Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Best of the Best

          The best job I’ve ever had was working at the Verona Community Pool during my high school and college summer breaks.  Just imagine being out in the sun all day at a beautiful, Olympic-size swimming pool, socializing with pretty much everyone in town, swimming whenever you want, and getting the leftover, salty French fries from the concession stand for free just before closing.  If that’s not convincing enough, the pay was good, and we could always make extra money giving private swimming lessons or working pool parties.  The VCP perks certainly were good, but what made it the best was the people.  At Verona Pool I was privileged to work with a lot of great people, many of whom I likely never would have known more than by name had it not been for that job.  My VCP friends were the best of the best.

          Though I had solid friendships that have stood the test of time, I never considered myself a popular kid in high school, or college for that matter.  I was bookish, preferring to read the encyclopedia over sports or hanging out with friends, and I was deathly afraid of getting in trouble, so I didn’t smoke or drink or do any of the fun and crazy things that kids do that sometimes get them in trouble. No one would ever have confused me for one of the “cool kids” in high school.  But there was something about working at Verona Pool that seemed to break down the social cliques that are so typical of that age.  We had cool kids and nerdy kids, loud kids and quiet kids, crazy kids and sensible kids.  We had kids who smoked and drank and did all of the fun and crazy things that kids do, and we had me.  You name it, we had them all – and we were friends.  With the mythical boundaries removed at VCP, I had the opportunity to share a lot of laughs and good times with some amazing people who otherwise might never have become my friends.

          I’ve been reminiscing a lot about my Verona Pool days of late because I recently learned that a member of the VCP family has died.  Roseann was a lifeguard at the pool during the last few years of my tenure there.  I haven’t seen or been in contact with her for more than 20 years, but I remember her like it was yesterday and still consider her a good friend.  A star athlete in high school (definitely not my crowd), Roseann was naturally a strong swimmer and a great lifeguard.  More importantly, Roseann was a wonderful person and a lot of fun to be around.  She had a mischievous smile that usually foreshadowed some practical joke that awaited her next victim (often me), and her laugh was infectious.  She had a wonderful, self-deprecating sense of humor, though she was known to punish perpetrators of practical jokes against her (often me) with a swift punch in the arm.  Roseann was one of our most popular swim instructors, so it was no surprise when I learned that she had become a kindergarten teacher, and a great one at that.  Roseann was one of those people you just wanted, no, needed to be around.     

           The many condolences and tributes that are being posted about Roseann remind me that people like Roseann are gifts from God.  They keep us smiling and laughing during our tough times and even during theirs.  They are beacons of God’s light in our lives long after we lose contact with them, and even after they have departed this world for the eternal glory they have undoubtedly earned.  Working at Verona Pool opened me to many opportunities over the years to meet great people, like Roseann, who have brought God’s light into my life in their own special ways.  I am especially blessed to call these wonderful people my friends.  May God bless you, and may God bless Roseann.  You are the best of the best.

Eternal rest grant unto her O Lord.  And let perpetual light shine upon her.  Amen

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gritty Prayer - Homily for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

          As a seventh grade math teacher in New York City, Angela Duckworth discovered that IQ wasn’t the only thing that separated her highest performers from her lowest performers.  Some of her best students didn’t have high IQ scores, and some of her smartest students weren’t among her top performers.  This discovery ultimately led Dr. Duckworth to the field of psychology, where she has dedicated much of her research to the science of achievement.  After years of studying West Point Cadets, National Spelling Bee contestants, professional football players and sales people, Dr. Duckworth found that “one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success.  And it wasn’t general intelligence; it wasn’t good looks [if that were the case, I’d be unstoppable; It wasn’t] physical health; and it wasn’t IQ.”[1]  Like Moses and the widow in today’s readings, successful people have grit.  It’s no surprise then, that our readings teach us that successful prayer is gritty prayer.

