Little did I know as a kid the gift of the impact of my faith-filled farming parents. I suspect like many of us it is easy to take things for granted or to not really see the full value of something until many years later in life. As I grow older, it seems I grow ever more grateful for the faith and farming background of my parents, and how their witness has left a lasting and crucially important impact upon me.
My mother’s parents were not able to financially provide for busing for my mom to go to a Catholic high school, but a Catholic education was so very important to them. So my mother lived with a family in town during her high school years and helped the family with household tasks and worked in their business to enable her to attend Bethlehem Academy Catholic High School in Faribault.
My dad’s sisters were also blessed to be able to go to that same high school, but Dad (since he was the second oldest) was needed back on the farm due to my grandfather’s health. Because of that family duty, he went through only eighth grade of country school. However, it was incredibly important for both of my parents that passing on our Catholic faith be their top priority for us five boys, and so my brothers and I were able to attend Catholic grade schools, junior high and high school in Faribault. This required that we not take vacations when we were really young as my parents couldn’t afford it, and we needed to tend to the farming duties.
Faith was number one, not just when we went to school but at home. Each night when we were young, Mom and/or Dad would kneel beside one of our beds, and we would pray together: “God bless Mom, Dad, grandpas, grandmas, Dave, Joe, Pete, Don and Pat,” and then finish with the Hail Mary, Our Father, Glory Be and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.
When we would travel to take pigs or cows to market, Dad would pull out his “army rosary,” which was a string rosary, and we would pray the rosary on the way to the market place and sometimes on the return as well.
I never remember a time when we missed going to Sunday Mass. It was not an option unless we were really sick. Faith was daily lived, and it was the daily-lived faith of my mom and dad that helped us five boys understand faith is a daily way of life, not something to merely check off the list. I thank God today that the daily life of faith was so strong in my family’s lifestyle that it set me up for a daily faith life.
With parents as the first teachers of the faith and living on a farm where faith was so tangible, whether earnestly praying for rain, protection from severe storms or in gratitude for rain, the sun to get the hay up and other things, I thank God for the simple, humble lifestyle of our Catholic farm life which was a daily reality and brought me so much joy, peace and desire for godly things in my life.
When I think of the Beatitude of our Lord, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3), I think of the life and witness of my parents, and I praise God for them.
With these blessings, I humbly ask and pray that God will bless each of the families in our diocese with the desire and striving for a daily Catholic faith life so all of us can be healthy, happy and holy as beloved adopted sons and daughters. May we help each other to live the fullness of our capacity each day by intentionally and dynamically living our Catholic faith as I witnessed in the humble but fervent witness of my parents so we all can be fervent in our faith, sharing it with each other, especially kids, youth, young adults and young families.