This post really has two parts to it. First a small story. Second, and I will leave this up to you to decide, coincidence or is there more than my imagination at work?
First, the story. I write this at we are just minutes into Father’s Day. And I want to wish a Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s willing to take the time to read this post. Being a father can come in many styles and descriptions. The most common is biological. Yet many of us, mostly Catholic, are aware of another type of father. The priest. (Now those of you ready to stop reading, just sit tight. I promise this won’t get preachy.) Our family has had a friend in a particular priest for most of my life. His name, Father Frank Sanfelippo from Milwaukee. Father Frank wove in and out of most of our lives in various ways.
For me, he was as inspiration and someone who was willing to talk about the possibility of priesthood with me when I was giving that vocation a serious look. For several of us he also guided us in some laughable ways, when we look back at what happened.
Once example is when a few cousins and my sister went to mass. They were all young. Although I am not quite sure just how young. Young enough to be forced to sit in the front pew so that Father Frank could keep an eye on them during the mass. He also, on one occasion during mass, was gently waving his hand to signal the youngsters to sit down. You see, they were standing at a time when the rest of the congregation was sitting. We heard about this story often when Father Frank’s name came up. How embarrassed they were to be the only people standing in church. It was only through the gentle guidance did they figure out what was wrong. It is a story we all laugh now about, but it also makes us think of Father Frank fondly.
We weren’t really close to Father Frank but he did weave throughout our lives. His health in the last 7 or 8 years has been failing. And we found out early this week that he had passed away at the age of 80. The article online said the funeral was Friday. Some of us planned on going. We didn’t realize we had all missed one vital fact in the article.
Due to a last minute change, I decided not to go. Instead, when the funeral was going on I was going to go to our local church and spend a little time in quiet prayer for the repose of his soul. When I got back home I noticed my phone had 5 messages on it. All from a few family members that “should” have been at the funeral when they were leaving me a message. I knew something was up.
Within moments of getting home and checking the messages I was weeping. But it wasn’t from sadness. It was from laughing.
You see the “small” mistake we missed was coupled with a VERY poorly written obituary. The obituary ended by saying the funeral would be “Friday at 11 am at…”. The date he passed away wasn’t listed in the obituary, only the day of the week the funeral would be held. Instead it was a very small byline located above the obituary in the upper-right hand of the screen. Father Frank had passed away MAY 17. We all read this on JUNE 12th. There wasn’t a funeral when the rest of my family members had arrived. The church was empty.
You have two options at this point. You can gripe and yell and moan and whine about the poorly written article. OR, you can laugh at the mistake we all made by missing the byline of the article.
It is a good thing they all chose to laugh as hard as I was.
Now the second part. Some can say these items I am going to point out are coincidence or my imagination just going off to a strange hopeful area of faith. But I have found out two things that, to me, seem like more that great timing or a matter to laugh at.
This past Friday JUNE 15th was World Priest Day. And there I sat in my local church praying for a priest. Which eventually lead me to thinking about all men who have chosen this particular vocation. I know many people aren’t very charitable about men in the priesthood. But most are very caring, dedicated people who sacrifice much to help out all they come in contact with. Father Frank was one of those dedicated men. He knew about many of our struggles but didn’t judge us, just encouraged us.
The other thing that came to mind related to the first part of this post. We laughed many times about how my sister and two cousins were the only people standing in church. And only Father Frank knew how to help. What happened on Friday when they wanted to pay their last respects to Father Frank? They again, were the only people standing in church. I have to think Father Frank got more than a chuckle about that fact.
I know I did.