Saturday, December 17, 2011

“Imperfect people can love God”

Dad was a bright guy with a wonderful Notre Dame '34 education and a pension for understanding things that were technical although he was the furthest thing from being an engineer. He was a super salesman and the life of the party in almost every setting. After WW II during which he lost his left arm (and he was lefthanded) he slipped into over imbibing and perhaps a bit of self pity. This eventually led to the worst kind of alcholisim - the kind that says "if you get up almost every day to go to work then you are OK no matter how wiped out you got the night before". This conditioned was worsened by his "Irish Pride" and the inability to admit to the primary rule of AA - "I'm powerless over alcohol". This was true even though his older brother was a charter member when AA was started in Akron, Ohio shortly after the war.
Dad was a "Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde" when it comes to his behavior around booze. He was a most lovable, funny, witty, generous and delightful guy when sober or even after just a few "toddys" but when he finally got drunk he was truly horrible and absolutely mean. I won't dredge up any of the facts about it but suffice it to say there were years of "continuous living hell" with him for our whole family.
Besides all the good things about him, the point that bears rememberance about Dad is the example he set for us as kids every Sunday. He would get up, dress up and be the leader of our little family group to drive into town and "be on time" for noon Mass on Sunday. There were surely times that my older sister and brother and certainly myself would utter to ourselves that it was wrong to live like he was but the honest to God reality is that Dad was setting a wonderful example for us about being faithful to the mass no matter how sinful your life or how powerless you are. This message was further strenghened during a healing retreat that I made about 30 years ago. I was about 40 and Dad (who died at 51) had been dead for about 20 years. Someone at the retreat was relating a story about their alcoholic father and how they had learned to forgive him and accept him for the way he was. At that moment I realized that I wouldn't be sitting in that retreat house were it not for the example that my Dad had set in his devotion to the mass.
I believe that our Jesus is a most merciful God and that my Dad is in heaven with him because of the faith that Christ gave him, as he does us all, and that his devotion to the mass saved him too. I'm sure too that if he were sitting here with me and reading this, that he would be apt to utter the old Irish toast - "May your mother be in heaven a half an hour before the devil knows she's dead"

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