          So what is grit?  Grit is the combination of passion and perseverance.  Gritty people pursue their heart’s desire and work really hard to make it happen.  In music, sports, the arts, careers and yes, even in the spiritual life, “the highly accomplished [are] paragons of perseverance.”[2]  They have grit.  Let’s take Moses, for example.  When Amalek waged war against Israel, there was no reason to believe that the Israelites could defeat such a strong army.  But Moses had the conviction of faith that the Israelites would win, so he raised the staff of God over his soldiers in prayer.  Even as he grew weary, Moses didn’t give up.  His goal was victory through prayer.  With the help of Aaron and Hur, with passion and perseverance, Moses held the staff of God high until sunset, and Amalek’s army was defeated.  Moses brought grit to prayer, and the Israelites were successful. 
          How about the widow in today’s Gospel?  Her case lay before a judge who neither feared God nor respected any human being.  She had no reason to believe that she would ever receive a just judgment.  But she didn’t give up.  She wanted justice, so she persistently bothered the judge until he rendered a just decision.  The widow brought grit to her pleadings, and she was successful.    

          So how can gritty prayer help us?  Let’s start off by talking about how prayer helps us.  Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God.  It’s an act of spiritual communion by which we unite ourselves, our concerns and needs with God and with each other.[3]  Through prayer we step into the transcendent, spiritual world to fill ourselves with God’s eternal love so we can share it with others.  While our prayers can’t change the mind of God, because God can’t change, we don’t need to change God’s mind.  God’s mind is perfect.  In it we find perfect truth, justice and love.  We certainly don’t need to change that; we need to unite ourselves with it so that we can have perfect truth, justice and love here on earth just as it is in heaven.  We do that through prayer, and it’s always effective because every act of prayer brings God’s truth, justice and love into the world.  Here’s where grit comes into the picture. 

          I hope we can all agree that truth, justice and love aren’t just worthy goals; they’re the ultimate goals human existence.  If that’s the case, we should bring every ounce of our passion and persistence to achieving them here and now.  And if the way to bring truth, justice and love into the world is by uniting with God through prayer, then we need passionate, persistent prayer to achieve that goal.  When Jesus tells us “to pray always without becoming weary” (Luke 18: 1), he’s calling us to gritty prayer.  “Always praying means the channel between God and the human person remains open.”[4]  Always praying, as Saint Paul reminds Timothy, means being “persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.”  (2 Tim. 4: 2)  Through gritty prayer, we receive the very grace that conquers lies, injustice and hatred from its most infinite and perfect source – the God of truth, justice and love.

          Looking at our political situation and at the injustice and violence that plague our world, there’s no reason to believe that we can change things on our own.  But “salvation always involves the interplay of divine grace and human cooperation.”[5]  That interplay takes place in prayer – passionate, persistent, gritty prayer.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we summon the courage to shine God’s truth on the lies that tempt contemporary thought.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we find the strength to right every wrong until God’s justice shall reign on the earth.  Through passionate, persistent, gritty prayer, we’re filled with God’s love, the only love that can heal the wounds of division that separate us from God and our fellow man.

          You know, I really love when science finally catches up with Revelation.  Dr. Duckworth’s research shows that with a little grit, we can accomplish amazing things.  Well, that’s the Judeo-Christian method in a nutshell.  Throughout Scripture we’re taught that if we passionately and persistently pursue truth, justice and love, the Kingdom of God will reign on earth.  United with God our help, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121), we can change the world for the better.  That change begins with gritty prayer.

Readings:  Exodus 17: 8-13; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3: 14 – 4: 2; Luke 18: 1-8

[1] Angela Lee Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, TED, (April 2013),
[2] Angela Duckworth, Grit:  The Power of Passion and Perseverance (New York, Scribner, 2016) at 8.
[3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2559-2565.
[4] John Shea, Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers:  The Relentless Widow, Luke, Year C (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2006) at 292.
[5] John F. Craghan, “Exodus,” The Collegeville Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Dianne Bergant, ed. (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 1992) at 98.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Feast of the Archangels

                Having an archangel as your patron saint is both really cool and a little dissatisfying.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Saint Michael, whose feast we celebrate today.  I pray the Prayer to Saint Michael every day, and I find tremendous strength and comfort under the protection of his patronage.  But having an archangel as your patron isn’t quite the same as having a human saint. 
You see, most saints are real people who walked the earth and did amazing things along the way.  We can relate to their humanness (especially now that we’re allowed to know that even saints had their flaws), and we can aspire to the great things they accomplished with their deep faith.  We find these human saints in history books and in some cases, we can even read their own words in the manuscripts they left behind.  Take Saint Augustine, for example.  Before Saint Augustine was baptized (well into his adulthood), he lived a rather “colorful” life.  Let’s just say, he got around . . . a lot . . . and he liked it!  So much so that in his journey toward Christian conversion, he prayed, “Lord, make me chaste and celibate, but not yet.”  Now that’s a saint we can relate to.  Sins notwithstanding, after Augustine found God, he was elected bishop, he became a great defender of the faith, and is celebrated today as a gifted theologian who helped shape Church teaching.  Saint Augustine’s life story gives hope to us all.  It’s a shame that more people don’t name their children Augustine these days.   

