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Monday, July 6, 2015

Same Sex Marriage, Truth and My Cousin's Legacy...

In 1994, one of my closest cousins died.

Funny, smart, full of life; he was always the life of the party and center of attention. He was the kind of person who would welcome strangers and five minutes later was their best friend. Maybe, it was because, after having come from Cuba at a young age and moving to middle America (a suburb in Chicago), he always felt like a bit of an outsider, although there was probably more to it than that.

My cousin was extremely family oriented, which shaped the man he was.  There was never a family reunion without him being there making everyone laugh at his jokes, imitations and antics. Yet, despite his candor, openness and jovial exterior, there was a part of himself he did not share publicly. He was attracted to men.  It seemed that out of love and respect for the family, he preferred to keep that to himself.

When he got ill, his death came quickly.  Within a year he deteriorated and was reduced to a remnant of his old self, succumbing to his ailment at the tender age of 33.

I love my cousin.  I miss him dearly.  When I first saw the movie Philadelphia, I felt a sense of shame and remorse for not being there for him towards the end, not for any conscience reason, but because I was "too busy" living my life, too caught up in my own selfish lifestyle.  I still live with that regret today.

Now, while it's true that he never came out publicly to his family, although he did confide in a select few, to be honest, it wasn't necessarily a surprise to anyone.  We all live with secrets in life and some extend to family, where, at times, some are considered best kept that way.

Despite his personal desires, his love of children and family unity, may have made him realize the emptiness and meek prospects of his situation in the long run.  He always lived for the moment.

It's funny, I thought about my cousin recently after the Supreme Court decision last week and an openly homosexual friend (who is in his mid-to-late 50's) admitted to me and another friend, "You know, I sometimes wish I would have found a wife and had children.  Especially, now that my life is winding down.  I could never have adopted, as did... (He mentioned someone we know).  I'm too selfish and enjoy my freedom too much.  I love traveling, going out and partying but, it would have been nice to have had a wife and family of my own."

Last weekend at Mass, our freshly ordained parish priest, barely a month out of the seminary, said his honeymoon was over (almost as fast as it started) because he was going to speak out against something that, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll, 60 percent of Catholics agree with; Gay Marriage (Not that Truth is ever determined by popular vote or that the Catholics polled even go to Mass!).  He actually gave a disclaimer by giving out his email address for anyone that would object and wanted to discuss the issue further!

During his sermon, the novice priest quoted (in less graphic terms) from Chief Justice John Robert's dissent on the SCOTUS ruling:
"This universal definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman is no historical coincidence. Marriage did not come about as a result of a political movement, discovery, disease, war, religious doctrine, or any other moving force of world history—and certainly not as a result of a prehistoric decision to exclude gays and lesbians. It arose in the nature of things to meet a vital need: ensuring that children are conceived by a mother and father committed to raising them in the stable conditions of a lifelong relationship.
The premises supporting this concept of marriage are so fundamental that they rarely require articulation. The human race must procreate to survive. Procreation occurs through sexual relations between a man and a woman. When sexual relations result in the conception of a child, that child’s prospects are generally better if the mother and father stay together rather than going their separate ways. Therefore, for the good of children and society, sexual relations that can lead to procreation should occur only between a man and a woman committed to a lasting bond.
Society has recognized that bond as marriage. And by bestowing a respected status and material benefits on married couples, society encourages men and women to conduct sexual relations within marriage rather than without. As one prominent scholar put it, “Marriage is a socially arranged solution for the problem of getting people to stay together and care for children that the mere desire for children, and the sex that makes children possible, does not solve.”
The clergyman added, "The only thing he was missing was not mentioning that this is something given to us by God.  And, you see the problem, if we believe this is what marriage is, and this is what God has given to us as marriage, then you see the issue is that we can't change it.  We, as a Church, are keepers of the Truth... we can't change it, no matter the political, cultural or societal circumstances of the time."

"This is completely antithetical to the way our culture thinks today," he continued, "which is that truth shifts according to the circumstances, and how everybody feels at the time... In the past few weeks, there have been serious debates online on whether a white woman can call herself black, or if a man can call himself a woman.  The arguments for these things revolve around the fact that they really desire it to be so, so why not?  It would be discriminatory, or judgmental, to say otherwise. The Church would say, as much as you say that "you're black," the reality is, "you're white."  The Church would say, as much as you say it and desire it, and even change your appearance to look it, the reality is, "you're a man", not a woman.  You can see in this reality how we can easily take what has been marriage since the beginning of humanity, and take something that was never called marriage until a few years ago, and now call it marriage."

