Saturday, January 17, 2015

On Not Counting the Cost...

“Here I am,” Samuel says.  “I Come to do your will.”
“Follow me,” Jesus tells them.  And they abandon all to follow him.
Not counting the cost.

When Charlie’s mother Anna (the daughter of a baker) and his Father Marciel (a tailor), brought their first born son to a rural Polish Church to be baptized, they were certain it would be the beginning of a perfect family life.  They knew what God had in store for them.  They would sew and bake and keep a little farm and their children would help out and take care of them well into their old age.  That was their plan. And each of their children would do the same…that was what God had in store for them.  They were sure of it.

But that’s not what happened.  By the time little Charlie was ready to go to school, his mother had died and Marciel remarried and three years later Charlie had a new mother (a tailor’s daughter) and a stepsister, Stefania.

Charlie was good in school and quickly became fluent in his native Polish and German and read extensively.  He was known by all as a boy of constant prayer and deep faith, who wanted nothing more than to do God’s will.  At first he followed his parents’ vocation as a tailor, but then he joined the Austro-Hungarian army, where he served as a Captain for more than a quarter century.

Everyone who ever knew him said he was “a good man,” ever trying to find out what God wanted him to do. The people of the town simply called him “the captain,” even after he married Emilia, a schoolteacher of Lithuanian descent.  

And Charlie and Emilia, like their parents before them, knew what God had in store for them.  They would sew and teach and keep a little farm and their children would help out and take care of them well into their old age.  That was their plan. And each of their children would do the same…that was what God had in store for them.  They were sure of it.

That was, until Olga was born, and quickly died in a flu epidemic before her first birthday.  Then they had Mundek, who was smart and strong, and fifteen years later, Lolek. Two good strong bright Polish boys…everything seemed under control until little Lolek was six, and his mother died when her heart and kidneys gave out.

So here was Charlie with a six year old boy and his elder brother, just graduating from medical school.  Things just couldn’t get much worse, but they did, when the newly minted Doctor caught scarlet fever from one of his patients and died.

So now here was Charlie, in his 40’s, having buried his mother, his wife, his daughter and his first born son, and now caring for his little boy Lolek all alone.  What did he do?  He went to Mass every morning.  He prayed.  His little son would find his father on his knees late at night, sometimes weeping with rosaries in his hand.  He prayed through the pain and tried to do what God wanted.

When Charlie was almost sixty years old, he moved with his son to the City so that Lolek would get a good education.  In a little one room apartment, he stayed at home sewing and doing the cooking and the cleaning, while Lolek was in school.  One of Lolek’s friends remembers repeatedly finding the father and son playing soccer in the apartment with a ball made of rags.

Then the Germans invaded Poland in 1930 and Lolek and his sixty-one year old father walked 120 miles to escape them, until they heard that the Russians were invading from the East, so they trudged all the way back home again.  The university was closed by the Germans, and so Lolek had to get a job in the limestone quarry.

When Lolek would come home from the quarry, father and son would read from the Bible and pray the rosary. "I will not live long,” he used to tell his son. “But I pray I will live long enough to see you give yourself to God.”

The next year, after Charlie died of a heart attack, little Lolek entered the seminary and became Father Karol, and then Bishop Wojtyla, and then Saint John Paul II.

All because Charlie kept trying to do the right thing.

“Here I am,” Samuel says.  “I come to do your will.”
“Follow me,” Jesus tells them.  And they abandon all to follow him.

Not counting the cost.

And when it gets tough….what about you and me?