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Editor’s Note: At the Service of Family

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“Every family needs a father – a father who shares in his family’s joy and pain, hands down wisdom to his children and offers them firm guidance and love.” – Pope Francis

My grandfather, Ben James, was one of a kind. Success-driven, business- oriented and obsessed with sports, he loved to keep yellow notepads full of data with him in his briefcase. Often, the stats of his favorite basketball teams – namely Louisiana Tech and LSU – filled their pages. But his note- taking extended to everything in his life.

Once, around the time I was 15, he sat down with me, yellow notepad in hand, pen poised at the ready, and he asked me about my life goals and wanted me to list what was important to me. Together, we created a “bucket list” of sorts that included things like “visit New York City,” and “go to college.” Among the “important things list” were words like “family” and “graduation.” I’ll never forget saying “Jesus.” He wrote the word down, then underlined it twice. The way he saw it, Jesus had to be the foundation of all those things.

My grandfather was never content to write empty words on a page. He held onto them, and he encouraged me to put them into action. In fact, when I was 16, he surprised me and took me with him on a business trip to NYC, allowing us to cross that item off our list together

Though he was a man of tangible actions and goals, he was also a man of faith. He radiated Christ in his joyful tone, the way he greeted others, the way he revered my grandmother and the way he always “let the little children come to him” (we grandchildren, all seven of us, absolutely adored him).

It wasn’t until I attended his funeral that it really hit me how much he had done for others. My grandmother revealed in her eulogy that my grandfather was the town’s legendary “friendly ghost.” For years, he dropped off special gifts to people in their small town who had suffered a death in the family, were ill or needed uplifting. My grandmother would park down the street at night, and he would sneak up and drop gifts off on front porches with a note signed “Love, Casper the Friendly Ghost.” He even left the notes for his own children when they most needed them.

Like St. Joseph, my grandfather was always at the service of his family, both biological and adopted. He was the ultimate support system, enabling others to be who Christ meant them to be.

This issue is dedicated to men like my grandfather. It honors those fathers – and father figures – who strive to be like St. Joseph: men of faith living out their vocations, giving of themselves and radiating Christ to their children and grandchildren.

This article appeared in the March 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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