I’m tired of goodbyes. I’ve had to say so many of them in the last year or so. I said goodbye to both of my grandmothers and to my only remaining grandfather. Losing them has been a profound sadness for me, even with the passage of time.
My grandparents were all special people who added so much to the lives of my family and myself. My Grandma Louise, my mother’s mother, left something with me that she probably never realized…….faith. When she died, there was only one item that I asked for……her rosary. She carried it with her every day, as did her mother before her, and as I do now. At her wake, every person who gave a eulogy spoke of her unwavering and constant faith in God. She wasn’t one who preached or forced her religion on anyone; she had a quiet, strong faith that just seemed to emanate from her. Those who knew her well knew that she never missed a Sunday Mass and went to confession regularly (although none of her grandchildren could ever think of what she possibly had to confess other than cooking the pasta a little too hard). She was never, ever afraid of death. When she was so ill at the end of her life, it was SHE who chose to end the treatments. She was ready to meet God and to be with my grandfather again. I miss her so much sometimes it hurts.
During the time of losing my grandparents, the church where I worshiped and taught school brought a new priest to the parish, Father Manny Alvarez. Father Manny is a very young priest who watches the Miami sports teams, checks scores and texts on an iPhone and rides a bicycle over to school to eat lunch with the students every day. Sometimes , he can be mistaken for a University of Miami student, when decked out in his Hurricanes gear. He uses Facebook and watches Glee. But most of all, Father Manny knows how to stir up people’s faith. I attended Catholic school for 12 years, and have worshiped in probably ten different Catholic parishes, but never have I heard God so clearly as I have through Father Manny. My church, Mary Help of Christians, had the pleasure of knowing Fr. Manny for the last two and a half years. He has made everyone who has heard him look at life and faith differently…………positively………..luminously. Today, Pentecost 2011, was the last Mass he celebrated with our congregation in a church packed shoulder to shoulder. This week another parish in the county will be blessed with the gift of Father Manny. Friday night, some of the teachers and students sang a song to him which is also the perfect song for all of my grandparents. It’s a song from the musical Wicked called “For Good”.
“Like a comet pulled from orbit, as it passes a sun,
like a stream that meets a boulder, halfway through the wood;
who can say if I’ve been changed for the better,
(I do believe I have been changed for the better)
but, because I knew you……….I have been changed for good.”
Godspeed, Father Manny. Thank you for keeping my faith alive during so many goodbyes.