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The Memorial Mass May, 2014
Going back hurts but reminds us all where we come from
They say that you cant go home again. Its probably true to some extent.
Today, I went home. I spent the morning and early afternoon in my hometown city of Cincinnati, surrounded by my family and relatives I havent seen in years.
We were there to celebrate the anniversary of my Dad's death, 50 years ago.
I felt that I needed to do something to commemorate this day. I wanted the fact that he lived, to be remembered, if that makes sense. So I phoned the parish where I grew up and asked if I could have a memorial Mass said in his honor. I had wracked my brain trying to come up with something that would be appropriate and this just felt right.
Its a small church. Catholic, since we were, but Maronite Catholic since my Dad was Lebanese. Growing up I went to Mass every day at my Roman Catholic grade school and on Sundays I went to the Maronite Catholic church. I sang in the choir at Latin Mass during the week and I sang in the choir at Maronite Mass on Sunday. Im just grateful that I didnt sing Latin at one and Arabic at the other!
Talk about confusing! So I guess you could say I was a weekday Latin Catholic and a Sunday, Arabic Catholic. Either way, I think I got the best of both worlds. I got a double dose of "Catholic". I think Im covered for life.
For many years, I remember being almost ashamed to admit that I was "different" from my school friends who all went to the same church on Sunday that we went to Monday thru Friday. When my Dad died, my entire 7th grade class, from white bread Mt. Lookout came to the small church for his funeral Mass. An Arabic Mass, especially in those days, was spoken in all Arabic and there was lots of chanting and usually by an old man who, to them, may have sounded like a croaking frog.
These classmates of mine were kids who probably didnt have one drop of ethnicity in their bloodstreams and had never heard a priest utter anything other than Latin. They certainly only heard the choir singing Latin hymns. Imagine their ________(insert whatever word you think might fit the image here) when the old man in the choir loft began his mournful chanting for the dearly departed....my Dad.
Collectively their heads all turned around and looked above to see what and who and probably even why was uttering sounds they had never heard before. Even the nuns were surprised and turned around.
Even in my grief at being at my Dad's funeral Mass, I remember thinking that I would have lots of questions to answer when I got back to school.
As I grew older, though, I became proud of my heritage. I grew to love the fact that I was different from all the kids I went to school with. I knew that my father's people were good and decent people. I knew that my grandparents, like so many other immigrants at the turn of that century, came here to make a new life for themselves and their children. I recognized the hard work, patience and love that went into everything those two, dear, old before their time, people did. And I learned from them and all of my Dad's family that family matters more than anything else.
I was connected to a country and a life that I had only heard about, and I never, for one moment, ever doubted that I was connected to "salt of the earth" people who left the only lives they had ever known for a chance at the American dream.
Looking back...it didnt really matter what language it was in...Mass was Mass and being there every day and every Sunday, gave me a love for my faith which I might have lost at times, but which has always been there, lurking perhaps in the background just waiting for me to claim it again.
Going back today was to honor my Dad, who deserved to be remembered for the short life he had on this earth. But it was more than that. It was a remembrance of who I was and where I came from and who I am and who I will continue to be.