by Father Mark Goldasich
Happy pink candle Sunday!
This Third Sunday of Advent is traditionally known as Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday, from its entrance antiphon: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near (Phil 4:4-5).
You ain’t a-kiddin’! The Lord is very near this year, just a week away.
I’ve been rejoicing, though, since the Saturday after Thanksgiving when my mom’s side of the family had an unusual gathering. My cousin Frank (and his wife Judy) hosted a “cousins’ brunch” at their home. Despite the fact that many of my cousins live in Kansas City, we don’t see each other that often. It also gave my cousin Therese, in town from California, a chance to see the family. Although not all of the cousins were able to come, many were.
I was the last to arrive. I went around the room greeting everyone, cousins and non-cousins alike. (Hey, we couldn’t leave out spouses and friends of cousins.) Finally, I was introduced to the only person that I didn’t recognize: a man behind the bar. Frank said that the man, in a ball cap and sunglasses, was his neighbor Bob, who was acting as bartender for the day.
As I shook Bob’s hand, Frank told him to behave, as I was a Catholic priest. Bob laughed and said he would since he was out on parole. Frank then asked me to help Bob take care of the drinks. I was happy to do so, as Bob seemed like a jolly guy.
Because a couple of cousins wanted a beer, I stuck my head into the refrigerator to see what the selection was. At that point, Bob said, “Have any WOS beer?”
That stopped me. WOS (beer) is an acronym unique to my family. WOS stands for “Whatever’s On Sale.” I thought it odd that Bob knew that, but figured he’d just heard the term from Frank.
With my head still in the refrigerator, Bob said, “So, you’ve got some other cousins, too? Out of town ones? Like Nick in Florida?” I turned around to agree with him and — holy cow! — Bob was not Bob at all.
Without the ball cap and sunglasses, he was actually my cousin Nick, all the way from Florida, whom I hadn’t seen in about 15 years! I’m sure the shock on my face was memorable. I had no idea Nick was going to be in town.
Of course, my other cousins thought it was hilarious that I didn’t recognize him — even though they didn’t either when they’d arrived. It was one of the most pleasant surprises that I’d had in ages.
I spent the rest of the time reveling in the beauty of a family sharing time together. Naturally, the brunch was delicious and filling. But what was most satisfying was just all of us sitting around a huge table, swapping stories of our childhoods.
It was a very loud gathering — we’re Croatians, after all — as voices were raised not in anger, but in raucous laughter. We passed old photographs around and recalled memories of our aunts and uncles — almost all of whom have now passed away.
I confess I even got a bit misty-eyed looking around the table, humbled to be so blessed in being related to this special group of people.
Since the holidays inevitably bring us all a plethora of family gatherings — some more exhausting than others — keep this prayer of Pope Francis handy as a reminder of what families could, and should, be:
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph, in you we contemplate the splendor of true love, to you we turn with trust.
Holy Family of Nazareth, grant that our families too may be places of communion and prayer, authentic schools of the Gospel and small domestic churches.
Holy Family of Nazareth, may families never again experience violence, rejection and division. May all who have been hurt or scandalized find ready comfort and healing.
Holy Family of Nazareth, make us once more mindful of the sacredness and inviolability of the family and its beauty in God’s plan.
Jesus, Mary and Joseph, graciously hear our prayer.”
On a side note, I had lunch with my cousin Nick the day after the brunch. And I’ll have you know that this time, I recognized him right off the bat!