Uncle J, as I have come to affectionately call him, is my favorite uncle. He is the funniest person I know, especially when he is just being himself. I could write a hilarious story book character based upon him and his adventures. He is quite a character all to himself…
These past few years, I have gotten to spend a significant amount of time traveling with and learning more about him. For instance, he received the call to ‘the priesthood’ when he was very young (i think 12). He made a commitment to enter the seminary at 16yrs old. (few people have such conviction at this early age).
In the seminary, he and a classmate were swimming in a river when his buddy swam too deep and panicked. My uncle swam over to rescue him when his friend instinctively grabbed ahold of my uncle causing both of them to drown. Miraculously, my uncle was pulled from the water by a priest who saved his life. Sadly, his friend did not survive. As Uncle J went on to become a priest, he too began metaphorically saving those struggling to keep their heads above water in our world today.
While traveling to India with him, I got to meet some of his classmates from the seminary. They all respected my uncle greatly and shared stories of their past. He talked about how difficult it was to be separated from his family with little to no contact as priests undergo training to learn detachment from the world. This would explain a lot.
Uncle J is loved by the many people whose lives he has touched. I remember as a child being fascinated by pocket computers long before the advent of smartphones. My uncle had a number of these pocket ‘organizers’ full of contacts of the many people he stayed in touch with. He would use them for a couple of years until they were full and needed a replacement, upon which he would give the old one to one of his friends, nephews, or nieces. He still does this even to this day.
Something that I have come to respect very much about my uncle is his ability to control his temper. The men in my family have historically been short tempered; however, this is not so with Uncle J. He possesses the rare ability to retain his composure and act rationally in the face of hostility. Interestingly, he also possesses a very childlike sense of seeking adventure. He likes to drive fast, he’s not afraid to climb obstacles and jump off slides, or ride motorcycles. He’s got more guts than people half his age.
Uncle Johnny loves modern medicine! I guess growing up in India, medicine was difficult to acquire or even looked upon with doubt, Uncle J has embraced this science wholeheartedly (which is quite progressive for his time). When I was a little boy, I thought Uncle J was both a doctor and a priest as he worked at St Paul’s hospital as a chaplain. He knew about every medicine or antibiotic, in addition to inexplicably having a stockpile of his own which he would offer freely to anyone suffering.
Speaking of those suffering, while traveling together on cruise ships, I saw my uncle administer spiritual healing to a few members of the crew. I saw him embrace a steward as she wept for her brother dying back home of AIDS as he offered her counseling. Another time, there was a knock on our cabin door with an expectant crew member seeking counsel for the loss of his newborn child. Uncle J spoke with him in his native tongue (Konkani), to which his face lit up from nostalgically being able to converse with a priest from back home. I sat on the top bunk dangling my legs like a mute as they seemed to know the punchlines in conversation while I smiled obliviously.
I could go on about the many hilarious and touching moments that he brought to all of our lives. He is a great uncle, who has time after time continued to support and believe in me and in All of our family. It makes me quite sad to know that in spite of all these good deeds that people like my uncle can experience mistreatment, injustice, and abandonment. It has made me think and reflect upon what it means to be a follower of Christ. In spite of all the good that Jesus had shared with the world, the world turned its back on Him. He knew this ahead of time, yet still continued with His mission. He too felt abandoned on the cross not knowing exactly what His Holy Father had in store, yet He remained faithful till death. (Not a very human characteristic, but rather a very divine quality these days as most people would simply give up.) We all know how The Father redeemed His Son and The Son has redeemed us, and so we are left with the knowledge that our true faith will be rewarded in Heaven.
I AM Proud of my Uncle Johnny for being a Man of Faith especially on the anniversary of his 50 years of committed Priesthood!
“Therefore what God hath joined together, let no man put asunder!”
May you continue to profess the Good News in spite of the world, knowing that Our Heavenly Father has called you to the banquet to celebrate with Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.