Dad shocked the hell out of me when he said, “When I pray, it’s to get all my kids into Heaven. If they are not working themselves there, then I ask Jesus to come and get them now before they tarnish themselves even more.” I think about this often. Dad was clever enough to eliminate the guilt of being sinful. Did he really mean it? My father was saying he would rather have his children die than lead sinful lives. What a unique way to make me think about my relationship with Jesus. As a teenager growing up on a dairy farm in Northern Vermont, this message had a profound influence on me. I watched him, and defiantly said in my teenage voice, “Prove it.” And, he did.
I watched him and defiantly said in my teenager’s voice, ‘Prove it.’ And, he did.
Dad was a good Catholic. He attended Mass every Sunday, prayed after morning chores before breakfast with the family and every evening after chores with Mom and the 15 children. Then he enjoyed a cold beer. He observed the first Friday’s of the month and Holy Days of Obligation, too. Every now and then, the church would sponsor a 9-day novena. These were for our own personal intentions, and let me repeat, Dad prayed to Jesus that all of his kids would go to heaven. If not, then come and get them.
My face turned red, and I looked around to see if anyone was watching during Mass when the collection basket passed in front of me. I threw my penny in along with the rest of my sisters and brothers. Were we poor? Why not give a dime like my friends? I never doubted that my father gave according to his means, and as farming increased demands on his bank account, he continued to give to the church…
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Author’s Note: Roland writes in honor of his father. I wanted to include this story in order to pass along the message that Jesus empowers parents through example. I asked my students to write about their parents when I taught Parenting. The biggest revelation for my students proved to be that parents are not meant to be your best friends. They are your teachers, helping you learn morals and appropriate social habits. In most cases, parents are good examples. Perched on the porch of his farmhouse absorbing the warmth of a Western sunset, I imagine Roland could recall many more stories of his dad.
Biblical Note: And I am convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8: 38-39 (NLT)