God is Faithful!
When I joined the Legionaries of Christ, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know much about the mission of the Legion, and I had never heard of Regnum Christi. I didn’t know where God would place me or how he would use me. All I knew was that in encountering these men, I encountered a Catholic lifestyle I never knew was possible. I encountered God in a way I didn’t know existed. I heard the invitation of God in my heart to “come, follow me,” and in faith, I said “yes.” I didn’t know the implications for me, or for my family. But I trusted in his fidelity.
That fidelity would be tried right off the bat when I first told my father I was planning on entering the Legionaries of Christ. A strong-willed and hard-working man, my father had left the Church in his youth. Although he was in many regards honorable and noble, he had always lived his life very much on his own terms, and the idea of a Church or a God telling him what to believe or to do didn’t sit well with him. Neither did his perception of the Church’s checkered past. So, when I broke the news to him, far from receiving his well-wishes, I received a cold shoulder. So much so that for the next 25 years I was never able to establish contact with him.
Of course, I sent him Christmas cards and birthday cards, perhaps the odd Father’s Day card as well, but never did I get a response. And yet, I never really took it to heart. I always realized it wasn’t really about me. I always believed I was loved. And I always believed that one day, sooner or later, my father would convert. In fact, I used to frequently tell people, “It may be with his dying breath – and knowing him, it probably will be – but that man will convert. There are too many people praying for him.” I trusted that God would be faithful.
In 2016, after having spent 12 years out of the United States, the Lord decided that enough was enough. He put into my heart that if I couldn’t get through by phone, email, or postage, the only thing left to do was to meet him face-to-face. So I bought a plane ticket, flew to Seattle one day, and just walked into his office.
What happened next can only be described as an act of God … nothing!
That is, nothing unfortunate happened. There was neither tension nor awkwardness. He simply welcomed me in, and we began to talk as if the previous 25 years had never existed! When I boarded that plane for my hometown, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t have a master plan. But I trusted that God would be faithful.
Five more years passed, and I only visited my father one other time, largely due to Covid. Then, around the beginning of August 2021 – when I deemed it safe to visit an elderly man like my father – I booked another flight for the earliest set of free dates I could find in my calendar. The date— October 29th, 2021.
The months passed and the day arrived. I boarded the plane. Little did I know that as I was flying, my father was making his own journey to the emergency ward where he would discover that he had between two days and two weeks to live.
The next two days he visibly declined until November 1st, when his wife called me at 5:45 am to ask for help moving him since he could no longer walk on his own. I immediately drove to his house and spent the day there, helping out. We watched my father deteriorate before our eyes. He refused the hospital bed we had gotten him because his kidneys were in agony, and he was having difficulty breathing. As time passed, he gradually bent further and further forward seeking relief. From 2:00 am onward his wife and I physically held him in place, supporting him, helping him to breathe, and trying to ease the pain. By 9:00 am he was completely doubled-over. There came a moment when his breathing stopped. Ten seconds passed by, and suddenly a deep breath. Another ten seconds and another deep breath. Perhaps twenty seconds passed and a third deep breath. Then I counted…One second … two seconds … ten seconds … No more breaths were forthcoming.
I turned to his wife and said, “There’s something I want to do, and it’s very important to me. Will you give me permission?” She nodded her assent. My father had indicated that he didn’t want the Sacraments, and his wife, not being Christian, let alone Catholic, had wanted to respect his wishes. But the moment had come. I reached into my shirt pocket and produced the oils for the anointing.
As I pronounced the words, I began to choke up, but it wasn’t so much because my father was dying. In that moment the enormity of the situation bore down upon me. I was aware of 30 years of my prayers, and many more of other peoples’, being concentrated down to these few seconds. I was intensely aware of the presence of God, and as I anointed my father and gave the Apostolic blessing, I heard the words in my heart, “God is faithful.”
That morning, November 2nd, the feast of All Souls, during a trip I had planned months before, my father who had been perhaps 70 years away from the Sacraments died in the arms of his priest son and received the Anointing of the Sick, only seconds after breathing his last. God who, as Chesterton said, “Caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread” had worked through my Legionary priesthood in a way I never could have foreseen or imagined. God is faithful.