Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A True Father: Remembering Fr. Mac and The Reason I'm Still Catholic

A dear companion has passed away.  Father Joseph McNally, (Fr. Mac) a retired priest for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, is sharing in THE great reward after his recent battle with brain cancer.  In Fr. Rick's words from a text to me today, "Father Mac went home to heaven.  The angels welcome another saint."

When I was sharing this news with my fourth graders, since we've been praying for him for the last few weeks, I almost started tearing up right there.  It's amazing to have such emotion (especially me, who isn't all that emotional in public) over a man I haven't seen for a few years.  I can say nothing other than "Father" is the truest word for him.

Fr. Mac was our priest during my entire childhood at St. Barnabas parish on the south side of Indianapolis.  Ask any kid who went to Barnabas in those years:

1. He was always in a good mood
2. He was Irish--like REALLY Irish--and ended every Mass with the Irish Blessing.
3. His birthday was on Leap Day--which was just cool.
4.  He read "The Polar Express" as the Christmas homily every year.

My parents were involved in several committees during those years and when he called our house and I answered, he would always exclaim, "Erica!" with such delight--I can still hear it. I will always remember his smile when seeing MY face. He really lived what Jesus preached on, "Let the children come to me."  It was like I was his favorite.

He retired right about the time I went to college, so for me, St. Barnabas Parish and Fr. Mac can never be separated. (He was there 12-13 years?)

As a college student, I was hit hard with challenges to a faith I was, to be honest, pretty lukewarm about.  Being raised in a predominantly Catholic environment, no one ever questioned my faith, or the reasons for what I valued.  A lot of my life, to that point, was spent living to impress and follow the rules.

That all changed in college and I had TONS of people who not only questioned for themselves the meaning of religion, but the Catholic religion in particular.  In moments when I was losing the battle and Catholicism just didn't make any sense, I always remembered my mom and Fr. Mac and their certainty.

Were they crazy?  Were they leading me astray?  Those two were the most intelligent and faithful in my life and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they loved me and wanted my happiness.  My mom and Fr. Mac's example forced me to not just settle for what others were trying to persuade, but to go research the faith myself.  So, I did.  And, by the grace of God, here I am.  I love being Catholic.  I know it's the Truth.  I know I'm fully myself in adhering to the teachings of the Church.

But without this priest and my mom teaching us at home, I would have given up and fallen prey to the tides of popular opinion and thought.

In college, during a period of renewed love for my Catholic faith,  I wrote Fr. Mac a long letter telling him about my life and just how grateful I was for his service to me.  After that point, we wrote each other Christmas cards every year.  I'm so thankful today that I took the time to do that when I was twenty.

Into my adult life, Fr. Mac and I would have those "coincidental" meetings at some random daily Mass and he would take my left hand, see if it had a ring on it, and then say, "I want to be the priest at your wedding when you get married."  He was always very adamant about that. :)  When that day finally comes, I'm guaranteed he'll be there, just not exactly in the way I was picturing!

I'm just one of the thousands that can testify to Fr. Mac's joy and certainty in front of life.  What grace to live in such a way that you delight when you see people...you're not calculating what they might be approaching you with. You aren't already presuming what the conversation might be like. You're just simply rejoicing in the presence of another.  Fr. Mac loved Christ and Christ that came to Him in the people he served...and He wanted everyone to know God's love.

Now that I'm not a kid, I realize that Fr. Mac wasn't perfect, but what a relief that we don't have to be perfect to still point others to what is true.  I'm amazed by how God can take an unmarried childless man and make him a father.  For me, still unmarried, it gives me great hope to see what can be generated by virginity and service to God.  NOTHING is impossible for God.

We love you, Fr. Mac and I'm speaking for many when I say we can't wait to see you again!

Visitation and Funeral both at St. Barnabas.  Friday, October 12th: Vigil Service 7:30pm
Saturday, October 13th: Funeral 10am with burial and reception following.