Going home

On March 19 the world lost someone special: a quiet, unassuming man of faith, my grandfather, who we affectionately refer to as “Pa,” left this world to be welcomed into his eternal one. And while he was not one to seek attention, I can’t help but want to share with you how my faith was renewed in the similarly quiet and unassuming revelations that surrounded Pa’s death that proved just how good God truly is. 

On the day that Pa was called home, shortly after I’d connected with my family, I received a message from a friend back in Massachusetts who I hadn’t heard from in quite some time. Though he was simply checking in on me to see how I was, knowing that he is a man of great faith I asked if he could pray for Pa’s soul. His response would shake me. Having been wondering if there was any religious significance to this day, my curiosities were answered: It was the solemnity of St. Joseph. 

My initial reaction was based on my limited knowledge of St. Joseph. At first I was simply content to know that he was Jesus’ father, the father of a carpenter and a man who would go on to change history. The correlation between Pa and my own father, who is skilled in a similar trade, was enough to bring me peace. But what I learned when our messages continued was that St. Joseph is actually the patron saint of a peaceful death. This had such an effect on me, one that I can’t quite put into words, for though Pa had been steadily declining, losing his memory and failing in his health, we were assured that he hadn’t been in any pain when he passed.

I decided to wait until arriving home to share this with my dad, hoping it might bring him a similar peace. When we finally got to speak, I found out that Pa also wore a St. Joseph medal around his neck, for he was his favorite of the saints. Renewed in my faith, over the course of the few days I was home I learned more things about my grandfather than I had never known, that completed the picture of a private but God-fearing individual. 

Though I knew he and my grandmother were always active in their Church, I never realized the depths to which their faith ran until I listened to family recall their memories of him. The words that resonated deeply with me were those shared by my Uncle Marc, who recalled that as he was preparing to move away from home, Pa’s parting words were to never stay a Sunday away from Church or a day away from prayer. I never knew how valued prayer was to my grandfather, because he never spoke of it to me. I never understood how driven by faith his life was because he never “put it on” as a show for others. Faith was simply ingrained in him, a part of his daily life that emerged in his words and actions. 

In learning these things, I challenge you to embrace your faith each day, making your love for Christ apparent by your words and deeds but never a cloak that you can take off. Do not use it as a way for people to recognize you, but rather strive for humility. Will this be difficult? Perhaps. But does it have to be? No. If we all were to live our lives as Pa did: Choosing to speak kindly and act with dignity and respect for others. Being thankful for all we have even when it’s not a lot. Loving with all we have because we realize what a blessing it is to have the people we treasure in our lives. And then, before we know it, something happens. 

For when we do these things for the glory of God, because He offered us the same love and compassion, we forget that small eyes are watching. It is then, when our faith has crept into the quiet moments and in times when we are merely living to serve others and not ourselves in our everyday life, that we become models for our children and for others. And so I encourage you to do just as Pa’s words encouraged —never stay a day from prayer. For our work here on Earth, to be Christ to one another, is clarified through prayer and service, something I am proud that Pa shared with us by his life.

Anchor columnist Renee Bernier graduated from Stonehill College and is a graduate student in the College Student Personnel Program at James Madison University in Harrison, Va.

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