“Your mother,” he told me slowly, almost in a whisper, “came to New York as a fashion model, but she ended up marrying a professor and having six children.” They met on a subway platform: among all the rushing Manhattanites, Mom asked Dad for directions because he held a few books under his arm (he was on his way to Columbia University for class). Dad was enchanted by the damsel in distress and got her on the right train for the modeling studio, but not before he got her phone number. Six children later, Mom was in no shape to resume her modelling career, but she was a happy woman.
Dad left New York in 1944 for basic training in Fort Riley, Kansas, and from there through San Francisco to Manila. I often ride my bike past the “embarkation building” at Fort Mason where Dad spent a night before steaming under the Golden Gate Bridge for the Pacific Theatre. “We spent three months in troop ships, going very slowly in convoy on watch for Japanese submarines,” he whispered. “I slept under a row of depth charges.” A depth charge is a 60-gallon drum packed with TNT to sink attacking submarines, but one wonders how peacefully a soldier sleeps under a few thousand pounds of high explosives.
Both Mom and Dad, like most of their generation, reacted to the twists and turns of their lives with aplomb. Mom gave up her modeling career when motherhood called, and Dad offered his very life for the liberation of Manila when the US Army called.
Last Thursday we commemorated Our Lord’s Ascension, and in seven days we will commemorate Pentecost. The nine days between Ascension and Pentecost is the Church’s greatest novena, commanded by the Lord himself to his apostles: “stay in the city and pray for the Father’s promised gift.” We pray for this fundamental grace, to receive the Holy Spirit day by day, and so receive the mysterious twists and turns of God’s will with aplomb. The Lord Jesus did not ascend into heaven to abandon us, but to take us with him. Where the Head has gone, the Members must follow, because we are One Body in Christ. Our souls are already with Him, in heaven, and yet we are to “stay in the city,” to live our lives on earth in expectation of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Ascension triggers Pentecost, for only if Christ returns to his Father can we “be clothed with power from on high” at Pentecost. We received the Holy Spirit in baptism, and we receive the Holy Spirit at every Holy Communion.
Dad returned from the War in one piece and got his doctorate at Columbia University. The “Frankfurt School” of Marxists from Germany had already taken over the School of Education at Columbia, fascinating my father with Marxism’s doctrines. For many years he was an angry communist, but for the last ten years he has been mellowing. Marxism is ideology, not reality, because we can’t trust ourselves to create a perfect world, or even a just world. Marxism applies justice without mercy, and so it fails every time. “Trust no love that is not truthful,” the philosopher Edith Stein wrote, “but trust no truth that is not given with love.” My father is preparing for death, which is a truth no man can deny. He is learning, and teaching us, to hope for love beyond the grave, a Person that is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. “I go to prepare a place for you,” the Lord told his disciples at the end of his earthly life. And I will send you another Advocate, who will lead you to the place I have prepared for you. Come, O Holy Spirit!