of the prayers, and pray with me. I’d even offer a fake Mass wearing grandpa’s bowling shirt, using Pan-o-Gold bread, juice of some kind, with the altar being the hi-fi stereo and turntable. As I got older, they also gave me prayer books that they had collected. I’d also of course see them live out the faith with how they treated me and our family and how they cared so much for other people.
This Monday, July 26th, our Church has the feast day of Saints Joachim and Anne, who were the parents of Mary. We know very little about them, and also do not know if Jesus had the chance to meet them. But traditionally we’ve honored them as the patron saints of grandparents. Our Gospel for Monday is from Matthew 13: 31-35, which tells the parable of the mustard seed. The seed is the smallest, but when full grown becomes a large bush we are told. Jesus also speaks of the yeast which a woman mixes with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
It’s a very appropriate Gospel for the feast day, because it is our grandparents who are instrumental in helping the roots of our faith to grow.
First and foremost, to all of our grandparents, thank you so much. We have a vibrant grandparents ministry program here at Saint Joe’s, and each year in our school we have grandparent’s day near Thanksgiving. I often see grandparents too with grandchildren at Mass, and never forget the role you play in helping the faith grow in your grandchildren.
Second, the reason I mention in the title to this week’s column that my grandparents help me on my journey is that as I say often, I am striving to continually grow in holiness. I’m a work in progress. I look back on the great memories, but while every day on my elliptical machine I watch episodes of “The Price is Right” from 1982 and 1983 (yes there’s an online TV channel for that, God bless technology) that I likely saw when new watching them with grandpa on a summer day, I can’t go back to that point in my life. All of my grandparents have left this earth. But they live on forever in the love of God in His Kingdom, and we are still connected; they pray for me, and I also look to the example of their lives as a reminder that I can strive for holiness as they lived out their lives. I can be more patient, more tolerant, more caring, more prayerful, more charitable. I look at them and pray for them daily, but also think of them when I look at the old photos or items passed down that are now at the rectory that they made or once had, and I am inspired to try to grow in holiness. I know they are in my corner and always will be.
In all of us, we are striving to have the faith grow. It begins with birth and the Spirit blesses us at our Baptism. And it’s people in our lives who can do so much to help that faith grow. Grandparents do more than just give a 5 year old a magical place where the rules get bent more often than at home. They help us learn what it truly means to live out our faith; to love one another as I have loved you.
Now about to turn 44 soon, I’d love to be able to borrow the keys and take my grandpa Henry’s Caprice or Grandpa Mike’s LeSabre for a spin. That’s not an option, but it doesn’t mean that on the road of life I don’t have people who are helping me find my way to the final destination. So do you. And even if you didn’t get the chance to get to know your grandparents, pray for them, learn about their history and stories and journey, and visit the cemetery from time to time. Having hundreds of funerals that almost always involve grandchildren, death is cruel, and we can’t mask that reality. But Jesus forever changes death through the resurrection and calls us to follow Him.
Let’s never forget the many ways our grandparents help us to do just that.
Have a very blessed week,
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