Can’t go home …

18 Jan

The Cross of Christ calling multitudes to salvation, calling you and me, calling our family. Givng us identity, continuity. Letting us help God in making and remaking sociiety into an image of his Kingdom.

The Cross of Christ — calling the multitudes, all of humanity, into the saving embrace of God; calling you and me and our families into the great mystery of God’s love; promising relevance and meaning — and, yes, a sense of continuity; sending us into the world, poor little us, with the great message of hope and salvation.

I stood on the small bridge spanning the canal of muddy, oil-streaked and fertilizer polluted water. This canal lies between the rural communities of Henry and Boston in Vermilion Parish, Louisiana – real Cajun Country.

The canal was not always polluted. Years before, my brother and I had stood on that same bridge and we could see garfish swimming along. And we fished there for gar and perch.

But on that day, I was thinking back to my youth, remembering that on this road, now black-topped but then only gravelled, a bunch of us boys would leisurely ride or race our horses in all kinds of weather. And we helped fathers and uncles herd cattle over this road to better grazing or to trailers that would take them to the livestock sale held in Abbeville.

I had driven past our old homestead west of Henry. The huge barn was gone, as was the dairy. The house seemed small and mournful. Grass in the pasture was fighting drought – the pasture where we had our cows and a couple of horses. Behind the house was more acreage. It now seemed unused from what I could see, but in my day, that land had grown cotton, corn and soybeans.

As I stood on that little bridge, I remembered the times my friends and I went skinny dipping down a distance from this road, walking on the canal bank braving water moccasins and briars. I remember the relish with which I enjoyed feeling the tepid water wash over my skin. Was it maybe reminiscent of the womb?

I had stopped by Landry Cemetery to visit my parents’ tomb – and the ones of my paternal grandparents and uncles and aunts. Father Verheem is buried there, far from his native Holland. I served Mass for him until I was 25 or so.

Is this the way it all ends? You lie in a lonely cemetery, deep in the woods, far from living people – is this the only proof that you ever existed?

So much has changed: The one store in Boston is no more; the three stores in Henry and the canning center are no more – and the school was destroyed by Katrina.

Our parish church, St. John the Evangelist, remains to this day – but now it is elevated against the threat of future floods.

Nothing is the same. It’s all changed. Somehow, part of me is gone – but then, there is more of me than there was before: I have my own family, and it has grown in leaps and bounds; I had my profession in the Catholic Press and I am writing still; now in Florida, my fellow parishioners at St. Mary Magdalen’s are also family to me.

No, I can’t go back home — and I don’t want to go back. It was good then. But it’s good now, even great.

I am home! Peg and I have become home to three more generations – for that is where home is, in the heart of family.

And now, in this Year of Faith, in this call to a renewal of faith, to a new energy in bringing the word of God to all peoples in the world, now, family takes on a new dimension. By nature we belong to the family of man. By grace, we belong to the family of God. Through the Cross of Christ and his resurrection, through the power of Pentecost and the call of a multitude of starving souls, we go into the world,

We go with the Cross of Christ as our banner, with his Word as our Light and the Spirit as our Force. We go into the world, with courage and vision — the courage of the Christ on the Cross and the vision of the Father who calls all peoples to himself.


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