By contrast, all we know about Saint Michael is what has been revealed to us in scripture, which is only a handful of sentences in the whole Bible!  Sure, there are a few legends here and there, but they’re pretty dubious to the critical eye.  I remember my frustration as a child as I tried to learn more about my patron saint with little success.  In that respect, having an archangel as my patron saint was a little dissatisfying.  But what I did learn about Saint Michael was really cool.  Saint Michael the Archangel led the angelic army that cast the rebellious archangel Lucifer out of heaven.  That’s why Saint Michael is the patron saint of chivalry, police officers, paramedics, fire fighters and the military.  On a more tender note, Saint Michael is also understood as the protector of the Jews and as patron to the sick and the dying for his role in leading souls to heaven.  How cool is that?  Having Saint Michael as a patron saint is like having Superman as a patron saint, but better:  Kryptonite can’t touch Saint Michael!

I grew to appreciate Saint Michael and the archangels all the more during diaconate formation because the archangels represent the three munera (duties) of the Deacon:  liturgy, word and charity.  As Father Paul Henry so beautifully explained to my brother candidates and me during our five-day pre-ordination retreat, Saint Michael is the deacon’s role model for the munis of liturgy.  Michael, the guardian of order in the heavens, represents the deacon's role in maintaining the order of liturgy.  So the next time you see a deacon dressing the altar, standing at the side of the celebrant and guiding lay minsters during liturgies, remember Saint Michael.  Father Paul continued to explain that Saint Gabriel is the deacon's role model for the munis of the word.  Saint Gabriel, who announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would bear the Son of God, represents our role in proclaiming God’s Word.  So the next time you see a deacon proclaiming the Gospel, preaching or teaching, remember Saint Gabriel.  Last, but certainly not least, Fr. Paul portrayed Saint Raphael as the deacon’s role model for the munis of charity.  Saint Raphael, who cured Tobit’s blindness in the Book of Tobit, represents the deacon’s role in charitable works and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.  So the next time you see a deacon visiting the sick or imprisoned, working in soup kitchens or raising money for the poor, remember Saint Raphael.

It’s easy to dismiss the archangels as mysterious or even fictitious beings, but we see the inspiration of their powerful patronage in the good works of so many people every day.  Come to think of it, having an archangel as my patron saint isn’t dissatisfying at all.  It’s just really cool.

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Giving Love - A Wedding Homily

 God's blessings on the marriage of Megan and Jonathan!

         Sarah Smith comes down from heaven to welcome her husband Frank at its threshold.  Glorious in her resurrection, Sarah shares God’s love with all she meets, yet she greets Frank with an apology.  Sarah confesses that in their earthly marriage, she loved him “only in a poor sort of way.”  While there was a little real love in it, she mostly loved him for her own sake because she needed Frank.[1]  Living fully in Christ’s love, Sarah grew to understand that real love is a giving love, not one based on need.  That’s the message of our Gospel, and the secret to a happy marriage.

            In our very brief Gospel passage, Jesus invokes the word “love” seven times and invites us to “remain in his love” three times.  In our second reading, Saint Paul encourages the Colossians to “put on love,” which he calls the “bond of perfection.”  Jesus and Saint Paul aren’t talking about any old love, like loving pie or the Lakers.  They’re talking about a completely selfless, giving love.  They’re talking about God’s love.

          It’s humbling to consider that God created us and everything around us purely out of love.  What does that mean?  “God did not need to create the world because he needed someone to talk to, or to have friends or because he needed or wanted our submission . . . . The world is not created because of some lack in God.”[2]  The world is created purely out of love.  God’s love doesn’t need anything; it’s pure gift.  That’s why Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the good of another, and not willing my own good through another.”[3]

          Christ’s invitation to remain in his love is wonderful advice for marriage.  You see, when we remain in God’s love, we have everything we need.  As Sarah explained to Frank, when we’re in Love Himself, there’s nothing more we need.[4]  Then, when we have no need for each other, we can begin to really love each other.  God’s love transcends our needs, and moves us beyond our own self-interest to care and concern for the one we love.  Married love differs from other kinds of love because its essence is giving – giving one’s whole self to another, and therein lies the wonderful gift and the great challenge of marriage. 

