One Big HappyPosted: August 22, 2009
Big families are…interesting. I don’t come from one — my mother was an only child and my father had one sister. And growing up it was just me and my brother. Bryna, on the other hand, comes from a HUGE family of Polish descent. Bryna’s mother is the oldest of 12 Gwozdz siblings reared in Western Massachusetts (there’s a reason Rosalie had just two children — she spent her whole childhood raising the other 11!). So much for eight being enough.
A few weeks after we were married in 1995, one of Bryna’s uncles died suddenly. He was the first and, to date, the only sibling to leave this mortal life. The wake and subsequent funeral was baptism by fire for this newly minted in-law. As we drove up to Adams, MA, Bryna tutored me relentlessly on the names. I’ve had the 12 down for awhile. It’s the (now) 26 grandchildren and 36 great-grandchildren that keep me guessing.
Bryna’s grandmother died a week ago at 94. Babcia, as I knew her — polish for “grandmother” — was the quintessential matriarch. She relished, above all, her family and her faith. She was a devout Roman Catholic, a regular attendee of mass at the now de-consecrated St. Stanislaus. But she also took great delight in telling her church friends that her granddaughter Bryna had “married a priest.” I can only imagine the looks!
I was touched when the family asked me to deliver the homily at her funeral, which I did last Wednesday. The mass was held in the other RC church in Adams — the one that didn’t get closed. Father Dan was wonderfully collegial though, of course, I couldn’t receive communion. Which made me wonder when it was that the church transformed into a bunch of legal-minded Pharisees? I don’t mean this to sound as harsh as it might but nonetheless I can’t recall Jesus ever refusing table hospitality to another person no matter how “different.” Father Dan did come over and offer me his blessing and then asked for mine in return which was a wonderfully gracious gesture.
But I can’t recall ever wanting to receive communion so badly. Perhaps it was the forbidden fruit phenomenon but I also wanted to receive in the context of celebrating Christ’s resurrection while marking the life of an amazing and faithful woman.
I did delight, however, watching my boys go up and receive communion. Not just because it was sticking it to the man (which it sort of was) but because they were able to commune with Jesus on an important and meaningful day for them. The best part? Zack receiving the host in his hand and then wandering around looking for the non-existent chalice bearer to get the wine. Communion in one kind, baby.