Tragedy occurs when we least expect it. Early in December of 1973, my grandfather climbed a ladder on the side of one of his grain bins on the family farm. The cold December air had caused a layer of frozen moisture to form on the top of the corn. With wrench in hand, grandpa began breaking up the surface of the corn. We don't know why it happened, but somehow, grandpa lost his footing and fell into the bin.
The call came late in the day. My parents immediately began planning a move to northern Iowa. Grandma needed help with the farm.
My father stepped away from pastoral ministry in 1974 and suddenly, I had a farmer for a father. While he would eventually return to the pastorate, it would never be as a Wesleyan minister. The next time he stepped into a pulpit, it would be as a Presbyterian.
There wasn't a question about where we would attend Sunday worship services during our time on the farm. We went to grandma's church - an old United Methodist church in Lime Springs, Iowa.
I'm not completely certain of this, but I believe the Catholics who farmed the land surrounding Lime Springs (or lived in the very small town of the same name) attended Mass in Cresco, Iowa. Today's prayers focus on one of the parishes in Cresco. Notre Dame. Had we been Catholic, it is likely that we would have received the Sacraments from this parish. I realize that I was never far from Mother Church, no matter where we lived. While we worshipped in a United Methodist church, there is no denying the fact that many of our faith practices, the Scripture we cherished, and most of the tenets of our faith came from Holy Mother Church.
Though we never talked about the Catholic Church and we never even stepped through the doors of Notre Dame Parish, we were in possession of many graces because we had received so many good things from our Catholic heritage - even if we didn't recognize the source.
On this, the fourth day of the first week of Advent, I pray for Fr. Richard J Ament and Notre Dame Parish. May those who are not Catholic - yet live near this parish - see the light of the Notre Dame laity lived out in the community. And may the Holy Spirit bring about many conversions through their faithful witness, with that same divine breath that came upon a young Jewish girl in Nazareth.Blessed fourth day of the first week.