I credit my conversion and love of Scripture to my paternal grandmother whose heart belonged to the Mystical Rose of heaven. Today, on the Feast of All Souls, I will be remembering her and all those who have gone before me and continue to cheer me on to the finish line. I would like to honor three of them this afternoon.
My grandmother, Margaret Alfong Silva, was raised Buddhist in Honolulu Hawai’i. At age thirteen, she was walking past St. Therese’s church when she heard singing and went into the Church to investigate. As the story goes, the priest shared the gospel and she soon converted. Through her example, the majority of her family converted to Catholicism within a year or two. I have no memory of her without a Bible in one hand and a Rosary in the other. Even when she slept, the Holy Writ was pressed close to her heart. She is the one who taught me to pray the Rosary and to devote myself to the suffrage of the dead. Every Sunday we went to the cemetery where my grandfather, Manuel Marques Silva, was buried to pray and provide new flowers. I think her devotion in remembering the dead is deeply rooted in the Asian culture which was sanctified when she became Catholic.
Another individual I will remember today is Christy Ann Chronowski. In high school, she, and her two sisters Franny and Caroline, made me part of their family. I am not clear how it happened but suddenly I was part of their family and shared in all the benefits of having more siblings and a holy set of adopted parents. Christy and I went to high school and then college together. She was one of those rare souls that from an early age was on the fast-track to sanctity. In 1990, I remember sitting in her living room listening to and praying with her as she offered herself completely to the Lord for His glory – body and soul. Later that year she was diagnosed with cancer. Still, nothing deterred her from her love and faithfulness to Christ and His bride the Church. One day, when I called to check on her, she shared that she didn’t realize how vain she was until her hair was shaved off and then subsequently fell out due to her treatments. Even as she lay dying, she ministered to numerous priests and laity alike. Unfortunately, she succumbed to cancer in 1993. Christy taught me to unfailingly oppose compromise in this life. Truth is essential. She taught me that charity does not exclude truth but only exists in its presence. Most of all, I experienced a love of an older sister who had no problem putting me in my place when needed it – thanks Christy. I continue to ask my sister in heaven to intercede for me and I hope to join her one day. I figure she will have a better view of our Lord but frankly, I will be happy to be there.
Msgr. James McMutrie, priest of the Diocese of Arlington, may he rest in peace, was an Irishman that you either loved or loved to hate. There was no in-between. He has played a center role in my life and I pray that he continues to do so until the Lord calls me home. On October 20, 1983, I was diagnosed with Epilepsy. At the time, I was having more than 10 grand mal seizures a night. Due to the physical abuse I was taking in the halls from my peers and the fact that several of my instructors did not want a “freak” in their class, he moved me from Lake Braddock to Holy Spirit (which we couldn’t afford0 in eighth grade. Since we had no way of paying at the time the Principle told us to take a walk. He he sat down with her and assisted her in discerning her career options and became the benefactor for me. Needless to say, I was in class the next morning. Due to my medication regiment, have few memories of 1983/1984. However, I unfortunately do remember one evening when the medication-induced hallucinations became so bad that I saw the floor in my room disappear. In its place were flames and faces on my bedroom walls shouting obscenities at me. My father rescued me from that terror and I earn a stay at Georgetown. As you might expect, I refused to enter my room from that point forward. After six months, Monsignor came to the house and sent everyone away except the two of us. He prayed that the devil would be gone from that room and then blessed the walls and floor with holy water. After about an hour of coaxing, I entered my room again to stay. A month later he took me to a Mass and healing service celebrated by Fr. Ralph DiOrio. From that day forward, I stopped taking my medication cold-turkey and never had another seizure. Monsignor made sure that I went to Paul VI at which time, during my Sophemore year, I met the instructor who evangelize me and the rest is history. He had such an influence on me that my wife and I made him Nicholas’ godfather. As he was my oldest son’s godfather in life so too does he intercede for him in death.
There are many more beloved souls that have continued to assist me in my family’s pursuit of holiness. How about you? Who are the souls that have gone before you and assisted you in your pilgrimage to the Eternal City? We would love to hear about them here at the Q Continuum. Until then,
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of the faithfully departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen!