By Barb Arland-Fye
It was Saturday afternoon and my husband, Steve, and I had the house to ourselves. He was working on household projects and I was preparing to do some editing when he asked, “What time does Mass start at Holy Family?”
We would be attending Holy Family Church in Davenport later that afternoon because our younger son, Patrick, was participating in a confirmation retreat there for junior high school students from Holy Family and Our Lady of River Parish in LeClaire.
“Four-thirty,” I said, but went to the bulletin board in the kitchen to double-check.
Skimming the retreat instructions, I stopped on a line I hadn’t remembered reading before: “Please write a letter of encouragement to your child …”
I called out to my husband, “Steve, we forgot to write a letter of encouragement for Patrick!”
The retreat was already well underway; Steve felt bad, but thought it was too late to do anything about it. Not me, who had been praying for a good retreat experience for all teenagers and adults involved. In my mind’s eye, I saw every other teenager but Patrick having an affirming letter to read from parents or other loved ones. The feeling of disappointment was palpable.
I convinced Steve to sit down beside me at the computer and compose a letter that I would hand-deliver to Holy Family, God willing, before Patrick and the other retreat-goers were to open their letters.
Our letter was a collaborative effort; Steve agreed with everything I suggested we write, and we used his Bible to cite one of my favorite Scriptures:
“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
I slipped the letter into an envelope and left for Holy Family, a 30-minute drive from our house.
In the kitchen of the church building, I found Religious Education Coordinator Roberta Pegorick and Youth Minister Annie Shortridge preparing snacks and notes for the junior high students who were listening intently to a speaker in the adjoining hall.
The letter was not too late!
A couple of hours later, I joined Steve and our older son, Colin, at the church for the 4:30 p.m. Mass.
Father Marty Goetz, the diocese’s vocation director, presided and offered an inspiring message in his homily about vocations.
Parents were asked to come to the front of the church to bless their children on the forehead, ears, lips, hearts and hands. It was a touching moment, all the more so because God had already delivered a special message on our behalf.