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Catholic News Herald

Serving Christ and Connecting Catholics in Western North Carolina

lawlorFor years, every Monday about 7:20 a.m. I heard the distinctive sound of the screen porch door slamming shut over at my neighbor's house. That sound informed me that my father was on his way over for our morning Mass at 7:30 a.m. and that he would be coming through the back door in about 30 seconds.

Like many people, I look forward to my day off. On Sundays after the last Mass, the last baptism, the last confession and the last meeting, I usually head to my cottage of refuge in my hometown about one hour's drive from the parish. After my ordination 20 years ago, I used to always concelebrate the morning Mass on my day off in my home parish. After my mother's death 17 years ago, my father, who had already retired, began to attend as well. He mentioned to me that as his wife had been called quite suddenly from this life at the age of 59, he recognized the reality that he could be next and he wanted to prepare. For years, a small group of us would pray Morning Prayer after the Mass and then go out for breakfast. After a while, one of my brothers, a lector, also began to join us for the Monday Mass and breakfast.

About 12 years ago, I bought Dad's back lot and built a modest home for my day off and possible future retirement. Meanwhile, Dad sold the homeplace and became a renter. Soon after, the little bungalow beside mine became available and I asked Dad if he would like to move in there if I bought the house. He always liked that house, he told me, and, yes, he would like to live there. It was an interesting turn of events: I had once rented from Dad and now he rented from me! I promised him that I would never raise his rent and that he could live in the house for as long as he wanted.

Eventually, I began offering the Monday morning Mass in my house, and then I would cook breakfast for Dad and my brother Eric. Over breakfast, we usually had a lively discussion over the latest political news, events and intrigue in town and in the local parish, and Dad would tell us all about the latest health fad or conspiracy theory. We called ourselves the three bachelors. Dad, a fine engineer and brilliant mathematician, was in many ways a humble man who didn't mind the cheap seats, the bargain brands or even cheap wine.

061016 Lawlor dadFather Mark Lawlor and his father Michael Lawlor are pictured during a sailing trip off the coast of Maine. (Photo provided)About a year ago, on a Monday morning, I was in my easy chair and at 7:20 a.m., I didn't hear the slam of the screen porch door. It was an eerie silence. At 7:30, my brother Eric arrived and asked, "Where's Dad?" I told him that I didn't know. When I had arrived on Sunday evening, I saw his light on and his car in the driveway. I usually didn't check in with him if it was already Sunday evening. We quickly went next door with some anxiety. Entering the home, we found Dad lifeless on the floor, resulting from an apparent heart attack. It was a sight that we certainly won't forget. Our father, our travel companion and our friend, had been called from us to his eternal home. Dad was 80.

As I was preparing the homily for his funeral Mass, a verse from Psalm 90 came to me: "Our span is 70 years, or 80 for those who are strong. " I thought to myself, "Dad would be pleased to know that he was considered strong by the psalmist."

Eric and I continue the tradition of Monday morning Mass and breakfast. There is, however, an empty space around the altar and the breakfast table. We miss Dad and I will always miss the sound of the slamming of the screen porch door that signaled he was on his way.


Father Mark Lawlor is the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Charlotte.