Stepping back into the Sepia of Nostalgia


I spent the final days of Advent, Christmas, and the first two days in Christmastide in my old stomping grounds. It was familiar territory, but it had the feeling of stepping out of life in “living color” into a portrait of sepia tones.

Stepping back into an old familiar place tends to do that. You never truly can go back. Going back 35 years means that more than landmarks have changed; people have passed on (as I discovered in the local cemetery); and most importantly I have changed. When I left with my young family, young myself (26), I had no real clue what I was doing and where it would all lead.

Our life thereafter took us to another state, two foreign countries, New York City, and finally, South Jersey. Now our children are grown, there are nine grandchildren, and my wife and I are truly enjoying this stage of our life together.

On top of the usual changes that a married couple experiences over 40 years, a major change came into our lives about three years ago. As meaningful as our lives had been and as fulfilling as our ministry had been, we found ourselves following God’s leading into a new expression and dimension of faith. The sepia tones of faith and experience that occasionally flashed with color, shifted dramatically to the multi-colored tones of historic Christianity.

Even daily existence is punctuated with the joy of partaking of the Holy Eucharist early before the day begins. The prayers of the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours join me to the men and women who have gone before and who now join me in prayer from heaven. Advent is more than a time of Christmas preparation, but a time to prepare my heart to celebrate the birth of our King and my soul for His Second Coming in glory.

I’m heading home today—back to the routine of life—but with the certainty that a little baby came and our lives are forever changed. Today’s Gospel reading on this feast day of St. John the Beloved reminds us of his encounter with the truth that brings us life.

Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed. (John 20:8 NABRE)

Christmas is more than a nostalgic trip, something I tried to make it for many years. Today it is a glorious reality. We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.

Call Me a Bibliophile

I love books! I collect books! By definition I am a bibliophile. My love for books began early. At the age of six I went with my parents and sister to the tropical rainforest of Suriname in South America. That was in 1963. My mother would be my teacher for the next four years. She went prepared with an array of books that would create in me a desire to read and more books to feed my desire to read more.

One of the great treasures that my parents took with us was the 20-volume set of Collier’s Encyclopedia. In the evenings I would chose a volume and read through it. How I loved reading the biographical articles, especially of the kings and queens of England! In the evening, when my dad got home, I would tell him stories from American history, the great battles of wars fought and won. I admire my dad as he listened to me tell him what I was sure he was hearing for the first time.

Along with the encyclopedia, my parents had also purchased the Collier’s Junior Classic 10-volume set. I could chose fairy tales, tales of heroes, stories from history, and many others that found deep resonance in my life. But how could I forget the Egermeier’s Bible Story Book. Every night before going to bed my mom would read a story or two to my sister and me and our hearts were filled with the amazing stories of heroes of the Bible.

Why so much reading? Well, there was no television, no internet, no movies, no smartphone, no video games…we did have a record player and I would listen to stories in that way as well. By the time I saw “Mary Poppins” many years later, I had the songs and dialogue memorized from listening to the record.

When my children came along I told them stories and I read them stories. I have fond memories of reading “The Chronicles of Narnia” to my three kids. And I am so thankful to say that each one developed a love for books and reading. Could it be it was because they too lived overseas?

Now I have eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 12 down to 2, and number nine is due to be born just before Christmas. I love to read to my grandkids and they will usually let me, but to be honest, they have a lot more distractions in their lives than I or my children had.

The past two Christmases I have made a cross-stitch Christmas ornament for each one, but this year I have been thinking that I would like to get each one a special book that they could enjoy now and that would increase their love for reading, a book that excites them and opens to them a world of discovery as reading did for me. That is challenging because you honestly have to weed out a lot of popular books because they are so deficient in plot and content.

Last night I was watching “The World Over” with Raymond Arroyo on EWTN and he interviewed Dr. Matthew Mehan, a teacher in the Washington, DC, area who has just written a book: Mr. Mehan’s Mildly Amusing Mythical Mammals. The book is written for children between eight and twelve years of age and combines “captivating poems” with whimsy and “breathtaking paintings.” As I listened to the interview I realized I had found the first book that I want to present. It will go to my grandson who turns seven next month and is reading well beyond his age.

So my plan is to record myself reading the book so my grandson will not only have the book, but my voice reading it to him long after I’m gone. Thanks to Amazon it should arrive on Saturday!