Marriage isn’t easy.  We’re not always giving; we’re not always loving; and we’re not always lovable (Although I think Megan might always be lovable).  But Megan and Jon, if you follow Saint Paul’s advice, if you exercise the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love, you will remain in God’s love, you’ll bring God’s love to each other, and God’s love will carry you through any hardships you may face.

          We’ve been preparing for this day together for a year now, and in that time I’ve become convinced that your relationship has a whole lot of real love in it.  Your love for each other is a giving love; it’s God’s love.  You’ve shared God’s love with me, and I know that you share it with each other.  How do I know?  Well, I asked Megan and Jon separately what they loved the most about each other.  Since I warned them that anything sweet or funny that they say during marriage prep is fair game for my homily, allow me share a few of their responses with you:  When I asked Megan what she loved most about Jon, she said, “His heart; he’s patient; and the kind, loving person that he is.”  She also said that he’s not a Saint and that she used to laugh more at him than with him when they first started dating.  When I asked Jon what he loved most about Megan, he said, “The way she treats others; her positive outlook; she’s supportive and understanding; and she always sees the best in people.”  He also said that she leaves fingerprints all over his car seat.  

          The best things that Megan and Jon see in each other all reflect a giving love.  Jon didn’t say that he needed Megan to organize his playlists, and Megan didn’t say that she needed Jon to keep her on time.  Megan and Jon aren’t marrying each other because of some lack in themselves.  They’re marrying each other because they love each other.  So Megan and Jon, I’d like to ask you to stand where you are (don’t worry, this isn’t the vows yet), face each other and share for all to hear the words I taught you to say to each other every day:  “I don’t need you.” And now I’d like you to add, “I just love you.”  That’s a giving love.  That’s God’s love.  Remain in God’s love, and you’ll hold the secret to a happy marriage in your hearts forever.

Readings:  Sirach 26: 1-4, 13-16; Psalm 145; Colossians 3:12-17; John 15: 9-12

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 2001) at 125.
[2] James V. Schall, A Final Gladness, Final Lecture, Georgetown University (December 7, 2012).
[3] Robert Barron, The Strangest Way:  Walking the Christian Path (Maryknoll, Orbis, 2002) at 92.
[4] Lewis at 126.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Justice and Mercy

          Shylock wants his pound of flesh, quite literally.  You see, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Antonio has defaulted on a loan from Shylock for which he pledged a pound of his own flesh as security.   Despite pleas for mercy and an offer from Antonio’s friend Bassanio to pay twice the amount of the loan, Shylock refuses to capitulate.  “Void and empty from any dram of mercy,”[1] Shylock craves justice; he wants his pound of Antonio’s flesh.  Shylock sees justice and mercy as mutually exclusive.  Our readings tell us otherwise.     

           Today’s readings center on the theme of mercy.  In our first reading from Exodus, Moses pleads for and receives God’s mercy on behalf of the Israelites who had turned away from God.  In our second reading, Saint Paul acknowledges that even he, the foremost of sinners, was treated mercifully by God.  And in our Gospel, Jesus responds to self-righteous complaints about his association with the unrighteous through a series of lost and found parables that show how God actively seeks out the lost with an offer of mercy.   If nothing else, our readings teach us that “God’s mercy will never be exhausted.”[2] 

          We tend to struggle with the concept of mercy because it seems to conflict with our sense of justice.  Mercy, as we understand it, is showing compassion or forbearance toward someone who offends us, while justice is giving someone what he or she deserves.  Well, if someone deserves a good whoopin’, wouldn’t mercy conflict with justice?  That’s what Shylock and the elder brother in today’s parable thought.  Fortunately, God is kinder than man.  In God, justice and mercy “are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that . . . culminates in the fullness of love.”[3]  In God, mercy doesn’t contradict justice, it’s the vehicle through which God’s justice is rendered.  “Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe.”[4]