At my work, the SCOTUS decision was received with cheers, applause, high-fives and champagne bottles being uncorked.  We even got a statement from the company President hailing the decision by five of the Court's nine judges.

As everyone knows, social media exploded with celebratory comments and profile pictures turned into rainbows.  "Love wins!" many friends posted but I ask myself did it really?  Catholic author Chris Stefanick points out in his book, Absolute Relativism, "Love without truth - much like truth without love - is a unique form of cruelty."  

Even taking religion out of the equation, it's not hard to see what nature had in mind. Nobody can deny, as much as some may try, that our bodies proclaim the truth of our nature; certain parts designed to fit in certain others and when we fulfill that truth and give ourselves completely and openly to one another within marriage, we partake in the creation of life; in the survival and continuation of humanity and society (as Chief Justice Roberts pointed out).

I couldn't help but think of how fast we had moved from my cousin's death in the mid 90's, to sympathy and empathy, a worldwide cry to find a cure for AIDS, tolerance and acceptance, to support and an eventual move to redefine the most sacred and important institution within society, which is the foundation of the family.

While I'm sure many, including family members, would say that my cousin would be celebrating along with the culture, I can't help but wonder if that would be the case.  As giving and selfless as he lived his life, where he was willing to protect his family at the detriment of his own desires, would it be so strange to think he wouldn't?  I don't know.

In any case, I think another Catholic author, Brandon Vogt, said it best, in addressing those of us dejected by the Supreme Court decision, on where we go from here, "Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than teachers.  Bear witness in your own marriage.  Holy marriages fuel a strong marriage culture. Commit right now to your spouse and to your kids that their vision of marriage will be shaped not by legislators, teachers, or activists but by YOUR marriage; by your heroic devotion, one-flesh union, and fidelity to that truth imprinted on your bodies and affirmed by God.  When asked the most pivotal question in this debate -- what is marriage? -- their answer should be clear: my mom and dad."

And, that is what I feel my cousin would want me to do...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Words of Wisdom from Pope Benedict...

"We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

-- Pope Benedict XVI, considered by many as the greatest theologian of our time and among the greatest theologians in Catholic Church history. Served as Roman Pontiff from 2005 to 2013, when he surprised the world by announcing his retirement as successor of St. Peter due to health reasons. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he served as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under St. Pope John Paul II from 1981 to 2005. A prolific author of over 60 books, three Encyclicals and three Apostolic Exhortations, he is currently living a life of prayer and meditation in the Vatican grounds, as the Pope Emeritus...

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Bruce Jenner, Heroism and Individuality Run Amok...

Earning Gold; a true American hero...
In the summer of 1976, aside from getting immersed in the Beatles and starting to run for the first time, influenced by two older cousins from Chicago, who were staying at our house (She, like any teenage girl, was into music and he, a football player, training for the upcoming high school season), I remember sitting in front of the television set in our family room with my parents, younger brother and cousins night-after-night, as we watched the Olympic games. It was the first time I had seen, or even been interested in, the international sporting event but I had older cousins who were fans, so I wanted to do whatever they did.

We were captivated by a 14-year-old Romanian gymnast named Nadia Comaneci.  We rooted against the Cuban national team, as all good Cuban exiles did at the time, including Sugar Ray Leonard's defeat of Cuba's top light welterweight boxer.  And, we cheered, most of all, for one of the greatest athletes that ever wore the red, white and blue, compete in arguably the greatest feat in Olympic sports history, the ten-event decathlon, and win.

Bruce Jenner unified the nation, at a time when it needed it most following Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, Watergate and internal political and social strife (not to mention the Cold War).

He had a chiseled face, broad shoulders and a Captain America smile. He represented everything that the United States, which was celebrating its bicentennial year, was at the time; young, strong and selfless; a true role model; a national hero.  That was then.

Today, Jenner has become a hero to some for another reason.  As most of the world knows, at the tender age of 65, after three failed marriages and having fathered six children, Jenner says he's no longer Bruce but Caitlyn, the woman he was always meant to be.  You can pot up The Crying Game theme song right about here.

In search of happiness...
He has become a symbol of the pursuit of happiness and individuality at all cost, regardless of who might get hurt, including his family and children, some of whom have publicly supported his very public announcement on prime-time television but others who have remained silent, eventual grandchildren, who will one day have to figure out why grandpa is a grandma and a new generation of kids, who will not remember him for what he did for his country but what he did for himself.

