By Br. Steve Herro, O. Praem.
My father died on December 6, 2016, just four days shy of his 87th birthday. That week also brought the passing of other friends’ parents. All four had lived well into their 80s and were strong influences on the Christian formation of all of us.
December also brought increased awareness of the plight of many refugees and inhabitants of Syrian war zones. Indeed, it seems the plight of refugee children and young inhabitants of war zones always garners extra attention within the many social concerns that we face. I also found myself dwelling on the life of St. Joseph less than two weeks after Dad died; the Gospel for Sunday, December 18, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, was the story of Joseph agreeing to take Mary into his home, even when he could have had her stoned or divorced himself from her quietly.
I never had deep conversations with my dad about the plight of Syrian children, though his own parents fled that community as teens for greater economic opportunities roughly 100 years ago. By example, Dad prioritized the physical needs of his children and wife. He chose a career that provided greater financial stability for his family, even if the profession was not his favorite pastime. Warm clothes, balanced meals, moral and financial support for a good education … these were important to him for his children and wife. And these “basic life necessities” are part of what is missing from the lives of many Syrian children today. In a way, Dad was as humble of a “Father Protector” as St. Joseph was to the Blessed Mother—before and after their marriage—and to Jesus.
A priest asked a few weeks ago how I might transfer Dad’s fatherly instincts to kids in need of a fatherly presence today. The image of the Syrian child continues to haunt me, whether refugee or trapped in a bombed community. Though not in a position to adopt or significantly financially support such a child, I do project Dad’s love and protection by praying for and advocating to our own government leaders on behalf of these “little ones.”