I cannot remember a time when my father ever put his needs ahead of his family's. He works extremely hard at a thankless job, he is always there to help one of his children with a word or a screwdriver and hammer, he never misses Mass and he goes to Eucharistic Adoration every week. He does all of this without a word of complaint (at least not to his children) and, should you ever ask him about any of this, he would much rather listen to something you have done than talk about his own sacrifice and hard work.
He has always epitomized for me the Christian model that Jesus gives us in the beginning of Matthew 6: "But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you" (vv. 3-4) and "But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you." (v. 6)
Today, my father, Jim Hyde, left on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the ancient pilgrimage across Spain to the site of the tomb of St. James, his patron saint. A pilgrimage is one of the great ironies of the Christian life. We go on pilgrimage because we love God and want to grow in our love for Him, yet, though we may go alone, the sacrifice, the prayer, and the journey unite us more closely for those whom we love and offer our journey. Much like the monk whose silent prayers before God work miracles in the lives of his diocese, the pilgrims journey unites all of those praying with and for him closer to each other and to God.
In one way, after nearly 58 years of life, 32 years of marriage, and putting six children through 12 years of Catholic grade school and high school as well as four years of college, my father would have every right to do something for himself. Yet, as my father taught me in his always simple way, he does this as much for us as he does it for himself. He will walk along the Camino for the next month in spiritual unity with my family; a closeness and unity that, in so many ways, is of more value than physical proximity.
Such is the spiritual life and union with Christ. As we unite our mind and our hearts more intimately with the Triune God, we cannot help but become more united with our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Our Lord teaches us in John 15:5 -- I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. -- our union with Jesus is the source our flourishing. The deeper we sink our roots and our well-being into the Godhead, the more His gifts -- the virtues of faith, hope, and charity -- command our lives and spirate out into the world.
We need not go on our pilgrimage to Santiago, but we can begin our pilgrimage right here and now back to the Source of our being and happiness by using our lives to give glory to God and the building up of His Kingdom.
I'm sure, as well, that my father would love your prayers and know that he will be praying for you.