Saints in the family

My dad, Cobourg’s patron saint of coffee.

Angela, Editor of CC, wrote this as a companion piece to her editorial in March.

Did you ever wonder if your mom really had eyes in the back of her head?

If so, you’re not alone. Ripley’s Believe it or Not asked 1,000 kids between six and eight years old if they thought their parents had superhuman powers. More than half of the kids surveyed said yes, their parents were actually superheroes and probably had a hidden lair.

The most popular powers for both parents, kids guessed, were telepathy and super strength. Moms were more likely to have super healing capabilities, dads to be able to fly. One third of the kids thought that their parents used heat vision to get supper on the table faster!

My husband Allan would probably say that dad jokes are his superpower (cue teenagers groaning). Mine might be baking: little kids love sitting on the counter to help stir and to snoop while I’m making cookies. (When I told my mom how this helps me win nieces and nephews over, she joked that “We love you for your baking, too!”)

Birthday shenanigans

Last February, our daughter Alba only wanted one thing for her 15th birthday: spray cans for graffiti. If Alba had a superpower, it would be contagious enthusiasm. There’s a creek near our house where we’ve spent many happy hours, and she had a vision of five-foot-high, colourful letters on the culvert under the highway spelling out HAVE A GREAT DAY!

Allan, the three kids and I were getting all bundled up, cans stuffed in pockets and under sweaters, when my parents arrived – earlier for supper than I’d expected. Everyone froze for a moment. While the kind of graffiti we had in mind was pretty innocent, I knew that my dad wasn’t a fan of his extended family committing a minor criminal offence.

But he was too polite, or maybe just loved Alba too much, to say so.

“I understand you have some . . . signage to do,” he said diplomatically. “Signage” was very generous; he made it sound almost civic-minded! Without another word, he stepped inside with my mom and we headed down to the creek, where – well – you’ll have to visit us someday to see.

That moment sticks in my mind as quintessential Dad.

He’s on my side, even when we disagree.

My bookish dad

We’ve always had a lot in common, my bookish Dad and me. Maybe some kind of bond grew from the fact that I was born on Father’s Day, though my birthday and that Hallmark holiday only line up once every decade or so. He is gentle, thoughtful, steadfast.

Dad’s the one in the kitchen after family meals doing mountains of dishes without complaining. For decades, he used his pastor’s heart in a business setting to help people in every income bracket. He raised four daughters without ever raising his voice, at least not that I can remember. And at the peak of the pandemic, before vaccines, he didn’t stop visiting his brother in a nursing home even when infections multiplied throughout the building.

Of course he’s not perfect. He drives too slowly and puts ketchup on weird things. But anyone who knows my dad would agree that he puts other people first. I think loving-kindness might be his superpower.

Echoes of Easter

This Easter issue of Christian Courier has a theme of saints and superheroes, and I admit to not being very familiar with either category. Here’s what I know: In the Catholic tradition, saints are nominated after death for living a holy life and for being associated with a miracle. They’re meant to inspire and intercede. In comics and movies, superheroes have abilities that normal people don’t, which they use to save the world.

Do they have anything in common? Absolutely. Characteristics like integrity. Humility. Courage.

And, interestingly, neither saints nor superheroes are perfect. Sin affects us all, even in fictional universes. But there are beautiful examples of voluntary sacrificial love in both categories – echoes of Easter. That’s inspiring, even if they “still fall short of the ultimate sacrifice and atonement in the salvation narrative, in which Christ’s death [is] a cure for an already broken world and a promise that the world will be made new again” (see sidebar).

Speaking of voluntary love, my dad got up early almost every day this winter. At one of the nearby Tim Hortons, he’d have his first coffee of the day. (If he had a Patron Saint, it would be Drogo, the Patron Saint of Coffee.) Then he’d buy three or four more, and take them downtown to Cobourg’s Anglican Church at exactly 6:55 a.m. That’s when the people experiencing homelessness who slept overnight inside have to leave. Almost every morning, my dad would be there too. Handing out hot coffee.

Those are the superpowers that the world needs more of – not telepathy, but generosity. Instead of X-ray vision, empathy. And over everything, a saint-like, steadfast love.


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