Sunday, June 17
By Tom Micinski
Since this is my first Awakenings article, I would like to give a brief introduction of myself. My name is Tom Micinski and I started working at Old St. Patrick’s at the beginning of February as Coordinator of Liturgy. I have had a varied professional background ranging from computer systems engineering to catering to facilities management. Over the last 16+ years, I have worked within the Archdiocese of Chicago and recently I completed my Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies at the University of Loyola Chicago. I have been at Old St. Patrick’s for about four months and everyone has made we feel very welcome in my new role; Thank You!
When I first volunteered to write this article, I wanted to make sure I related the Sunday readings to Father’s Day, which I thought was going to be fairly straightforward. Unfortunately, things didn’t go exactly according to my plan. The first reading from Ezekiel and the Gospel from Mark used images of trees, bushes, and plants to describe the workings of God in the world and the Kingdom of God. I struggled for quite a while with finding a connection between trees, plants, and bushes with Father’s Day.
I started to do some research to see what I could find. Yes, I ended up going down several rabbit holes unrelated to Father’s Day and what I found was a rich history of cultures, Egyptian, Mayan, Chinese, Celtic, Islam, and even Christianity that revered, respected, and sometimes worshiped trees. Being a church with an Irish heritage, I thought it would be interesting to delve a little deeper into the Celtic tradition of trees, specifically the Tree of Life.
The Celtic traditions and images of the Tree of Life date back to 2,000 BC. The ancient Celts believed trees had special powers that protected the land and connected the spiritual world to the physical world. When settling a new area, a Celtic tribe always left one tree in the center of its area, which became known as the tribe’s Tree of Life and was the main gathering place for the tribe. A tribe’s Tree of Life was so central to its identity, that when a warring tribe conquered a neighboring tribe, the first thing the victor tribe did was cut down the conquered tribe’s Tree of Life.
For the Celts, trees represented strength, wisdom, endurance, power, and longevity. Because many trees lose their leaves in the winter and grow new ones in the spring, trees also symbolized new life. The most compelling teaching from the ancient Celts regarding trees is how trees demonstrate the interconnectedness of life on Earth. A forest is made up of many individual trees. The branches from the trees of a forest are intertwined, thus forming one, cohesive, living structure that supports life for all other plants, animals, and humans. This is very symbolic of the Christian teaching that through baptism, we are all members of the one body of Christ!
Let me try to wrap all of this up. The God portrayed in the Scripture readings this Sunday is a God of love and life; a small shoot growing into a majestic tree and a small seed growing into a mighty bush. Fathers and father figures are agents of life as well. Not only are they involved in the creation of life, they nurture life to grow and thrive through their wisdom, strength, protection, and love. Come to think of it, those are some of the same attributes ancient cultures gave to trees! I would like to end this article by wishing all fathers, godfathers, grand-fathers, and all that are a father figure for someone a Happy and Blessed Father’s Day!