Does the past matter?

Connecting Faith and Life

By Brenda Hopf

The lack of historical memory is a serious shortcoming in our society. A mentality that can only say, ‘Then was then, and now is now,’ is ultimately immature. Knowing and judging past events is the only way to build a meaningful future. Memory is necessary for growth.
— Pope Francis, Amoris Laetitia, 193

On a warm, sunny Saturday morning just a few days ago, I strolled to the flower bed in our yard where the peonies grow and bloom every May; peonies that I started from plants that I transplanted from my grandma’s yard many years ago. Like the rest of my siblings, who also transplanted these same flowers in their yards, the sight of the peony and the smell of its fragrant aroma remind us of our Grandma Marie, who is no longer with us. When we cut our peonies and bring the bouquets inside to smell their sweet aroma, it is as if a little piece of Grandma enters our homes with them.

For my family and me, the peony is a reminder of a woman who was dearly loved. She had a profound impact not only on her family but on the many other lives she touched. Quiet, humble and hard-working, Grandma Marie was the epitome of what it means to be a good Christian. As it goes with every human being though, Grandma’s life was not without struggles. Like all of us, she faced many challenges in her life; not the least of which was losing her mother when she was only 12 years old. Grandma shared her stories with us as we grew up; and her example of living a simple, humble life has become a source of inspiration for us as we now pass on the stories of her life to our children and grandchildren.

While I have come to know the importance of passing on family stories rooted in faith, such as those from my Grandma Marie and other family members, for some reason when I read the above quote from Pope Francis, the meaning of passing on stories from the past touched my heart in a deeper way than ever before. It became clearer to me that it is truly essential that we know what has happened in the past if we are to be able to move forward to the future in a positive way. It is said that one cannot live in the past, but I believe knowledge of the past is essential to look to the new life of the future.

As we all strive to seek this new life for our future, let us be mindful of the importance of passing on our faith through sharing the stories of family members from the past. We would probably do well to also remember that someday, someone will likely be passing on stories from our life. Will those stories be inspirational to those who hear them? As our younger family members look back on our lives and share our life stories, will they see that we met our challenges with faith and trust in the Lord? If they hear stories of the times we failed to live up to our Christian calling, will there be an inspirational story of a life changed for the better? When these family members see something that reminds them of us, such as the peony reminds my family of our Grandma Marie, what memories will that invoke for them? As Pope Francis said, knowing and judging these past events is the only way to build a meaningful future.

Let us pray for the Lord’s help to see the goodness in sharing family stories from the past. May God grant us the patience to preserve those memories and give us guidance in discerning the best ways and most opportune times to pass on our family history to future generations. Amen.

Brenda Hopf HS

Brenda Hopf is a member of Divine Mercy Parish in Dubois County and also contributes to the “Sharing the Load” column in The Message.