When I was growing up, my friend Susie was the only person I knew who said a daily rosary. I knew lots of people who said the rosary of course, but no one else came from a family that said it every single day. Seven p.m. sharp. No matter what.
Many a summer evening, I would run across the street to meet up with Susie only to be invited by her dad to stay for the rosary and then we could head out to play. There was no big fanfare about it, no overlording or raised tones. It was just a given: this family says the rosary, you are free to join us.
This is the main thing I always remember about Susie’s dad, Uncle Pat (who is not technically my uncle at all, I should point out): he was constant. He did what he needed to do. He was unyielding and unwavering. He got the job done.
Along with a family devotion to the rosary, Uncle Pat was a strong believer in holy water. Every single time I ever spent the night with Susie, Uncle Pat would come lumbering through the house sprinkling holy water over every room, just a matter-of-fact part of the evening. I imagine it must have startled me the first few times, but I don’t remember now. It’s just how things were: this man knows the power of holy water.
Here is one last thing that always inspired me about Uncle Pat and Aunt Kathy, something I knew from when I was little but have come to appreciate more as I get older: they endured the ultimate heartache, the loss of a child, and it did not cost them their faith.
For as long as I have known them, Pat and Kathy have been sold out for Jesus. They have been faithful Catholics, not just observing the mandates of the faith but embracing the heart of the Gospel. They heard Jesus calling and said “here I am, Lord. Send me.”
When we got the news that Uncle Pat had died, Paul and I were on our third day in Rome. Paul had taken me to Italy for my birthday this year, and there we were, entrenched in our pilgrimage on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, when the call came. We were there with Uncle Pat’s son, Fr. Tim McKeown, praying the rosary in St. Peter’s Square the moment he died. It was heartbreaking and mystical and beautiful all at once.
Paul and I had spent the day touring some of the most breathtaking churches in the world, marveling at both the enormous scope of these works and their intricate details. Going into these ancient temples, these works of art, was overwhelming. All of this glory, made for God’s glory.
Like all the pilgrims who had wandered those buildings before us, we were filled with awe and wonder. The effort of these artists! These men of so long ago who poured their entire beings into this work! They brought honor to God by using the gifts he had given them. The Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of St. Mary Major, the sculptures and frescos and hand-carved creations that fill these churches — all for God and for his glory.
And on the heels of this, reflecting on the life of Uncle Pat, this humble man who loved the Lord. I was struck by how much his acts of love mirrored the beauty of everything we had just seen.
How can we, in our own small little life, bring such honor to the Lord? How can anything we do compare to these pieces of art that have lasted so many years, that continue to inspire and draw so many to Christ?
The answer is: we do what the Lord asks. We say yes to the task he puts before us. We use the gifts he has given us and we just do it.
The fruit of Uncle Pat’s life is evident in a million ways. His greatest works of art — his children — are a testament to the depth of his love for Jesus because they in turn have a love for Christ and his church. His simple yes to Jesus, day after day after day, is a beautiful gift to Jesus, the creator whom Uncle Pat so very clearly loved.
This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.