Green Room

Photo: An altar’s story

posted at 6:44 pm on May 26, 2013 by

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:

altar-large

 

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.)

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Comments

Beautiful story, Ed. Thanks.

Midas on May 26, 2013 at 7:32 PM

Oh, Ed, what a beautiful story and a beautiful alter. Congratulations to this young man at the start of his service to God.

Cindy Munford on May 26, 2013 at 7:33 PM

The value of a life well lived. Thank you, Ed.

unclesmrgol on May 26, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Ed,

http://thecatholicspirit.com/special-sections/ordinations/grandfathers-handiwork-is-at-the-heart-of-it-all/

There is an interesting story involving your Mass of Thanksgiving after ordination and your grandfather. Talk about that.
Every seminarian looks forward to the day of his ordination and his first Mass of Thanksgiving. They look with fondness to the day when they are able to approach the altar for the very first time.

As expected, I, too, look forward to this moment. In particular, I look forward to this time because the altar that I will approach was built by my grandfather, Leonard Werner.

At the age of 22, he was struck with polio, which confined him to a wheelchair and paralyzed his left arm. Only two years into his marriage with my grandmother, this greatly altered their plans of working and raising a family on the Werner farm.

Consequently, he and my grandmother moved to the little town of Coates, where they began an accounting business. They lived and raised their three children next door to St. Agatha’s parish.

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.

unclesmrgol on May 26, 2013 at 7:45 PM

What an absolutely beautiful story, Ed. Thanks.

PatriotGal2257 on May 26, 2013 at 7:46 PM

unclesmrgol on May 26, 2013 at 7:45 PM

Excellent! I’ve added the link and the excerpt to the post. Glad that Catholic Spirit had already covered this.

Ed Morrissey on May 26, 2013 at 8:00 PM

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.”

Romans 8:28.

Wethal on May 26, 2013 at 8:02 PM

What an inspiring post, and an even more beautiful story. Thanks very much, Ed.

inviolet on May 26, 2013 at 8:49 PM

What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this, Ed. All the best to, and a prayer for, Father Leonard in his vocation.

Blaise on May 26, 2013 at 9:47 PM

Thanks for posting and for keeping the Lord front and center. Great work on that altar. As a carpenter myself I’ve done my share of work for loved one’s and the parish. There’s a meditative peace that accompanies doing a project in the Lord’s name. Plus the bond knowing he loved the craft himself.

I’ll put Fr. Leonard on the KOC prayer list at the next meeting. We’re always praying for our priests.

Thanks again and my regards to the First Mate.

rcl on May 26, 2013 at 11:35 PM

…thank you Ed!

KOOLAID2 on May 27, 2013 at 11:34 AM

Thanks Ed

Zorro on May 27, 2013 at 5:11 PM

I should read more of these stories on Hot Air.

Little dusty in here.

smoothsailing on May 29, 2013 at 7:23 AM