          Therein lies our first challenge.  In order to receive God’s mercy, we have to acknowledge that we actually need it and act accordingly.  Our Psalm teaches us that we need God’s mercy, and we need a humble and contrite spirit to receive it.  Humility and contrition open our hearts to the healing mercy we so desperately need.  We can never forget that in the face of merciless justice, “[h]umankind [would] merit[] death because of sin.”[5]  Our salvation comes not through any merit of our own but through the mercy that God makes available to all – even to the gravest of sinners among us - in Jesus Christ.  As hard as it may be to believe, God offered the same mercy to Saint Augustine and Saint Teresa of Calcutta has he did to Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden.  But those who receive God’s mercy are those who acknowledge their sins and repent with humble and contrite hearts.  It’s only then that justice can be truly served.

          Our second challenge lies in offering mercy to others.  We tend to want mercy for ourselves, but justice for those who hurt us.  If I get caught speeding, I hope for a warning; but if you cut me off in the Flemington Circle, I want your driver’s license suspended and the words “Bad Driver” tattooed on your forehead.  We all face much deeper wounds than that, of course, and this fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks is certainly one of them; a wound so deep that makes it especially difficult to extend our mercy to the perpetrators.  But as the Duke of Venice so aptly put it, “How shalt thou hope for mercy rendering none?”[6]  How can we expect mercy for ourselves if we’re not willing to give it to others?  Fortunately, the same humility and contrition through which we receive God’s mercy gently and persistently opens our hearts and minds to an understanding that others need our mercy, too, especially the worst among us.  There will be great rejoicing among the angels of God every time we show mercy to the least of our brothers and sisters, for mercy “is twice blest:  It blesses him that gives and him that takes.”[7]

          Blessings or not, Shylock had no desire to extend mercy to Antonio.  The mysterious, young judge warned Shylock that if he insists on merciless justice, “Thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest.”[8]  Shylock still demanded justice, so the judge interpreted the contract strictly and justly:  Shylock had a right to exactly one pound of Antonio’s flesh, not an ounce more or an ounce less; and because the contract does not call for it, he may not shed a single drop of Antonio’s blood in the process.  If he does, Shylock will be put to death for murder, and his estate will be forfeited.  Merciless justice left Shylock with nothing – without repayment of the debt or a means to exact his pound of flesh.  But in the end, even poor Shylock receives a little mercy:  the Duke of Venice spares his life by pardoning him for his attempt to murder Antonio.  Shylock learned the hard way that merciless justice isn’t really justice at all.  He really wanted what we all want:  justice and mercy.

Readings:  Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-32

[1] William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1.
[2] Saint Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary at 72.
[3] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2015) at 20.
[4] Id. at 21.
[5] Walter Kasper, Mercy:  The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life (New York, Paulist Press, 2014) at 55.
[6] Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Simple Saint

                This morning in Rome, Pope Francis officially declared what the world has known for decades:  Mother Teresa is a saint.  Few doubt her place among the Church Triumphant, having witnessed her powerful ministry to the poorest of the poor, but the tremendous and persistent outcry for her canonization from people of all religious backgrounds and walks of life testifies to something more.  Mother Teresa wasn’t a powerful pope like St. John Paul II.  She wasn’t a brilliant theologian like St. Thomas Aquinas, nor a glorious martyr like St. Joan of Arc.  Mother Teresa was a simple woman who did “small things with great love.”  That’s exactly the kind of saint we needed – a simple saint.

                There’s a lot of confusion about what saints are and what they’re not.  Though we tend to romanticize the lives of the saints, saints aren’t gods or icons of worship.  Saints aren’t distant figures who entered heaven through some special, God-given advantage.  Most importantly, saints aren’t perfect.  Saints walked the earth, faced tough choices, made mistakes, suffered and died just like everybody else does.  Saints are real people – real people who lived life well enough to receive the crown of victory.  Like great generals, political leaders and sports figures in the secular world, saints are our spiritual heroes and our greatest role models.   

