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Goodbye For Now To A Catholic Hero

December 13, 2019 Frontpage No Comments

By JOSEPH MATT

My dad to me was always larger than life. For a lot of kids in my day, our dads were heroes — they could do no wrong. Well, my dad was my hero. Sure, he was at all my ballgames, major events, he could beat up your dad, he was smarter than your dad, just like any good dad, but there was something bigger about him. He always had a certain confidence about him that I learned to admire, especially as I grew older.

It was later in life that I soon realized it was the practice of the Catholic faith that gave him his aura of certainty and confidence. It was this gift from God, which he was determined to pass on to each one of his six children. That is the legacy he left his children, the Catholic faith. My father was certainly no saint and he would be the first to admit it but his frequent use of the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist — the exclusive gifts of the Catholic Faith — demonstrated to his children this was the center of his life. He did his best to instill in all his children that which truly mattered in life.

He could never do enough for his kids. His generosity had no bounds. Each of my siblings can testify to the many instances in their lives where dad’s generosity and care would come at a least expected time. This was certainly the case for myself, as it happened many more times than I want to admit.

Reflecting back on my rebelliousness and ignorance in the years of my youth, and probably beyond, when I thought I knew all the answers — there was my dad — disappointed, yes — but his patience and discipline and sound advice were always there.
“Pops,” as some of his grandchildren affectionately called him, had a big-hearted generosity that extended well beyond his children and twenty grandchildren. His love for children was reflected in his passionate defense of multiple pro-life causes. Another of the many stories that illustrated his love for children was the time he anonymously funded the education of two children in a broken family who lacked the resources to receive a private school education.
His love for his kids was only second to his passion for the Catholic Faith which he defended tirelessly on the pages of The Wanderer for over forty years. He was instrumental in guiding the now 152-year-old family newspaper through the turbulent times of Humanae Vitae, the Second Vatican Council, liturgical abuses, the legalization of abortion, liturgical translations, and many of the scandals long before they became public knowledge.

My father was never one to hide from principle or truth. Nor was he one to shy away from a challenge. I am reminded of the story of when in high school, he was the only classmate among his peers who had the “guts” to step into the ring with the champ — the top heavyweight boxer in his high school at the time. After the quick punch that knocked my dad to the floor, he soon realized standing on principle did not guarantee victory.

He always had an affection for the underdog, especially one principled in the truth. I have fond memories of meeting Pat Buchanan with my dad in his presidential bid in the 1990s as dad supported a fellow Catholic principled in the same truths.

His steadfast insistence in the pages of The Wanderer upon the obedience to the Magisterium at the time of the Second Vatican Council became so divisive as to cause a dramatic loss in readership and ultimately a split in the family over the direction of the newspaper. During the outbreak of the Iraq War, The Wanderer took another controversial stand in opposing the war, which also caused a loss in readership. It was always principle and truth that won out the day.

In the last ten years of my father’s life, the ravages of dementia slowly began to destroy the once brilliant mind that always had the answers and always provided so much common sense. It was then that I started to appreciate those late-night conversations that disappeared, the daily dialogue about politics and religion — for it was in those late-night conversations many decades ago that my dad helped form me in the Catholic faith.

In the final days my dad was a shell of what he once was mentally and physically, but I still saw that kind, gentle man of faith — the man I called dad, a father, a friend, and a coworker. Dad, your legacy is more than a memory. You showed us how to fight the good fight. I say goodbye for now and, Yes, dad, you will always be my hero.

The two Marian feasts which bookend his birthday and the day of his death seem so fitting for a man who was devoted to his faith. God called him from this Earth on Sunday, December 8 on the actual Feast of the Immaculate Conception — and he was born on the Feast of the Assumption.

Our family owes a debt of gratitude to the pastor at St. Agnes, Fr. Mark Moriarty, who provided invaluable service to our father and our family. In the early hours of the morning, he rushed to the hospital and administered the Last Rites and an apostolic blessing — dad could not have written the script any better than that. And a special thanks to St. Joseph who, I believe, secured for my dad a happy death.

I can only imagine how wonderful it must be to witness that moment, after you take your last breath, if you hear the greeting from our Creator that we all long to hear: Well done, my good and faithful servant!
Anima eius requiescat in pace.

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