Spring is one of my favorite seasons. I enjoy all the Spring flowers from the earliest crocuses to all the wildflowers, like dandelions that the flower snobs call weeds. They always make me think of little soldiers with fuzzy helmets reflecting Our Lady “dressed in battle array.” This Spring I decided to try making dandelion wine. I’ve thought of it for years whenever I see our abundant free crop that has never been treated with pesticides, at least during our tenure. I’ll let you know next year when we crack the first bottle whether the experiment was a success.
But what I like best about Spring is the liturgy. Lent and Easter are my favorite “seasons” in the liturgical calendar along with the “crop” of Sacraments that arrives with it. This year, among our 23 grandchildren we had three First Confessions and Communions and two Confirmations. We didn’t make all of them but were able to attend three including both Confirmations.
One of the challenges of sacraments is what to give the recipients, especially my grandson Alex, whose mom said she had dibs on the Confirmation saint statue (St. Joseph). I finally came up with an idea, an old license plate from my dad’s car with his ham radio call numbers on it, along with a letter about his great grandfather. Here’s a slightly edited version:
Dear Alex, Today you receive the sacrament of Confirmation which makes you a warrior for Christ and a defender of His bride, Holy Mother Church….I thought this would be a good time to share about your great grandfather, my dad, who was a warrior for his country, but also a warrior for his family.Daddy graduated from the Naval Academy in 1940, the last class to finish a full four years until after WW II. On September 3, 1941 he married my mom who flew out to San Diego from Cleveland. Mom went to the chancery to arrange the bans (They used to publish weddings for several weeks before marriage.) and met Bishop Charles Buddy who offered to witness their wedding in his private chapel and have a wedding breakfast at his residence afterwards. They remained friends and when my grandfather (Thomas Edward Croke) died, Mom sent the bishop his extensive library….
Shortly after, Daddy shipped out of San Diego to Pearl Harbor on the Detroit, a light cruiser. Mom followed and go an apartment on Oahu where she prayed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the senior officer’s wives came and got her so she wouldn’t be alone. For two days she didn’t know whether Daddy was dead or alive. Can you imagine the fear? And the joy when he showed up?
Mom was evacuated from Hawaii and the Detroit was one of the escort ships taking the American civilians back to mainland California. My mom was pregnant with my oldest brother, your great uncle Ray.
But Daddy wasn’t just a warrior for his country. He was also a warrior and defender of his family. When Daddy proposed to my mom he told her he couldn’t marry her unless she agreed with the Church’s teaching on marriage. He gave her a copy of the papal encyclical Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage)... Happily, Mom was also a serious Catholic and you know the rest of the story! I remember growing up with all ten of us dressed in “Sunday best” and out the door to be on time for Mass. We were never late! And we never missed Mass. Daddy was always there corralling the troops, frequently in his uniform. As the family grew there was almost always a
baby in tow. There were Baptisms, First Communions, and Confirmations galore. Every Sunday after Mass we went to the bakery for “kuchen”…. Powdered jelly doughnuts still make me think of Sundays growing up.
Daddy’s dad, Raymond Michael Schneider, your great-great grandfather, was an organist at St. James parish in Lakewood, OH. He taught his own children piano and Daddy used to play the organ at the Academy when he was a midshipman. Later, after he retired from the Navy, he played the organ at St. Augustine’s in Elkridge, MD. The faith was important to both him and my mom, your great grandparents. Because of that faith, and the way my parents passed it on, you are blessed to have the faith today. I hope you always cherish and protect it.
We hope and pray that Jesus will always be at the center of your life and that you will be a warrior for the faith bringing as many people as you can to the truth and to life in Christ. We pray that you will also always listen and follow the voice of the Holy Spirit, especially with regard to your future vocation in life. The license plate has my dad’s call numbers on it…I hope you keep it and attach this letter to the back so you always remember where you came from and listen for that radio signal from God.