Over Labor Day, I fulfilled a little dream of mine and brought my oldest child, Annie, to Rome with me. My grandfather’s first cousins, who I have always called “uncle” and “aunt”, are still alive, but are near 90 years old. With my own grandparents no longer alive, I have had this strong desire to make sure they get to meet at least one of my children before it is too late. This desire, plus the desire to show my almost 11-year old my favorite city in the world, allowed me to go ahead and get her a passport and a plane ticket. I outright dismissed my wife’s caution that it might be hard for a tweenager to totally appreciate Rome. This was Annie after all – brilliant, creative, apple-of-her-father’s-eye, first child. After two full days, including a trip to St. Peter’s Basilica, waving to the Pope, and touring the Colosseum, Annie’s biggest story to tell her Mom and siblings that night was that the window screens where we were staying could be lowered and raised with the push of a button. When my cousins came to pick us up so that we could visit my aunt and uncle in the mountains, Annie’s face dropped when she heard it would take 2 hours in the car to reach them. A three-hour lunch later, no English, and lots of squeezed cheeks, I was sure Annie would be trying to see if she could get an earlier flight home. As I tucked her in that night, I asked her what she thought of the adventure so far. “It was a long way to go to find out where we came from,” she said sleepily.
As I prepped for my class the next day, I reflected upon the “weight of the present” moment in the Church and how laborious it was feeling to me to try and lead. I shrank at the thought of how the failures of church officials could eviscerate so much progress and good ministry so quickly. I wondered how long it will take to regain our footing as a Church. “Dad,” Annie said as she appeared from her bedroom. “Thanks for taking me today to meet the family. It was a really long trip to see where we came from.” I nodded gratefully. “But I’m so glad we went because now I know how to find my way back.” With that, I had all the preparation I needed for tomorrow. Here is to remembering where we came from as we seek to build the Church God calls us to now.