There are times when as we remember something or someone our hearts are filled with gratitude. Today is one of those days for these reasons.
Sixty eight years ago today a tremendous military force stormed the beaches of Normandy during a terrible struggle that encompassed the world. It was known as D-Day, and over 73,000 Americans along with countless other allies fought for a stronghold that would begin the overthrow of evil forces. My dad was one of those brave young men, many of whom lost their lives that day and many more still carried their wounds with them through life. For their sacrifice for the cause of freedom and peace, we remember this D-Day anniversary, and are grateful.
Today is the feast of Saint Norbert, who was a bishop, a scholar, a great preacher and evangelizer. It brings to my mind another Norbert that I knew - the late Bishop Norbert F. Gaughan of Gary, Indiana. Before going to Gary, Norbert Gaughan was our Auxiliary Bishop in Greensburg, before that the Vicar General, and in his early priesthood Assistant Pastor at my home parish of Saint Joseph in Uniontown during my early school days. Norbert was a bright man, a gifted preacher, an opinionated and outspoken man, a man who often ruffled feathers. Many of our priests have stories that revolve around him. For many years he would come to a small parish in Export, PA, to celebrate one Mass on a Sunday, have dinner, and then depart. This parish often had seminarians or transitional deacons assigned there, and Norbert would have them preach at his Mass. Often there were stories told of how, when the homily was done, he would proceed to tell the people what the deacon meant to or should have said, while the poor guy was still present with the congregation.
I too was stationed a summer in Export, and I too preached for Norbert. But I feel very grateful that he never interrupted or explained my homilies to the people. Not that I was that good. He had a respect and a regard for me that probably went back to his and my early days at Saint Joe's. He was a bit of an artist and a photographer, and after my ordination he presented me with a number of photos that he had taken. On this feast of Saint Norbert, the bishop, I remember with gratitude the bishop Norbert that I knew.
Today I attended the funeral of a parishioner from Saint John the Baptist in Scottdale that I have known for many years - Thomas Grabiak. I have been involved with his family over these years, and they had asked me to preach, which I was honored to do. He and his wife, June, were married for 64 years, and they have five children - a daughter, Kathy and four sons, Barry, Rick, Wayne and Randy. They are a musical family, with many of them in the church choir.
I mention this because the boys did a tribute/eulogy for their dad that was very different. They sang. Their dad loved to sing the old spirituals, the old religious hymns, and so the four of them joined voices to honor and remember their dad with great gratitude for the love and grace that he and their mom gave to them. It was beautiful and brought tears to the eyes. A fitting tribute. I was honored to be there.