My father helped us see better physically and spiritually
While I was still in Rome on graduate studies in Scripture in the late 1980s, my father, Anthony, became legally blind due to severe diabetes. It was a very difficult time for him and my family, especially since dad, an eye doctor himself, had spent his whole life helping others, to see clearly, including his children. One of the benefits of having a father who was an eye doctor was free eye exams and glasses!
As dad was losing his sight, he and my mother visited me in Rome and we spent an afternoon talking about blindness and suffering in the Scriptures. My father asked me to give him some biblical passages that deal with suffering, blindness and sight. I remember speaking with him about Mark’s healing stories of the blind man of Bethsaida (8:22-26) and the healing of Bartimaeus, the blind man on the road to Jericho (10:46-52). These miracles have always fascinated me because my father specialized in sight impairment and learning disabilities for young children.
Shortly before his untimely death in 1997 at the young age of 69, and after much suffering, foot and leg amputations, we had a long visit and he spoke with me about his funeral Mass. He asked me: “What Gospel will you use for the Mass?” When I suggested Mark’s story of the healing of the blind Bartimaeus, my father asked: “What on earth has that story to do with me?” We both paused and had a good laugh over it!
I presided and preached at his funeral in my home parish of St. Ambrose in Rochester, New York. I used the Gospel text of the blind man, Bartimaeus, and invited all those present to look at the ways that we suffer from blindness, as well as ways we prevent others from “seeing” Jesus long the way.
My father was a proud Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus as well as of numerous charitable organizations and clubs that assisted the blind. My brothers and sisters and I remember vividly volunteering as children with my father and his doctor colleagues as they hosted memorable Christmas parties for blind people. I shall never forget the obvious joy that marked those gatherings. Dad often told us that the blind were able to see in ways that we were not able to see. At first I didn’t understand what he meant. Now I understand fully!
I certainly remember my father each year on Father’s Day, recalling with gratitude all he did for me and for those who struggle with their sight. Even though I now have to pay for eye exams and new glasses, I have vivid memories of sitting in dad’s examination chair, reading off those lines of letters on the screen and trying on different frames for my new glasses! There is also one more thing – each time I have returned to the Holy Land these past years and passed through Jericho, not only do I reflect on the great things Jesus did in those very places, but I especially remember my father, the blind man who followed Jesus along the way.
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