Friday, February 01, 2019 - Updated: 2:58 pm
Recently, I had the pleasure of a pastoral visit to one of our parishes, together with our seminarians from St. Paul Seminary. It’s always nice to be able to introduce the seminarians during holy Mass, wherein one of them is designated to speak about his own personal discernment to the priesthood to the gathered parishioners.
On this most recent visit, I had the opportunity of introducing someone else to the congregation, someone who is very important to me: my maternal grandmother, whom I called “Porchy.” Although she died nearly 44 years ago, a particular lesson that she taught me prompts me to share her story with you.
Exactly 100 years ago this year, Porchy emigrated from Slovakia to the United States. She came to New York’s Ellis Island holding a shopping bag with all of her earthly belongings on one arm and her 1-year-old son in her other arm. They were coming to the United States with the ultimate destination of Ambridge, where my grandfather had settled a year earlier. Like so many people who emigrated to the United States in the early years of the last century, my grandfather — my Dzedo — came to the United States to provide a better future for his family through employment at the American Bridge Co.
When Porchy came the United States, she brought more than just her shopping bag and my Uncle John. She brought with her a very strong faith, a deep spirituality and a life that was reflective of both.
A deep impact
During my years of growing up, Porchy was my built-in babysitter. On the rare occasions when my parents would go out on a date, my grandmother would watch me at her home. Most often that was on a Saturday evening. The next day, I would join her in going to what was then Divine Redeemer Church. I would sit with her and the members of the Rosary Society, praying the devotion to Jesus through Our Lady, before Mass would begin.
Later, when I had the privilege of being an altar server at my home parish of St. Stanislaus — and because my parents lived a good distance from the church — I would stay overnight at Porchy’s so that I could fulfill my early-morning weekday responsibilities as a server. During those times, I was so impressed by my grandmother getting up well before dawn to pray three rosaries in preparation for the day. Her spiritual practice made a deep impact on me.
No other person in my life had as much of an effect on my spiritual growth as did Porchy. Sadly, she passed away within two weeks of my ordination as a priest. She was the first person whom I anointed as a priest. I was the last confessor in her life. Her funeral was the first funeral I had as a priest.
Of all the blessings that I cherish and remember so tenderly about Porchy, one of the most important was a piece of advice that she gave me right after my priesthood ordination. She said, quite emphatically: “David, when you speak the word of God, make sure that you do so loudly. The people in church and beyond really need to hear you.”
Her advice was directed at more than the loudness of my voice. She was really advising me that, when I speak the word of God, I must speak it not just with my lips, but from my heart. Her point was that I must go beyond preaching and actually live the word of God in my thoughts and plans, words and deeds.
I can’t forget that piece of advice. I try to follow it as best I can. For the advice that she gave is an expectation that Jesus has for you and for me — for all of us. Jesus hopes that the faith that we speak with our lips is a faith that we seek to live in our lives — and loudly, being bold about it, never shy.
Loudly speak his word
As you and I continue to open ourselves up to the movement of the Holy Spirit and to the power of God’s grace, might I suggest that we review again how often we speak God’s word and how much we live it! Regularly, we do need to examine our own consciences to see how we are doing both.
Some questions around that examen might be:
• Is there anybody in our lives right now whom we need to forgive?
• Are there people around us who are in need of our prayers or of a helping hand, and are we there for them?
• Do we need to clean up our thoughts, our words, our deeds so that they reflect the presence of Jesus within us?
• Is there any prejudice in our lives, anyone from whom we are holding back our charity?
• Are we seeking to tear down walls that divide us from other people?
• Do we take the time each day to drop to our knees in prayer, and are we faithful about participating in the holy Mass every weekend?
Porchy made a deep impression on me about how “loudly” I must speak the word of God. I suspect that there is a “Porchy” in your life, who has helped you to come to know Jesus better and has shown you the way in which you can speak his word “loudly,” too.
As I introduced Porchy to you, might you introduce your “Porchy” to others? As you and I do this, our loved ones’ continuing legacy will be to help others to speak God’s words “loudly” — not only from the lips but especially from the heart.