Today was just one of those days.
You know the kind: you are just sitting around trying to figure out how this is supposed to work, being a Catholic priest, a father to three great sons while worrying about my Mom, since this is Father’s Day and we just buried my Dad yesterday.
Exactly; that kind of day.
I had decided to join my brother to concelebrate Mass at his parish, Holy Cross, in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Two of my sons were able to join me for the 11:00 Mass, and a woman in the pew in front of them turned around, and asked, “Are you Father Grogan’s nephews?”
She no doubt thought that was a simple, straightforward question. Instead it sort of defined the uniqueness of what has become the new normal. “We are … and we aren’t” was my son’s reply, as he then explained that yes, they were nephews of one Father Grogan, and sons of the other.
So, follow along with the roster for a moment. There was a Bill and a Jim Grogan behind the altar, and there was a Bill and a Jim Grogan in the pews (OK, we recycle names a lot in our family, and one of the Bill Grogans actually goes by Will to help us keep it straight.) One Bill Grogan and one Jim Grogan were nephews; two Bill Grogans and two Jim Grogans were brothers, but only one Bill Grogan was an uncle. In all cases, Bill Grogan was the older brother … I think that was to try and keep this straight in everyones’ mind, even though one of those Bill Grogans goes by the name Will.
Both pairs of Bill and Jim Grogans who were together at Holy Cross had a brother, Tom Grogan, who was not there. One Tom Grogan was a brother to two of the Grogans who were there, and an uncle to the other two. The other Tom Grogan was a brother to two of the Grogans who were there, and a nephew to the other Tom Grogan who wasn’t there. All four of the Bill and Jim Grogans who were at Holy Cross prayed for William Grogan, who was both a father and grandfather to the Grogan men gathered here. And that William Grogan we prayed for was buried yesterday, surrounded by his sons, his daughters, his loving wife, sons- and daughters-in-law, his grandchildren, his great grandchildren, and many, many friends.
He was buried in a family plot at St. Denis Cemetery, next to his brothers, Jim and Tom. Those two, Jim and Tom, were uncles to the Jim and Bill who were priests today at Holy Cross, and were also “Fathers” since they were both priests, too. So we gathered in prayer to celebrate the amazing life of my Dad, Bill Grogan, who came to be laid to rest next to his brothers, Jim and Tom, and their sister Mary.
One of the Jim Grogan’s who was at Holy Cross today married a girl whose father was Thomas, and he had two brothers … Jimmy and Billy, and a sister, Mary.
On this Father’s day, I am most grateful to my Dad for all he taught me about being a father, and to my sons, who also taught me how to be a father. I thank God for my Mom, who also taught me what it means to be a parent, and so taught me a great deal about being a father. I count on the blessing of having known and loved my wife, Ellie, through more than half my life, and with whom we were blessed with three sons: Will, Jim and Tom Grogan.
I am also so very grateful to, and thank God for my three sisters, Maryanne, Pat, and Jean, both because I love you for all the example you set as faith-filled women, and because your names are not Bill, Jim and Tom.
Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads who read this, and “Thank you” to all the wives, sons and daughters who have made us fathers.
Happy Father’s Day to each of my brothers-in-law … only one of whom is named Jim.
(All of this is exactly true; no names were changed, as we just don't do that in our family. The part that is most true is my thankfulness for the love we share as a family, in good times and in bad, on holidays and on every days.)
Thanks for everything, Dad.