It's ironic, in a society where women are repeatedly told to love their bodies and accept themselves for who they are, as one of my wife's friends pointed out, Jenner is celebrated, praised and awarded honors for not accepting his.

Well, despite all the hoopla, fanfare and victory laps by the LGBT community, the Emperor is not wearing new clothes, he's naked!  And the crying girls mobbing North Korean Dictator Kim Jung Un, like infatuated teenagers meeting their idol, are shedding alligator tears (Or maybe got a whiff of his breath!).

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote, "Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived... Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love."

And, that may well be where we are as a culture; sentimentality, which may be why the divorce rate is where it is and children are growing up with no sense of objective morality, since everybody is different and what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me.  We can mold truth into what we want it to be just as we can mold God into what we want Him to be.

Despite not knowing the man, I can't help but feel a sense of affection for Jenner for what he accomplished on the field and the many memories he provided.  I realize his intentions appear to be sincere, however misguided I think they may be.  I hope he does find the happiness he seeks but I suspect that it'll take more than surgeries and hormones to find true fulfillment.

As I reflect on the story, the thought I'm left with is this; if that's how I feel about someone I never met, how must his children feel, and I'm not talking about what they may say in public but what they really feel.  As a father I cannot see myself breaking my children's heart even if it means breaking my own...

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Bittersweet Ending to the School Year (Again)...


That is how Sister Caridad, the barely 4-feet-tall Carmelite Sister and Principal of our children's school, described the feeling at our older daughter's graduation Mass.  And, so it is, at least for me.

My daughter's life at St. Theresa Catholic School, which has been her home away from home for the last ten years, where on the first day of Pre-K 4, I shed my first tear as her teacher talked to parents about what to expect (and I wasn't the only one, including the teacher herself!), and she had felt so loved, so safe and protected, had made life-long friendships, grown in her faith and shared in so many memories, laughs and tears along the way, has drawn to an end.  A chapter of her existence closing forever.

Yes, this is an exciting time.  Graduations usually are.  Proms, caps and gowns, diplomas, pomp and circumstance and a lot of fun and slacking off during the final weeks.  It's a time of celebration (three celebration meals in my daughter's case); as one chapter closes and another begins.  She will be going off to high school, where there will be many more friendships, memories, laughs and certainly a few tears.  Yet, the paradox is the hint of melancholy and nostalgia with a final farewell.

It's a familiar feeling.  In a blog I wrote in 2011, when my son was finishing his first year of school, I stated, "It’s funny how we, as humans, get attached to people, places and things. I guess it has to do with the fact that we were made for family; God’s family. Although we are just sojourners in this world and are made for our ultimate “home,” we have a natural inclination to seek “familiarity” with the people, places and things that make us feel like home." (Now, I'm quoting myself!)

You may think I'm being melodramatic (which wouldn't be that far off the mark!).  I know I still have two younger kids at St. Theresa but things will never be quite the same.  This is the last year that all three of them will be attending the same school together; that my wife will be rushing off with them in haste, screaming and yelling at the slackers left behind; that my parents pick them up from school together; or I, on a day off, can take them to eat frozen yogurt or gelato on our way home from school.  It's the little things (like yogurt or gelato) that really tug my heart!

The close to 90-year-old school was where, in Pre-K 4, my daughter was bitten in the chest by a 4-year-old admirer, and got into trouble for cutting her hair with a pair of scissors with a friend (that first year was a doozy!).  It was where she was watched over by her older cousins, who all attended the same school, and teachers, and later she watched over her siblings (already on the first day without her on Friday, the two little ones were lost in their own world, without their sister to call them into line, and I had to circle the parking lot twice!).  It was where she had her first girlhood crush, played on the girls' basketball and softball teams, and had been on the honor roll year after year, including the National Junior Honors Society.

Starting next school year, my kids will be on different schedules.  As my younger daughter goes into high school, probably following her sister's footsteps to an all-girl school, my older one will be going off to college.  And, when my son graduates, he will be going his separate way.    

So, it is definitely bittersweet.  As I wrote in the same 2011 blog, while I'm sure there will be plenty of excitement in our household about the upcoming summer vacation, and, later, the upcoming school year, I can't help feel a sense of somberness in my heart about the finality of a time gone by, which we will never again relive...

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Words of Wisdom from Hans von Balthasar...

"To be a child means to owe one's existence to another, and even in our adult life we never quite reach the point where we no longer have to give thanks for being the person we are."

