Sunday, April 1, 2018
By Fr. Tom Hurley
Just a couple of weeks ago, as we celebrated the Feast of St. Patrick, I shared with those who gathered here for the civic and community celebrations about my experience of sharing some pictures with my dad last year. Similar to Tuesdays With Morrie, I do Mondays With My Parents and I enjoy spending the second day of the week with them, almost religiously every week. Last year, on the Monday following our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations of 2017, I went home with my laptop and walked into the kitchen where my dad was sitting in his wheelchair reading the newspaper and enjoying some Irish music that the caregiver had put on. After catching up with each other for a few minutes, I then asked my dad if he would like to see some pictures that were taken from the weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities. After firing up the computer, I pulled in next to my dad and began scrolling through the wonderful photos taken by our very own Mike Lyons. He enjoyed seeing the Shannon Rovers, the Irish Dancers, the Parade Queen and Grand Marshall, the numerous people dressed in green, as well as the extraordinary shots of the Celtic interior of this church. As he was soaking in the pictures from my laptop, I could tell that he was pondering a thought and getting ready to make a comment. Sure enough, a few moments later, my dad asked me: “Are you on a leave of absence to be at this church?” Huh? I thought. What do you mean?, I asked him. “To be at this church HERE IN IRELAND, are you on a leave of absence?” He thought he was in the Emerald Isle. Getting close to 91 years of age, he often times gets confused 🙁
I did my best trying to help him recall that we are here in Chicago and these photos are from the church where I am pastor, Old St. Patrick’s. Look, I said, there’s a picture of the archbishop, Cardinal Cupich! My dad said: “Cupich, that doesn’t sound Irish?” I responded and said we call him O’Cupich and he’s from County Croatia….I laughed, he didn’t. I then pointed out the Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. “Emanuel, that doesn’t sound Irish either!” I said he’s not. He’s Jewish! My dad was surprised and said: “Galway has a Jewish mayor?” I said: I guess we do now! Again, I laughed. He didn’t. My parents lived in Galway city from 1953-1958 while he attended medical school. Often times, because of an aging brain, he will find himself going to Ireland.
On one hand, we can join together and lament the aging process and the onset of dementia. It’s no fun watching our loved ones lose their physical and mental faculties. But even though I wasn’t able convince my dad that he was sitting in his home of 55 years on the southside of Chicago on Monday in March of 2017, he himself was delighted to be in Ireland, even if it was just for a few hours. He wasn’t frustrated, questioning, nor angry. He was peaceful and actually enjoying himself as he looked at the pictures of most things Irish (with the exception of the Croatian cardinal and Jewish mayor) with the Irish tunes delighting his soul in the background. Okay, I thought, you’re in Ireland!
With the exception of John’s gospel, the Easter texts all tell us about the importance of going back to Galilee! Go back to Galilee, that’s where you’ll find Him, is the message conveyed by angels and other first proclaimers of the Lord’s Resurrection. Go back to the place where the Mission began! Go back to the place where He healed, He preached, He ate with the imperfect, and where He proclaimed Mercy. Go back to the place where He walked with the troubled and where He helped those on the margins to believe in their essential goodness as the Beloved sons and daughters of God. Go back to the place where He gave people a second chance and instructed them about how they could be and should be builders of the Kingdom of God. Go back to the place where people were intrigued by Him and where it was perfectly okay not to have all the answers to life’s most difficult questions. Go back to the place where His only desire was to bring the message of Peace, Love, and Justice. Go back to the place where people live and where they experience the joys and struggles of life.
My dad’s “trip” to Ireland (and he’s been there a few times since) brings him to a place of peace, security, and joy. On this Easter Sunday, it is my pleasure to welcome you all to this holy space. I hope that this Easter will be another reminder, as well as another invitation to keep coming back to the Galilee moments of our lives. Go back to the Holy. Go back to the place in our hearts where we are most at peace and where we are most in touch with the presence of the Living God. Go back to the basics of what it means to be a daughter and son of God, as well as a fellow disciple on the journey.
Thank you for being here today! Thank you for creating a Church that welcomes all. May you be blessed abundantly and gently on this Easter day.
Father Thomas J. Hurley