Photo: An altar’s story
posted at 6:44 pm on May 26, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
This is an amazing, and true, story of an altar in a small town and the value of a life well lived. I’m not going to offer any names, since I haven’t had a chance to ask those involved whether they want to be identified (see update), but in the end the names aren’t important — the story itself and the lessons are what is important. And the story is so beautiful that I hope they won’t mind me sharing it.
Many years ago, a young family came to a small Minnesota town to open a small business, as the husband had been stricken with polio at 22. The disease left the man with only the use of one arm and could no longer work the family farm, but he worked hard and his business prospered. When the local church needed an altar, the man partnered with a friend to build this beautiful altar, and soon after that, a confessional:
The young man became a pillar of this community, serving as its mayor for 20 years and raising a family. However, by the time his daughter was about to deliver her first child, the man suffered unforeseen complications from routine surgery and fell into a coma. After the baby was born, family members came to tell him that he had a grandson. Tears came from his eyes, and he passed away few hours later.
More than thirty years later, the baby born on that day has entered into the priesthood, and held his first Mass at the altar built by his grandfather, whom he never met but who has been with him in spirit all along. I was privileged to be there to celebrate with him, and to participate in some small way in the unfolding of this story.
Never doubt the value of a single life, and how all of us contribute in ways we may never understand even in our own lifetimes.
Update: Aha! I see the Catholic Spirit already published the story of my friend and newly-ordained Fr. Leonard Andrie:
When the little parish was in need of an altar, my grandfather, along with his friend, Jerry Frandrup, stepped forward and constructed it in the basement of my family’s home. When the parish needed a confessional, they built that as well.
Without question, my grandfather was greatly admired, as evidenced by the fact that he served as mayor of the little town for 20 years.
Unfortunately, just a few days before my birth, my grandfather suffered complications from a routine surgery, causing him to fall into a coma. As my mother went into labor, my father and other family members did their best to move back and forth between hospitals.
After I was born, my family went to see my grandfather, and upon telling him about his new grandson, a little tear came forth from one of his eyes. He died the next morning.
Somewhat akin to the opening of Charles Dickens’ novel, “A Tale of Two Cities,” for my family, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” In a matter of 24 hours, my mother suffered the loss of her father and was blessed with her first baby boy.
As I have made my way through seminary, like every seminarian I had my doubts and struggles about my vocation. During those times, I often pictured the smile on my grandfather’s face and kept in mind the beautiful altar that he built. I am told that he never complained, and displayed an infectious joy that was simply contagious.
Even more, I have thought about the beauty of God’s plan not just for me and my family, but for all of his children. My family certainly could not have imagined during those most trying times that one day, their little boy born the day before Leonard passed away would one day celebrate his first Mass on that altar.
And yet, it has been the Lord’s plan all along. Indeed, the Lord has a plan for each of us and it is really something. Our task is to welcome it in joy and ask for the graces needed to cooperate with it for the Lord’s glory and our own good.
I haven’t known Fr. Andrie for very long, and I didn’t want to presume to publish the story with names without explicitly getting permission first. We spent most of the day yesterday at his ordination, and I was privileged to take pictures of his Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Agatha’s in Coates. I hope readers will forgive my caution, and thanks to Unclesmrgol for linking the Catholic Spirit in the comments. (I’m also glad that I can congratulate Fr. Andrie by name in this post. He’s going to make a great priest.)