The third rosary was given to me by my son Matthew. Much of Matthew's story is the same as Michael's. I've already recounted some of it in my last entry. But there are significant differences. I really don't remember why, but although I loved Matthew very much, we often would get along like oil and water. Or rather like gas and a lighted match.
The only thing that I can figure is that I worked in a job that I absolutely detested, and I would bring my frustration home with me. Also, for much of that time, I worked second shift and didn't see much of my kids except on weekends. When I was home, Sundays were for Sunday school, then church, lunch, then a nap that often lasted till dinnertime, then church again, then bed.
There was a lot of yelling in those days, much of it from me. Matt mentioned to me about a year or so ago that he remembers me once about to choke him. I honestly do not recall this at all. But I do remember once when he was about 12 or 13, I pulled my fist back as I was about to sock him a good one, but I was able to hold it back.
Whether he or I are remembering correctly or incorrectly doesn't matter. What made me so mad doesn't matter. But I do know one thing. I was wrong. I felt terrible for what I did. Yes, what I did, not what I almost did. No, I didn't hit him, but the damage had been done just the same. Is it any wonder that he was afraid of me?
This really woke me up as to how I was treating the kids. Strife didn't end overnight. But threats of violence were over, and I have never repeated them. It did not end the yelling however. What finally did? Something significant happened in Matt's life that convicted and challenged me. I think it was when Matt was in the 10th grade, that he began to become very interested, almost fanatical, about Jesus.
Matthew started to become more involved with the youth group at church. Several of the girls all went to the same public school, Rogers High School, and became associated with a group called “TEC” Teens Encounter Christ. I remembered this group from when I was 17. It was a primarily Catholic outreach, and I was surprised to find out that it no longer was considered such, but it had branched out into other denominations.
As Matt became more involved with this group (he even went on a missions trip to Russia) we started to refer to it as Matt and his groupie Rogers' girls. I remember cautioning him that although he was not the only guy in the group, he was one of the only regular ones. I was afraid that some of the other girls may not be quite as spiritual as some of them, or him. It's not so much that I was afraid of that something sexual might happen, as I was afraid that they would all start fighting over him.
I was right. I don't think that Matt was seriously interested in any of them at the time, but it was clear that two or three, were interested in him. “Just you watch,” I said to my wife. “He's going to end up married to one of them.” Well, he and Amy just celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary. I may have been right about him marrying one of them, but I was wrong about which one. Amy seemed the least likely, but after high school was over, they started going out, and after a very short engagement, they married.
And I'm so glad they did. My wife and I are truly blessed by having two daughters-in-law that we love so much. There are like the daughters that we never had.
Matthew has always had a thing about lists, and collecting flags of all the countries of the world, and charts, etc. He even had a candy wrapper collection when he was young. He has also always loved languages.
Some of this he gets from me. I remembered that I had all the US states and their capitols memorized in about third grade. I love time-lines, Bible charts, and genealogies. I love looking at word origins and similar words in different languages and making connections between them.
But in these areas, I think Matthew is on mental steroids. Language comes naturally to him. When he traveled to Russia, Brazil, Niger, and China he picked up on the languages easily, with near perfect pronunciation. For a time I thought his love of languages and desire to travel would lead to missions work.
About three years ago Matthew surprised us all by saying that he was no longer a Christian and that he was tired of trying to live up to everyone's expectations. In 2009 he and Amy left to go to China for a year to teach English as a second language to primary age kids at school in Fuyang. They loved it there and Matt was planning on staying on another year but there were problems with this contract and he had to return.
While in China, Matthew bought me a rosary from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral of Hangzhou (go to the website and you should see pictures that Matt took while there), one of a handful of Chinese monasteries, and brought it home with him. They returned to Grand Rapids. Both are now going to school, but they are still unsure of what to do with their lives job-wise.
Matt and I do not fight anymore. I love him dearly, and he has forgiven me for the way that I used to treat him. Much of that is because I know that as I have become closer to Christ and his Church, he has changed me. I know it. I can feel it. And both of the boys have noticed it and commented on it.
We have finally put aside our differences and we enjoy each other's company now. Matt is funny, and smart, and cares deeply for people. I pray and trust that he will find his way back to God and hopefully to the Catholic Church.
This is why Matthew's rosary is so special to me. It represents a long road of struggle, strife, regret, reconciliation, healing, and a deep and abiding love for my son.
Mike's rosary is easy to carry around as it is smaller than Matt's. I still use it for saying the rosary that is for a dedicated purpose. But for general and everyday use I carry Matt's rosary around the most. Why? Is it because I prefer it to Mike's? No. Is because when I use it, I am praying for Matt and I pray for Matt every day. He is still the prodigal in a foreign country. When the Lord has made him ready, he will call him home. Of this, I am certain.
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