It is always good to spend time relaxing with them and catching up with what God is doing in our lives. This past Sunday, there seemed to be more than the usual number of visitors to our churches! Many seemed to be gathered for family reunions others just in the area to spent time in the beauty of the lakesides. I had the opportunity to meet with some old friends of mine on Sunday. My close friends, the Jennings family, were having a family gathering at Robert Treman Park in Ithaca. I first met Jane and Mike Jennings at a Charismatic Prayer Meeting in the Rochester area. At the time they were the parents of seven children with one on the way. I was impressed by their strong faith and their willingness to share and live their faith with others. Their example and the example of other families in that prayer group helped me to more clearly discern God’s plan for my life and to begin hearing the call to priesthood.
I remember attending the baptism of their eighth child, Timothy. The baptism was celebrated during Mass, and after Timothy was baptized his mother, Jane, laid the baby on the altar and offered the gift of her son back to the Lord. It was a powerful moving moment for me. It made me reflect on the fact that we are all children of God who have been given grace, favor and life out of God’s love for us. Jane’s gesture of offering Timothy to the Lord made me realize that in the offertory of the Mass we are all called to offer ourselves to the Lord. From that time on I had a new understanding of the offertory at Mass, I realized that we are called to not just offer the gifts of bread and wine and our financial support, but we are called to offer the gift of our very selves back to the Lord.
As I began doing that when I attended Mass it became clearer to me the plan God had in mind for my life journey. As I entered the seminary the Jennings family became a second family to me. I would stop by their house whenever I had a free time from my studies. Seminary life is so different from family life; it is far different than the normal life experience of parishioners. I found that my visits with the Jennings kept me grounded in reality. I mention this to help families to realize what a blessing and help you can be to young single people in our parishes who are trying to find their path in life. Your example, friendship and support might be just what they need to help them discern God’s plan for their future.
The boy who was offered to the Lord by his mother at his baptism was Timothy. Six years ago I was honored to celebrate his wedding Mass in Colorado as Timothy married Theresa, a beautiful woman who God had specially marked out for him. Tim and Theresa are currently expecting later this month the birth of their second child. Tim was the eighth Jennings child for whom I had the honor of witnessing their marriage. That only leaves John Paul, the ninth child and seventh son in the Jennings family who is my Godson. We will have to see what God has in plan for him!