-- Hans Urs von Balthasar; Roman Catholic priest, author and considered one of the most important theologians of the 20th Century. Balthasar is said to have influenced St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, among many others and was once called, "perhaps the most cultured man of our time." The Swiss born scholar priest published over a thousand books and articles and sought to offer an intellectual response to Western modernism. He died in 1988, at the age of 82, just two days before he was to become a Cardinal.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Politics of Pride, Death and Family...

Selling his soul to the Devil...
In one of my most memorable movie lines, at the end of Devil's Advocate, just when it looked like Keanu Reeves' character, Kevin Lomax, was going to get a fresh start in life, after all the mayhem, death and destruction caused by his selfishness, lust and greed, Al Pacino's character, aka Satan, taking the form of a reporter, coaxes Reeves into giving him an interview, saying, "This is a story that needs to be told.  It's you. You're a star," which hearkens back to where the movie started; a little known defense attorney trying to make a name for himself and pursuing all the things that St. Thomas Aquinas once said are man's substitutes for God; money, pleasures, power and fame. 

Lomax looks at his wife, looks back at the reporter and says with a smile, "Ok., Larry.  Call me in the morning," and walks away.

As the young attorney and his wife leave the scene, the reporter becomes Al Pacino, who looks into the camera, smiles broadly and says, "Vanity.  My favorite sin!"

Vanity, which at its core, like all sins is rooted in pride, the sin that led to the fall of man in the Garden of Eden and continues to plague and destroy souls, marriages, families and societies.

Yes, I know.  Most people today abhor any thought of sin because it reminds them of sin's consequence; hell!  And, they prefer not to think about hell, since it means having to change their ways, almost as much as thinking about death.

Last week a friend told me about the estranged relationship her husband had with his parents, despite living about ten blocks away from them.  For no apparent reason, except for stubbornness and pride, they hadn't spoken to each other in over a year.

I was thrown aback.  My friend and her husband have two little kids.  A year has gone by and they haven't seen or talked to their grandparents!

I said to her, "I have to take your husband to a retreat," and before she explained how difficult his parents were, I told her, "It doesn't matter what may or may not have happened.  We are called to honor our fathers and mothers and sometimes have to swallow our pride because one day, they are not going to be there and then he will regret it." 

Several weeks ago, I was making a similar point at a men's retreat.  I was giving a talk about the need to nurture the relationships with those we most love and approached my talk where most people think life ends; death.   

I got the idea from a phrase Peter Kreeft uses in his book, Before I Go; "Momento mori," which is a Latin phrase meaning, “Remember death.”

The cusp of my talk was this; life is short and extremely volatile.  We are all just an accident, an illness or a random act of violence away from checking out of this world at any time. Therefore, we really have to make an effort to mend, heal, forgive and restore our relationships before it's too late.

Pride is like a decease that festers and grows, if we let it.  It's that little voice in our ear that says, "It's not your fault.  They are the ones that have to call you.  They are the ones that did this or that.  They are the ones that were disinterested and let the days, weeks and months go by.  Why don't they call?  Why don't they apologize?" (For more, see C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters)

Bad intentions; Jake on the warpath...
And, it's easy for that year to turn into two and then into three and so on. Sometimes, the people involved forget what started the fight in the first place but they have too much pride to say I'm sorry; too much pride to appear weak in the other person's eye; too much pride to let the other side win (in their mind). So, they wait, ferment and rot inside, until the day comes when somebody dies and then they wonder why they wasted so much time. (Of course, if you're Joey LaMotta, who's brother, Jake LaMotta, aka Raging Bull, beat the living daylights out of you in front of your wife and kids in your own house, it may take a little longer but forgive we must, not so much for the person we're forgiving as for us.)

Although, I never had a bad relationship with my parents, I can identify with my friend's husband because I myself wasted a lot time absorbed in my own life.

For many years, I neglected my father and mother. 

I loved them dearly.  I was just too busy; too busy working, too busy hanging with friends, too busy playing baseball, too busy on vacations, too busy watching the Mets, too busy watching Seinfeld, and so on.  A week or two could easily pass by, if not more!, without me as much as picking up the phone and calling to check how they were doing.  They were the ones that usually had to call because; I was too busy!

During a retreat I attended in 2006, one of the guys talked about his relationship with his parents and how for many years he resented his dad for not being able to provide all the things his friends had and he wanted; again back to vanity and pride.

His father died unexpectedly and then he regretted all the pain and grief he had caused his old man; all the disrespect, all the anger he had shown, all the sleepless nights and turmoil.

