Slice of Life 27:
St. Francis of Assisi stood in our back yard, watching over us all 34 years on Campbell Ave. I have hazy memories of looking up to the ledge where he was imbedded onto the concrete, an elevated caped slab which jutted out from our garage. He stood, representing generations of our patriarchal family name. Signifying faith and values in a measure I could not yet begin to understand.
I have a vivid memory in second grade. The night before my First Holy Communion, as I was getting out of the bath, my mom showed me that she got me nylons; not little girl tights, but nylons. I felt special. I knew that tomorrow was going to be a big day.
When I was in third grade, my sister and I used to read scripture before bed or even wake up before school at times. One night in February, we woke up at 3 am and escaped to our back yard. We took two cups of water from the kitchen faucet and went outside. With our knees in the dirt of the soil of our yard, we prayed and baptized ourselves. I was nine.
My mom used to play Christian music while she cleaned; mostly musicians such as Michael Card and Harvest. We memorized the lyrics and the sounds of my mom’s voice singing along as we would dust the front room tables or be sweeping under the dining room table. We laugh when one of us busts out in song,
“Are we walking into the enemies camp
Laying our weapons down
Shedding our armor as we go
Leaving it on the ground
We’ve got to be strong in the Power of his Might
Prove to the enemy
We are the army of the Lord and we’ve won the victory” -Harvest “Army of the Lord”
We still laugh to this day. For whatever reason, maybe it was how hard my mom used to get into it, how she would sing and stomp her one foot just a little too aggressively in our opinion… endearingly, it always cracks us up.
We went to church every Sunday. When we got old enough, my siblings and I would go by ourselves, or at least go up until the homily, grab a bulletin, and then head to McDonalds or the park. When we would return home my mom or dad would ask, “So, What was the message from today’s gospel?” Most often, we would be prepared. Once in a while, however, someone would flub up and we would be busted.
I prayed every morning in school, rehearsed prayers which took years and years to fully process the meanings of and the depth. From Pre-K to senior year of high school, every day of my life, I have been reminded and told to give praise, to give thanks, to give back. To, “put God # 1,” as my mom would say.
“Bless us oh Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive…”
Before every family meal.
After my formal Christian education, I explored others pools of belief and thought. We are all God’s children and he loves us each with unconditional love, so what was the rest of the world up to? Having been taught to accept, love, and respect others, my curiosity led me to learn about other world religions. I learned that similar principles reign throughout. Love, respect, humility, reverence…All of these served as the pronounced values in major world religions.
I think back to my upbringing, to my evolving relationship with God, my faith; as a child, an adolescent, and now into adulthood. Growing up we fought, and still do on occasion, more civilly of course. We skipped mass (the kids, not you mom and dad!). We may laugh at inappropriate times. My parents did so much right though. They set amazing examples of work ethic. They set an outstanding example of commitment. They showed us what it means to sacrifice. To give. I look back and recognize now, how God’s light shined in our household. In our Irish Catholic household, we fought, we laughed, and we prayed; in no particular order.
Throughout it all, good ol’ St. Francis watched over us. He’s probably resting somewhere, leaned up inside the confines of a darkened garage on this night. No matter, like so many other symbols in our lives growing up, it was his message that was of importance. His message to serve humbly and to love with all your might. Big ups to you, St. Frank. I tip my hat to you.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;