Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it.(Proverbs 22:6) For me, the first person these words from the Bible recall is my dad. It was not until I attended an Emmaus Retreat in 2012 that I realized the strength of these words and the example that my dad had set in my life.
From an early age, my dad asked my siblings and me to promise him two things: The first was to finish a college degree and the second was to never stop attending Mass on Sundays. I must admit that the second part of this promise took me years to fulfill. As a lukewarm Catholic, I only attended Mass when my selfishness and busy schedule allowed me to; for me my children’s sports, events with my friends or anything else were more important than dedicating an hour a week to the Lord. After all, that loving and merciful God that I had been told about was everywhere; there was no need to meet him in at church, let alone to receive him in the Eucharist.
The Holy Mass for most of my life was something of no relevance. I attended Mass only to make good on the promise made to my father, to fulfill the requirement. Never did I attend because of the conviction of knowing that Jesus was present – body and soul – in the Blessed Sacrament. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood dwells in me and I in him. (John 6:56) I must admit that for many years I not only attended without conviction, but also received Communion while in sin by not having gone to Confession for many years.
I owe my dad many things. I owe him for the values and principles with which he raised me. He always told me, “In life many things are legally correct, but morally they are not. Always be guided by your conscience; if what you are doing won’t please God, then don’t do it.” He treated others the same way that he would have loved to be treated. He did not have favoritism for any of his children and he loved without wanting anything in return. My father laid the foundation to enable me to make life’s tough decisions. The thing for which I am most grateful, however, is for the many years in which my father did not stop insisting that I attend Mass – even when I did so reluctantly.
Thanks to the faith that my father planted in me, I was able to understand at the Emmaus Retreat that my dad’s love resembles God, the Father’s love. If my dad loved me in an immeasurable way while he was alive… if he looked forward to seeing me when I went to Colombia to visit him and if he sobbed every time I came back to the states… I had to imagine that similarly, God my “true father” had feelings for me and must have felt sorrow for my indifference towards him. At the retreat, motivated by the sadness I felt for causing God pain with my sins and inattention, I decided to humbly bow down and ask for forgiveness by receiving (after so many years) the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This opened the gate for God’s grace to be poured into me. From that day and without knowing it, my life took a beautiful turn. Some people find it hard to believe that I can say with such conviction that “my life took a beautiful turn,” because two months later, my daughter was diagnosed with an incurable cancer – a cancer that she battled for over five years before it took her life. I am convinced though, that attending the retreat had allowed God’s grace to fill my life. It enabled me to live joyfully while I carried my cross. All of the “pushing” my father had done in my youth had finally borne fruit.
Today, I look back and see clearly how different my path would have been without the faith instilled by my father. I thank him for his love through encouragement, comfort, and persistently reminding us to live in a way that glorified God. Happy Father’s Day to the most wonderful person I had in my life. Thank you, Daddy, for always believing in me and not giving up, for caring about my needs, hurts, desires, dreams, and problems. Today I not only celebrate your life, but I thank God for choosing me to be your daughter, for giving me much more than I have ever deserved.
Dad, may you celebrate this day in heaven along with our beautiful butterfly, Christina. Jesus, I trust in you!
Monica Lacouture was born and raised in Colombia, South America. She came to the United States in 1995 where she and her husband married and were blessed with three children — Daniel, David and Christina (the inspiration behind Build the Faith).
Although Monica was raised a Catholic and attended parochial schools, she admits that throughout most of her adulthood she was a “lukewarm” Catholic. Her faith took an unexpected turn in late 2012 when she attended a retreat and experienced a personal encounter with Jesus. Little did she know, that three months later she would come to rely heavily on her newly strengthened faith as she dealt with her daughter, Christina’s, terminal cancer diagnosis and treatment. Throughout Christina’s battle with cancer, Monica’s faith grew and in 2016, inspired by Christina’s strong faith and trust in Jesus, Monica, and Fernando founded Build the Faith. As President of Build the Faith, Monica feels blessed to be able to continue her daughter’s legacy of faith and hope.