On my office wall, you will find three frames. In each frame is a photo of a loved one, a present day saint. Two were women, one a man.
The man was an auxiliary bishop who had that gift of making you feel as if you were the most important person in the world. In talking of the official saints of the Church as he pointed out a message of love, Bishop Ignatius “Iggy” Catanelo would always say, “as the great saints of the Church tell us….”
I would meet with him monthly for lunch at a local diner, and we would discuss everything and anything. One day, as we walked to our cars, he said the following: “God gives us this opportunity in life to prove we can love. How can He let us into heaven if we cannot demonstrate that we can love one another.”
One of the woman was my boss and mentor. She passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve 2013. Pam Shea-Byrnes was a VP at St. John’s University, a mother, a wife, a trail blazer in lay ministry in the Catholic Church and Vincentian community.
Pam, as busy as she was, spent her last month caring for a mother of an injured student. As Thanksgiving approached, Pam quietly made sure this mother and her family had a traditional dinner and place to stay. While managing major University responsibilities, she never forgot what mattered most- caring for a person in need, especially in one’s most difficult time.
The other woman was my aunt. She lived to her mid-80’s, spending the last few years forgetting who we all were and living in an unsettling fear. Before her mind started to play tricks on her, she simply loved.
Aunt Lil gave the wettest kisses, told you she loved you whenever she could, and she, like Bishop Iggy, made you feel quite special. I would pick her up for dinner with our family, and she would spend the whole time saying only positive things. One misses that energy and influence.
As I left my office this afternoon, these three photos caught my eye. I had spent the 20 minutes prior looking for inspiration. I looked at some books, videos, and songs. Nothing spoke to me until I started to pack up. And then there it was….my communion of saints.
In my ever revealing spirituality, I feel more and more confident in the presence of these loved ones within this energy that is God’s love. These saints, while not recognized by the Church nor whose image is being made into statues, are as important to me as the Saints who go by the names of Francis, Vincent and Catherine.
These men and women taught me how to love and how to believe. They taught me how to act and how to live. In some ways, they still do.
Who are the loved ones from your past?
Do you ever feel their presence?
Perhaps in a song, a fleeting thought, a smell, or a memory?
What do you believe about this great army of former human beings? A
re they dust in the wind or an invisible force that is guiding us, and reminding us?
As I live each day, I hope to one day be on someone’s wall, or even more important, in someone’s heart, as a reflection of God’s love to and for them.
I reflect also in gratitude for the lives of these three people. While I do not truly comprehend where they are now, I am grateful for the gift that continues to be give.