23 March 2011

Mon Pere

Each week, I bring communion to a local nursing home.  I've been there three or four weeks in a row and so the residents have become familiar with me.  As with any nursing home, I've also been struck by who isn't there when I return each Wednesday afternoon.  Sometimes a resident has gone home because their stint of rehab is over.  More often, however, the missing resident has passed away.

For one reason or another, I've really hit it off with the residents who can't speak English.  They're thrilled to have some gringo in a brown robe who looks as if he is fourteen years old stumbling through Spanish, I bet.

My limited Spanish abilities, I must note, are made to look huge when compared to my abilities in French.  There is a woman at the nursing home who can speak English just fine, but prefers that I try to stumble along in my high school French.  She's Haitian and really loves to hear me attempt to mumble a blessing in French.  What stuns me each time I see her is that she calls out, "mon pere" or "mon frere" from down the hall.  This would roughly translate, I think to "my father (as in priest)" or "my brother."

She never wants to receive Holy Communion, she just wants me to pray for her hand or for her heart or whatever malady she is experiencing that day.  Somewhere in my head, this entire situation resonates.  I haven't earned the distinction of "pere," nor has the Holy Spirit seen fit to confer it on me yet; certainly I am "frere," but that is only because of Holy Spirit's operation, I can assure you.  It's a reminder it seems, that it isn't about me, Matthew.  No, it's something completely beyond that.  It's about frere/pere; I have nothing to do with this resident's immediate reaction to me and subsequently I'm only able to safeguard the legacy of those who have gone before me.

And that, my friends, is why Catholic patrimony is so important.  We stand on the shoulders of giants.  May the Holy Spirit continue to inspire our humble assent to our patrimony, lest we fall because of our stubborn worship of our own two feet.

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