It has been thirty-five years since my mom passed away. Died April 25, 1986 around 9:20 on a Friday morning. (You don’t forget things like that.) And I can say that there has been few days over those 35 years when I have not thought about her or have not been influenced by her. Two quick things:
Mom was a little “wifey” type of woman, your typical 50’s and 60’s housewife. Dad was big and bold, so mom often took a back seat, like many women of that era. But then, in the early 60’s she was diagnosed with an ulcer, probably from keeping all her emotions and thoughts sup- pressed. The doctor told her that she needed to change her personality. She did. She wasn’t mean about it, but she would always tell you ex- actly what she thought. Favorite story. When I was close to getting ordained as a priest, I went to my parish priest to set up my first Mass. You would think that this would be a big deal for a parish. I was told that I would have to work around “BINGO” that day. Helen Schmittgens, to put it mildly, was not happy about that response. She told me, we will just go to another parish who will be happy to sponsor a first Mass. Oh, SNAP! Magically, BINGO was cancelled that day. In her own quiet, yet formidable way, she was a force to be reckoned with.
The second thing I remember about my mom is the letter she wrote me the night before I was ordained. It has become my Magna Carta, my Constitution, my own private Gospel. She told me that she was proud of me, but not any proud- er than she was of any of her other children. She then called me to a high standard as a priest.
Here is how it read:
Kevin, never stop reading and learning. The only way the church will grow is with an in- formed clergy with the ability to pass the infor- mation to the laity. Please take time to prepare a homily – remember, some of us do listen!
Take time with children – they are the future of the church. Sit down and talk to young mar- rieds – they have problems your Dad and I never dreamed of – yet, when they say their vows their dreams are no different than ours were. Visit the elderly – so much wisdom can come from them, yet in our throw-away society we have a tenden- cy not to throw but to shut them out. Lastly, don’t forget to pray. Your Dad sometimes says I’m anti-clerical – not so! – it is just that some- times the clergy lets less important matters get in the way of prayer, yet prayer is needed so much now.
Keep a sense of humor – there is nothing worse than a crabby nun; except a dour clergy- man.
Don’t expect me to call you Father – you are my son – and I love you.
In John’s gospel, Jesus said that if you see him, you see the Father. Well, if you see me, you know more than a bit about my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!