Up Front and Personal

A Father Continues to Call by Name

By Msgr. Steven Ferrari

Although he has been dead for more than five years, he is still so very present to me. Not a week goes by that I do not see his name in print somewhere. And a common name it is not: “Clemente.”

My father, born in Brooklyn in 1923, was named after his paternal grandfather, whom Dad never met. My sister handed the name onto my nephew Christopher as his middle name. And I come across the name every few days, sometimes even several times a day.

The other day I was in a used bookstore, browsing through the religion section, and there before me, in bold print on the spine of the book, was simply the word, “Clemente.” It threw me for a loop! I hesitatingly took the book in hand to discover it was about the baseball great Roberto Clemente. Obviously, it was mis-shelved in the spirituality section. (On purpose, by an unseen hand, so I would discover it?)

Recently while reading a murder mystery, I found a nun was introduced into the storyline (for one page only), and what should her name be? You guessed it: “Sister Mary Clement.” (Could not the author have chosen from hundreds of other names?)

On Thursday, Oct. 29, at Huntington’s Seminary of the Immaculate Conception, the evening prayer booklet printed for that occasion had, on its inside front cover, a beautiful quotation: “Christ has turned our sunsets into dawns” by naturally, who else, St. Clement of Alexandria.

Of course, I look for a deeper message or meaning to this never-ending recurrence of my father’s unusual name. Is he sending me messages? If so, what is he trying to tell me? Or am I just being too cognizant of my personal loss and grief?

In his latest installment in the best-selling series about Precious Ramotswe and “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” of Botswana, Scottish author Alexander McCall Smith writes: “She stood quite still. Late people do not altogether leave us, she thought; they are still with us in memories such as that, wherever we are, no matter what time of day it was or how we were feeling, they were there, still shining the light of their love upon us.”

I believe it is true of my beloved father’s spirit. I know he is always with me.

During the month of November, we remember especially our departed loved ones. I count Dad among those lights that continue to shine on me. He is carried every day in my heart. His physical presence is still missed. I still mourn. I still cry.

Charles Dickens said: “Tears are our holy water. Crying opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens the temper – so cry away.”

I believe Dad is looking over me, guiding me, maybe scolding me at times I need to be scolded, and protecting me as he did while he walked beside me on this earth. My two brothers, my sister and I are blessed to be “Clemente’s” children. We cherish his memory every day and hope he is proud of us still as we try to live up to his teaching, example and love.

Msgr. Ferrari is the pastor of St. Teresa’s parish, Woodside.

2 thoughts on “A Father Continues to Call by Name