It was a contrast in humility.  All the father had done was work hard to provide for his family, sometimes taking on two jobs to ensure his son would attend one of the top schools in Miami, even if it meant sacrifice and struggle.  And, all the son had done, as he explained it, was to reject his blue collar dad and curse him under his breath because of his pride for not having the fancy car or money, like most of his friends.

His pain and regret were evident and very moving, however, there was also redemption and hope in his story.  After his father's death, his mother was left alone and he did not want to have the same regrets when she died.  So, he started spending more time with her and one of the things he started doing, which left a profound impression on me, was to stop by his mother's house everyday on his way to work to have a cup of coffee.

I started doing that.  
The binding power of cafecito...

Almost every morning, for the past about nine years or so, whether I’m running late to a meeting or not, I sidetrack from my way to work and spend at least 5 minutes having Cuban coffee and sharing in brief conversations with my parents.  

My friend, whose husband hadn't spoken to his parents, asked if I can help her in writing a text message to her mother-in-law, which I gladly agreed.  

Since I didn't know the lady and wasn't tainted by all the baggage that may have led to the deterioration of the relationship, I wrote from a faith and outsider's perspective; whatever happened happened, it's time to heal.  It's time to put the past aside and focus on reconciliation and restoring the relationship.

There were several exchanges after that.  The mother-in-law said she wanted to move on but kept bringing up unresolved issues.  And, again, I answered with the same, "let's get past the blame and focus on the future."   

A day or two later, after a couple of more text exchanges, which I didn't take part in, my friend shows me a message that came from her husband to his mom stating something along the lines of, "Mom, I love you and I want you to be part of my children's lives."

It was pretty powerful stuff.  A year of animosity and strife appeared to be melting away and a new air of peace and reunification loomed.  

It's a lesson we can all learn from, but, in our humanity, we would be wise to stay alert, since that same vanity that resurfaced in Kevin Lomax's life at the end of Devil's Advocate, can raise it's ugly head at any point in our life as well.  

The key is to catch it, understand it is the sin of pride, remember that our family members are not going to be there forever and humble ourselves for the sake of love...  

Friday, May 15, 2015

Laughs, Tears and My Son's First Communion...

The Body of Christ...
"Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread." 1 Cor 10:17.

It was at the most solemn and sacred moment of the Mass.  The entire congregation fell on its knees in silence and reverence (with the exception of a crying baby in the back of the parish), as the priest began the prayer of consecration to turn the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ; the Eucharist, pinnacle and summit of our faith as Catholics, and, the reason we were gathered at church that Saturday afternoon for our children's First Holy Communion.

All of a sudden, in what looked like a scene from a Peter Sellers or Mel Brooks' movie, a little heavyset boy (to be politically correct) sitting in his tight white suit in the pew in front of us, slipped on the kneeler and started sinking into the abyss underneath the bench he had just been sitting on, as his body and face contorted in despair, while the boy next to him ducked for cover to avoid being dragged down by the grasping hand of the first boy, trying to keep himself from going under.

A teacher nearby, quickly lunged over a couple of other students in the way, reminiscent, I suppose, of when Jesus reached for Peter, as he sank while trying to walk on water.  She got him just in the nick of time and was able to lift him back unto his knees before the pew monster swallowed him hole and, as she let go of his arm, the boy's other knee slipped and the process started all over again. 

Only this time, the teacher couldn't control her laughter and had to turn her face so that the boy didn't see her laughing at him, as everyone around us chuckled, while the poor chubby kid tried to regain his balance and finally pushed himself up and got both knees firmly planted.

It was a brief moment of levity amidst the tears during the Sacrament.  Sort of like the first time I watched The Passion of the Christ with my wife during Holy Week in England (Come to think of it, when she was pregnant with our son!), and, just as our emotions were pushed to the limit during the scourging at the pillar scene, and, with her hormones out of whack, she worse than I (although not by much), there was a commercial break, which allowed us to breathe and gather ourselves before continuing to watch the rest of the heart-wrenching film.

Then again, I love a good cry!  In his book, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens wrote, "We need never be ashamed of our tears," and, those that have gotten to know me over the last several years, know that I'm certainly not ashamed of mine.  In fact, I embrace them whenever caught in the moment.

I can't help it.  Especially, when it comes to faith and family, the floodgates are just a minor tug away from opening up at any time.  In fact, it's a running joke around the home-front about whether Daddy is crying; again!  Even my seven-year-old boy likes to rib his old man! (No, I'm not going Bruce Jenner any time soon!  But, since when is it wrong for a middle-aged man to show a little emotion, for goodness sake?)

