I don’t like it when the Church moves feast days. Today, January 6, is the feast of the Epiphany—even though the Church celebrated it last Sunday. January 6 is special in my family of origin because it’s the birthday of my parents’ first born, Robert—who died, 27 years ago, at the age of 34. Of course, January 6 in the United States now has a notorious connotation—boy, do I hate that too.
Yet the true meaning of the Epiphany cannot be tarnished. As my priest reminded us on Sunday, when a baby is born, people flock to the home (pre-pandemic!) bearing gifts, as the three kings did for Jesus, because the birth of a new baby is a joyous, wonderful event. The birth of Jesus, of course, was glorious—the Epiphany, revealing the baby as the Christ. But all human babies’ births are epiphanies, as they each reveal God’s miraculous gift of life.
A few months before he died, while he was undergoing chemotherapy, Robert and his wife Mary became godparents of my newborn son, James Anthony. The priest who baptized James was our beloved friend, Father Kazimierz Kowalski, who died just a few months ago, in October. Father Kaz also had a special connection to the Epiphany—he was famous for his marvelous Epiphany parties. OK—they too were on the Sunday nearest the date! And what wonderful gatherings they were. Father kept up with old friends while always making new ones, and he, beaming, welcomed a diverse and joyful crowd to his beautifully decorated parish home. Good food, drink and laughter were always in abundance—and for some of us, as life got too busy, it was the one time of the year we might reconnect with former neighbors and parish buddies.
Actually, Robert and Father Kaz had many similarities: kind and loving spirits; both bearded and teddy-bear like, quick to give a hug and warm words of compassion and encouragement; both deeply philosophical; both had the gift of quick wit and often hilarious rejoinders.
When Father Kaz died, I grieved as if I’d lost another brother.
But love is never lost, and today I am sending up a cheer and hugs to that great Epiphany party where, I hope and pray, Robert and Father Kaz are entertaining the saints with their now-radiant repartee.