by Fr. Matthias
Our knees make a thud as they hit the carpet floor, fingers sliding on the imaginary strings of our air guitars. Our young voices strain to the Boston classic: “All I want is to have my peace of mii-iiind!!” When the song ends, I shoot a glance at my best buddy in the third grade, Zeke. “I wonder what that means.”
He presses the power button on the CD player. “Beats me. But I sure do like the way it sounds. C’mon, lets go play football in the front yard.”
Though he had to move a few years later, Zeke and I remained close friends throughout our childhood and to this day. A few years ago, I even had the privilege of becoming his son’s godfather (that’s us in the picture the day before his baptism). In doing so, Zeke was choosing me to be a model of faith and fatherhood, of meekness and manliness. I only hope that I can show him these things. I only hope that I can show his son the sacrificial love that Zeke’s dad, Mark, showed to me.
We were at the ball fields in July, the air unusually muggy as dark clouds gathered overhead in the evening sky. I saw a few dads, including my own, discussing whether they thought we should risk playing with the possibility of lightning. Ultimately, they decided that it was not a real threat and we began the game.
The night and the game wouldn’t last long for me, however, as in the third inning or so I began to feel unusually sick.
As I made my way from the dugout to the restroom, I began to vomit uncontrollably and repeatedly until I found myself so weak that I lay on the pavement, convulsing and dry heaving in the sight of all. I felt so alone and embarrassed, and to make matters worse, I also lost all continence of my bowels. I am not sure how long I was there, but of course my dad and mom were informed and got to me as quickly as they could. Mark was watching Zeke on another field, and as soon as he heard the news, also rushed to my aid.
In their concern, mom and dad wanted to get me to a doctor, or at least get me home. I tried to get up and walk, but was too weak to move, and was still struggling with my stomach and otherwise. Without hesitation, Mark stepped in, and in all of my filthy shame, bent down and picked me up. “I got you, little buddy. Let’s get you home.” His brawny arms carried my dead weight the length of a couple football fields and set me in mom and dad’s suburban. “Be at peace, man. You will be ok.”
My knees now rest on the floor of the church in the evening twilight in early summer. The air conditioner hums softly in the distance. I can feel its cool air on the back of my neck.
I look up at the crucifix and remember that day in July as I pray for Mark. Zeke had let me know that his dad had—after a long fight—finally succumbed to the cancer. Lord, reach down and pick him up. In my minds eye, I see air guitars and smile. May he enjoy peace of mind and heart. Amen.Those Catholic Men.