Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Best Christmas Gift - He Said 'YES'

Every Christmas, I love to reflect on Mary's 'yes'.  I find it overwhelming that she had such a simple faith that it didn't take convincing for her to follow God and carry Christ.  I often wonder if I could have the same faith.

This Christmas I recieved a gift that was so magnificent that I couldn't wait to share.  (No, I'm not pregnant!)  Last Christmas Eve, my brother, Fr. E, was ordained a Catholic Priest in Rome, Italy.  He had studied for 11 1/2 years to prepare for this day.  He was finally reaching his 'wedding day'. 

Fr. E is the second oldest of my three older brothers.  He is 7 years older than me.  As much as I enjoyed having three older brothers, I never really got a chance to know the older two when I was younger.  Fr. E left for West Point when I was in 6th grade and then the seminary when I was in 8th.  Besides letters and the occational visit, he had not watched me grow up.  He didn't know a lot about me and I didn't know a lot about him.  We were sibilings and we loved each other but our lives had not come together very often thus far. 

Then, after getting married, we moved to Naples, Italy.  At the time, Fr. E was living in Rome, Italy (just 2 hours north).  For the first time, I was given the opportunity to get to know him and he was being given the opportunity to know me...as a grown woman, wife, and mother.  I was no longer just his little sister. 

During the three years that we lived in Naples, Fr. E and I's relationship grew by leaps and bounds.  We both learned a lot from each other.  He and my husband and children formed a relationship that none of my other brothers have had the chance to have.  I forever grateful for the years that I spent living near him.  If we had not moved over there, I don't know if we would have ever gotten to know one another.

About a year out from ordinations, we had a unofficial idea that ordinations would be the following Christmas. 

On April 16th, while visiting Florence, Italy, I found out that I was pregnant with Mini-C. 

My due date: December 22, 2010. 
Fr. E's Ordination Date: December 24, 2010

As you can imagine, the tears flowed.  Still to this day, I have no clue how I got pregnant but continue to believe that God had a plan.  He knew what He was doing.

Obviously, I knew that I would not be attending my brothers long awaited ordinations since we were moving back to the States the next month and a world-wide trip was not in the cards at 40 weeks pregnant or with a newborn.  I was heart-broken.

Mini-C ended up arriving early but not in enough time to secure her a passport.  Now it was time for me to step up to the plate and carry out the Will that God had for me in that moment.

About a week before ordinations, Fr. E called me.  He said one of the most amazing things to me and it carried me through this time.  He said,

"Jeanne, during this time, we have a connection.  You are being asked to live the fullness of your vocation as a wife and mother as I am entering into the fullness of my vocation as a Priest.  How cool is that?"

As tough as those days were, they were much better than I had expected.  My brother had given me a purpose.  I refused to dissolve into my own self pity, rather I was going to turn it around and live each day fully, offering up all of my sacrafices for him.  He needed the graces much more than I did.

My family called me before taking off and everybody kept in touch via phone, internet, and pictures.  As the pictures started to pour in, that feeling of being left out and 'I should be in that picture' started to take over.  It was such a hard thing to accept. 
I had spent the last three years with him. 
I had a close relationship with him. 
I should be there.
WRONG.  It's not about me!

There was a purpose.  I had to trust that (as I took care of a newborn and two toddlers with the stomach flu...awesome!)

Over the course of this last year, I have seen pictures, I have spent time with Fr. E, and we were at his first Mass and reception when he visited my parents.  It was amazing.  Still, that feeling of regret kept creeping in.  I should have been there.  I didn't get to experience any of this amazing week with my family.  I didn't get to hear the toasts or see his first Mass. 

And then, when my parents arrived last week, my mom brought a video that my cousin had made.  It had his first Mass, the toasts, and so many memories.  While I will never have the satisfaction of 'being there', all of my questions have been answered and I got to experience some of the moments that my family had experienced.  Part of the hole in heart has been filled in. 

My pride for my brother is enormous.  As I reflected on Mary's 'yes', I realize that my brother has also said 'yes' and for that I am thankful.  If he would not have chosen to follow his calling, I don't think my family would be where it is.  As my dad said in his toast,

"What I realized is that in all of this time of us supporting Fr.E and helping Fr. E because he's doing something so hard, in reality, he knew what he was doing.  And all he doing was looking back at us saying 'Come on!  Follow me!' and we all have."

So, Fr. E, cheers to your first anniversary!  I am so very proud of you and am so thankful to have you as an example for what it means to live our 'yes' in everyday life.  Thank you for encouraging me to live my 'yes' when all I wanted to do was pity myself.  I love that my kids have you as an uncle!


  1. Soo cool Jeanne!! And congrats to Father E on his first anniversary! praise God.

  2. That is phenomenal! Sounds like a pretty fantastic brother and friend! Congratulations Father E on your first anniversary!


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