Friday, August 07, 2015 - Updated: 7:00 am
In my last writing to you, I shared the importance of taking vacations as an important time to step aside from the usual routine to get some necessary R&R, some very important REST & RELAXATION, to regain a good perspective on life.
I hope that you remember that I also wrote of taking a vacation as an icon of those little “vacations” we need to take every day — to step aside from the craziness of life and take some rest and hopefully some relaxation with God in prayer.
Jesus showed his disciples that kind of daily “vacation,” as the Gospels tell us, when he invited his apostles to “come away to an out of the way place.” He wanted them not to lose perspective on life nor lose contact with God.
What gave me the occasion to write to you on that subject was my own planned vacation, a week’s worth in Longboat Key, Florida. It was a time I looked forward to with all of its past routine of tradition: Mass at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church, food at my favorite eating places, and sun and surf on the Gulf.
Well, the first two happened: the church, the food. But as you already know from the national news stories, that area of Florida has been inundated with heavy and regular daily storms. For me, there wasn’t much sun and hardly any beach. Maybe it was God’s way of preparing me for what would happen on the third day of my vacation.
Tug of war
On that Tuesday, I got a call from the wonderful Little Sisters of the Poor (where my dad lives on Pittsburgh’s North Side) that my father was being rushed to UPMC Mercy Hospital: shortness of breath, pains in the chest and other complications.
Within a couple of hours of regular calls to and from the ER, the news was confirmed that my dad (who does suffer from congestive heart failure) had indeed suffered a heart attack.
My time in Florida was over. I had to get back to Pittsburgh and quickly.
I arrived at my dad’s bedside in UPMC Mercy’s cardiovascular intensive care unit around 2:30 a.m. and have spent most of my time with him since. While he shows signs of improvement, his condition is serious enough, and, as of this writing, he is still “not out of the woods.” What great care he is receiving from the medical staff.
But clearly, divine providence enhanced my vacation in a way I did not anticipate. In those quiet hours of the night and the busy hospital hours of the day, I had the chance to spend the rest of my vacation with my two dads: Stanley here on earth, and dear God in heaven.
And as I did so, I had the chance to really get in touch with both.
With my Dad in heaven, I had the chance to lift up my prayers for my “other dad” and ask God to help him, heal him, carry him, protect him — and according to his will, not mine. I had the chance to thank him for my “other dad” and for all of those qualities I admire in him: his humor, his simple way of life, his virtue of not complaining much. I had the chance to ask my heavenly Dad’s forgiveness for the times I wasn’t such a good son to either of them — either one or both of my dads.
With my dad here on earth, I had the chance to watch quietly his labored breathing; those ever-erratic vital signs on the monitors; the ever-caring and careful responses of the doctors, nurses and staff who are giving their lives TO BE for those in need of healing. With my dad here on earth, I had the time to “vacate” all the other important things I think I am called to do every day as your bishop and put it all into perspective in that tug of war between life and death.
Yes. Vacations are important — at the beach or at home.
Yes. Those daily vacations of prayer are important, too — in church or in our back yards.
Yes. They’re both important because they are ways in which God helps us put things in perspective — either through R&R, rest and relaxation, or in those sudden unexpected events like a heart attack.
It all makes sense only standing on the firm foundation of prayer — connecting with God.
Yep! When I am in my twilight years, doing a run through of all the significant events in my life, I’m sure that I will long remember summer vacation 2015 — three days at the beach, and precious days with my dad.
And so. Can I ask you a little favor? Would you please talk to our DAD, yours and mine in heaven, and offer your own prayer for my “other dad” here on earth?
Thanks from the bottom of my heart, and I’m sure from the bottom of the heart of my “other dad!”