by Father Mark Goldasich
I bought a new coffee cup for Christmas. Every time I use it, I chuckle because it reminds me of my family . . . and my heritage.
When I was in graduate school in Rome, we priests took turns celebrating Mass, in Italian, for the Polish nuns who staffed the kitchen at our residence. After saying Mass the first time, I realized that I’d forgotten to introduce myself. As I greeted the nuns leaving Mass, I mentioned my name.
“Oh, we all know who you are,” said one of them. “We can hear your laugh echoing all through the courtyard!” Really?!
Fast forward a few years and it’s time for the annual turkey dinner at Sacred Heart Parish in Tonganoxie. It was a warm October day, and the windows were open at the rectory next to the church. About an hour into the dinner in the church basement, a woman approached me and said, “Father, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think that someone is fighting in your house! We can hear shouting from inside!”
I’m sure I blushed as I explained, “Don’t worry. It’s OK. That’s just my uncles playing cards at my dining room table.”
Fast forward again a few more years, and picture me heading into the ER at Providence Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. My mom had fallen and hit her head at the assisted living center and was now at the hospital to be checked out.
As I entered the room where Mom was, I expected to see her moaning in pain with her eyes closed. Instead, she’s sitting up in the bed, bright-eyed and smiling. A couple of minutes later, she bursts out singing, “Oj, Marička pegla,” a lively Croatian polka song.
I was so embarrassed that I hissed, “Mom! Stop singing! We’re in the emergency room! People can hear you!” She stopped and pulled an invisible zipper across her lips. That lasted all of 30 seconds until she belted out the second verse of the song.
When a nurse came into the room, I was mortified. The nurse just smiled and said, “You know, I’ve never seen someone so happy in the ER!”
OK, let me get back to that coffee cup that I spoke of. It has the Croatian flag on it, along with the words, in all caps: I’M NOT YELLING, I’M CROATIAN. Since this wasn’t a personalized mug, I’ve got to believe that my family is not the only Croatian clan that is LOUD.
In fact, if you were lucky enough to be at my home parish of St. John the Baptist on Strawberry Hill when the Croatian national team was playing in the World Cup, you’d have seen (and especially heard) what I mean. Put a few Croatians in a room and we’d give the boisterous crowd at Arrowhead Stadium a run for their money!
The lyrics from “Come from the Heart,” by Susanna Clark and Richard Leigh hit home for me: “You’ve got to sing like you don’t need the money/ Love like you’ll never get hurt/ You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watchin’/ It’s gotta come from the heart if you want it to work.”
In this month of February when we’re reminded of what makes life so sweet, go ahead and sing, dance, love and laugh . . . just let it come from your heart.
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