 But we should never forget that saints are also our best friends and closest allies.  They’re always on our side, encouraging us to live life well and praying that we, too, may obtain the crown of eternal life.  So we should pray to the saints like we talk to our BFFs.  We should share our problems with them, seek their support and ask them to put in a good word for us with God. 
The challenge with sainthood for us is that it seems so unachievable.  How could an average Joe like me ever become a saint?  “I’m no Mother Teresa.”  Well, if the standard for sainthood is superhuman virtue, then apparently Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa either.  She was known to be short-tempered and impatient, and she has been roundly criticized for not doing enough to improve the conditions of the poor.  Mother Teresa’s success in life wasn’t in being perfect, it was in simply following Jesus as best she could.  In doing so, she proved that doing “small things with great love” isn’t just highly achievable, it’s highly contagious.  She began the Missionaries of Charity alone, seeking out the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta.  By 2016, her simple example has inspired so many that the order is now blessed with more than 4,500 religious sisters in 133 countries. 

Saints like Mother Teresa inspire real people to use their God-given talents, as simple as they may be, to help others.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to teach us that sainthood is the only goal worth living for.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to prove that sainthood is highly achievable.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to hold our hand along the journey and show us how we can become simple saints, too. 

            Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our Sweet Sixteen!

          August 28th is a very special day in the Meyer household. The first announcements that the date is fast approaching begin around February 28 of each year, with reminders increasing in frequency from monthly, to weekly, to daily, until the hourly countdown begins during the week of August 21st. Perhaps you’re thinking that the Meyers have a particular devotion to St. Augustine, whose feast day falls on August 28th, or that we celebrate the day Henry Hudson discovered Delaware Bay in 1609. Maybe you’re thinking that we’re marking the beginning of the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862 or the day that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands opened the Peace Palace in The Hague in 1913. No, those events, though noteworthy, can’t hold a candle to the importance of August 28th to the Meyer family. In fact, this year, they can’t hold sixteen candles to it. On August 28, 2000, the Good Lord blessed us with our first child, Caitlin Marie, who tomorrow becomes our Sweet Sixteen.

          At about the hour of this writing on August 27th, 2000, Jessica went into labor. Having had several false labors over the previous weeks, we dutifully went through all of the prescribed routines to see if labor would stop before heading to the hospital. Jessica drank lots of water; she took a hot bath; and at 11:00 pm, we dragged our faithful lab Bubba from his beauty sleep to walk seemingly infinite circles around our Northern Virginia property. I’ll never forget the frustration in Bubba's eyes every time our circles continued past the side door of the house as he desperately tried to go back to bed. With contractions increasing in frequency by midnight, we knew it was time to head to the hospital; and at 7:00 pm on August 28th, Caitlin was born.

          Three memories of Caitlin's birth remain indelibly etched in my mind. The first is of the enormous outpouring of unconditional love that I felt for her. Jessica and I joined the ranks of parents who confess that we never knew we could love so much. The second memory is of the overwhelming sense of responsibility that landed squarely on my shoulders at the moment she was born. “Holy cr*p, I don’t know how to be a father” has echoed in my cranium every day since. No doubt, my daughters agree. The third memory is that Caitlin had an enormous head. Her head was so big that she bore the nickname Pumpkin-Head until my friend Bill warned me that she'd need therapy if I kept calling her that name. She then became my Punkin, and she remains so to this day.

          Sixteen is a big year for young ladies and their parents. Caitlin will get her driving permit sometime this week, and she begins her first full-week as a high school junior on Monday. To prepare myself for what else may lie in store, I checked out Wikipedia’s list of the rites of passage that accompany the sixteenth year of life. Here are a few, appended with my thoughts on each:
o Sixteen is the minimum age for getting an adult job in most states and provinces around the world. Well, I don’t know what they mean by an “adult” job, so we’ll just delete that word. Jobs are good, though.
o Sixteen is the minimum age that one can drop out of school in many states in the United States.  Don’t even think it, unless you have the aforementioned job and are prepared to pay exorbitantly high rent while living at home.
o Sixteen is the minimum age to get married with parental consent in many countries.  Such consent will not be forthcoming any time soon. Just keep repeating the first sentence I taught you: “My Daddy has a shotgun.”
o Sixteen is the legal drinking age in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Portugal.  Nein, Nee/Non, Nein/Non/No, Nein, No, and Não!
          As cliché as it may sound, I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. I’m much too young to have a 16-year-old daughter. Each of Caitlin’s sixteen years has been a blessing in its own way, and I’m sure this year will be as well. Yes, August 28th is a very special day in the Meyer household. It’s the day we thank God for the gift of Caitlin Marie, who tomorrow becomes our Sweet Sixteen. Happy Birthday, Punkin! Your Daddy loves you!