Each New Year, the first Wisdom family birthday is my father’s. His 82nd this year has me in a particularly reflective mood about how his vocation as a father uniquely touches mine as a Father. The old Quaker saying comes to mind: “Let your life speak.” My father’s life speaks powerfully of fidelity, integrity and commitment to others. That’s why I added his name Carl to my baptismal name Andrew when I began religious life. In the ancient practice of taking a new name (usually a saint’s) to signify a new religious life, the idea was that every time you heard the chosen name would remind you of that person’s example and you would emulate it.
When I was 13 years old, I remember asking my oldest brother Dick what it meant to be a man. He said: “Just look at Dad.” What I saw was an unwavering fidelity to faith in Christ, loyal love of his wife and a steely determination to provide all of his 10 children with a Catholic education and value system. He taught us if one is dishonest in small things, one will be dishonest in larger matters. Also, if you do not have your own integrity, you do not have yourself. A man could lose everything and still have himself if he had integrity. In other words, if he could look into the mirror and know that he was the same man privately that he appeared to be publicly, he had the most precious possession.
Some people get up every day and make demands on the reality around them. My father’s natural default is to begin each morning asking: “What does reality demand of me today?”
Beyond his own family’s needs, he notices people too often invisible to the rest of us: those who sweep the floors in our stores, wait on us in restaurants or serve us in toll booths or health clinics. In a matter of minutes, he knows their joys and sorrows and assures them of his prayers. Lorie at the floral shop gets her favorite Frappuccino when he comes by, the nurses and their assistants get brownies and roses when he arrives at the doctor’s for his monthly shot, and the local CVS representative is still making her way through the book, ‘Women in the Bible”, my father bought her when the topic of her faith came up.
Like all of us, my father has his blind spots, but I have never doubted his sincerity in trying to address issues and situations as he sees them. His life “speaks” not because he is a perfect man who doesn’t make mistakes, but because he gets up every day of his life trying to live the ideals of fidelity, integrity and commitment to others. I hope sharing his example inspires your New Year’s as it has mine!
A very happy and holy New Year,
Fr. Andrew Carl Wisdom, O.P.
Vicar for Mission Advancement &
Director of the Society for Vocational Support
PS: Once again, I encourage your help with the Society for Vocational Support. Your gift TODAY allows us to form Dominican friars with the same attributes of fidelity, integrity, and commitment to others.