I cry at movies.  I cry with books.  I cry during sentimental Christmas commercials and sad songs on the radio.  I cry at weddings (including my own, and not just because life as I knew it was over!).  I cry in the talks I give at retreats for my men's group (In fact, they usually bring up Kleenex tissues before I begin, although, I must say, there's another guy that beats me in the tear department and a couple of others that can stand toe-to-toe with me!).  I even choke up at awards banquets, as I did recently while I introduced a great friend being honored with a lifetime achievement award in television news. (There's nothing like shedding a few tears in front of a room full of hard nosed, cut-throat, veteran journalists, I say!)

Needless to say, I lost it at both of our daughters' First Communion, and, the only thing that kept me from crying at our older daughter's Confirmation was the fact that they called her by her saint's name, Elizabeth, as in St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and I kept waiting for the Bishop to say her name, so I missed the entire ritual, only realizing what had happened when she was heading back to her seat! (I don't even want to think about their weddings!).  So, of course, it was only a matter of time before the tears started flowing at my son's.

Styling in the cool shoes...
And, it didn't take long, as I saw him walking up the center aisle wearing his white suit, much to the chagrin of my wife who wanted him to wear one of the several blue blazers he has in his closet (which turned out to be what most of the boys in his class wore), but no!  He wanted to wear white; suit, shirt, vest, tie and fashionable slip on leather shoes (which would have made Gaylord Focker, male nurse extraordinaire from Meet the Parents, envious!).  I guess it made him feel holier and holy was the name of the game for him that day.  In fact, a few weeks earlier, after his first Confession, he told me, "Daddy, I feel really holy.  I want to do this every week!"

Shortly after the homily (and the chubby kid's near debacle), the second graders started going up one at a time to receive the Sacred Host and, those that wanted, to drink from the chalice.

When it was my son's turn, he walked into the center aisle, bowed his head, as I'm sure he had rehearsed with his class dozens of times, and walked up with his left hand cupping his right.  Oh, wait, it's supposed to be the right hand cupping the left (He quickly corrected his mistake on the fly), as the Eucharist was placed in his hand.  He put it in his mouth, walked up to the chalice, taking a small sip, before returning to his pew.

Yes, that was when the floodgates opened up.  I felt the tears running down my cheek, as I tried to avoid my wife's look so that she wouldn't laugh.  I've been there before!

For me, to think that he was receiving of that One Bread, as St. Paul stated in First Corinthians, that unites us, not only with the same Jesus that walked the earth two thousand years ago, and the Father and Holy Spirit, since God is One and cannot be separated, but with me, my wife, my daughters, parents, family and friends in the most profound way, including relatives that have gone to their eternal rest like my wife's dad and my grandparents and the entire Communion of Saints; past, present and future, well, it's a bit overwhelming.  Don't you think?

I always think of St. Therese, "The Little Flower" at her First Holy Communion.  She wrote in her memoirs, Story of a Soul, that she overheard several nuns commenting about how sad it was that Therese's mom had died and wasn't there to see her receive her First Communion.  Even at her tender age, Therese was perplexed, since she knew that by receiving the Blessed Host, she would be closer to her mother than ever before! 

Our holy roller with Fr. Martin and Deacon Parlade...
So, there I was feeling the knot in my throat with tears of joy streaming down my cheeks and then, I saw the chubby kid go up.  He was cupping his left hand correctly but as the priest went to place the Eucharist in his hand, he reached out and snatched it (I'm sure to the horror of his teacher, after all the weeks and months of practice!) and then came the clincher.  He goes up to the chalice, takes a sip, turns around and makes the funniest bad taste grimace I recall having seen!  The kid was a riot.       

After having received Communion myself, as I knelt there praying and reflecting on the moment, the kids were asked to get up and recite an affirmation of faith and then it was the parents' turn.  I had forgotten my reading glasses and, halfway through the first sentence, my voice cracked, which made my wife laugh, and I got so teary-eyed that I couldn't make out the rest of what I was supposed to read, which may have been a blessing, since it would've probably have been worse if I had actually seen the words! 

As the ceremony ended, and my son walked down the aisle the same way he had walked in towards the door, I looked at the husky kid again and couldn't help but smile.  It had been an emotional roller coaster for me but, thanks to a fat little boy (There you made me say it! Are you happy?) in his ill-fitting white suit, there were interludes of laughter that made an already memorable event even more so ingrained in my memory forever.

Thank you, God...