Thursday, January 26, 2012

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Sir Isaac Newton, in a quote about his many accomplishments, humbly stated, "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Newton understood that his intelligence and all of his many discoveries depended on others' abilities, talents and knowledge of his teachers, predecessors, colleagues and rivals. Newton unarguably possessed innate intelligence and would have undoubtedly risen to some level of excellency on his own. But, because of those who had gone before him, taught him, challenged him, and supported him, Newton wasn't just excellent.

He was legendary.

He is legendary.

In many ways, all of us can "see further" because of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand. In many ways, for many of us grandparents serve as those giants. While parents do the grunt work and most of our formation, grandparents give us a sense of stability. Grandparents give us a sense of history. Grandparents give us a sense of belonging. They are living proof that all will be okay- all of our many trials and catastrophes of today will pass into memories of tomorrow. They may have been the first people in our families to go to college, come to this great country, speak English, start a business or convert to Catholicism. Maybe they worked multiple jobs to send our parents to school. Maybe they served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam or the first Gulf War. Maybe they unabashedly hang on to their cultural traditions, their native language and their sense of style. When we stand on their shoulders, we get a better sense of who we are because it gives us a better sense of who we were. We can see further because of them.

We may thank grandparents for the large checks that come in the mail on birthdays and Christmas. We may appreciate them for their stories of how things used to be. We may laugh at their eccentricities or joke at how set they are in their ways. Chances are good, though, that we don't necessarily recognize them for the gift of faith. Not only are they responsible for igniting some sort of faith within our parents, they are ultimately responsible for the spark in our own hearts, too. Whether they are believers who pray a Rosary after every daily Mass, or non-Church goers who believe that, just like hospitals are only for those who are sick, churchers are only for sinners, some aspect of the grace present in our lives was made manifest by their faithfulness.

Our Catholic Church and our Catholic Schools can definitely see further because of their faithfulness. Baltimore Catechists and instructed by the good sisters and nuns, priests and brothers of the golden age of Catholicism in this country, their belief and faith in not only the Church but also its educational system has helped to sustain us through scandals, economic hardships and other reasons cited for dwindling Church attendance and Catholic School enrollment. They gave our Parishes the traditions of our Carnivals, Festivals, Fish Fry's, Shrines, Collections. They may have even been responsible for helping to build its actual walls. They went to our schools when there were 50 students from various grade levels in the same classroom taught by the same saintly sister. Many of them had brothers, sisters and cousins who entered the priesthood and religious life.

Just like in our human families, our grandparents supply our Churches and Schools with history, tradition, foundation and stability. They remind us that these institutions have been through much worse than our current situations and that they will, because of our faithfulness, remain long after we are gone. They are the giants supplying the shoulders allowing us to see further than they did.

They are our models. They are our inspiration for someday helping others to see further than we can right now.

They are our past. They are hope for our future.

They are legendary.

They are giants. They are grandparents.