By: Vince DiPasquale
The month of May has always been special to me. It’s a time of memories and major events in my life. This month has brought me so many teachers through the years. May is known for flowers, graduations, weddings, and the beginning of summer with Memorial Day, a day of special remembrance.
As a child the first day of May in the City of Camden was dedicated to the Blessed Mother. We celebrated and had processions and parties to commemorate our Lady. Over the years she has become my spiritual guide and a mother to me in recovery. Now I understand Her specialness. As I sit in the church of my childhood in Camden, I can almost see a tear in Her eye as she continues to watch over the struggles and pain of the city. Yet as I sit in Her home, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, and keep her company, I feel safe and loved in her presence. She reminds me of my first family, my parents, my relatives, and my neighborhood, it was the community of my childhood with so many memories and teachers. Even though so many situations had the air of being dysfunctional I am grateful today for the great lessons I continue to learn from them.
May 24, 1940 was a special day in my life since it was the day of my birth. On this day my Creator sent me on my journey in life. What a time to be born. I guess I’m considered a war baby because the early years of my life were lived during World War II. This is a special day also because I have so much gratitude that God allowed me to enter this world. I get so excited on my birthday. My wife tells me I have a birth week instead of a birthday ~ Any excuse for a party with my granddaughter helping me with the planning. In May of this year, I will have 83 fantastic birthdays. Take time to celebrate your birth. It’s a wonderful gift to be walking on this earth. I’m wishing a happy birthday to all of you who are reading this article. Remember we are special because God created us. We are His messengers.
May 17th was the day my mom left this earth and returned to her Creator. I know that God welcomed her along with her special friend St. Anthony. I know too that she is one of my special angels who watches over me and protects me. She spent her whole life protecting me so I don’t think she will do anything different now. Thank you, Mom and for all the lessons you have taught me. Even through all of our struggles there was growth. Thank you for being my Mom and my teacher.
On May 21, 1966, I entered a major phase of my life. It was the day I was ordained a Catholic priest. At age 26 I was eager, scared, and naïve. Once again, my Creator led me on a twenty-year journey of life adventure and discovery. I experienced so many situations and teachable moments during those years. From teaching high school, to working with migrant workers in Vineland, to being a prison chaplain, to living and working in Atlantic City where there were so many teachable moments. The years in Atlantic City were chaotic and crazy yet I learned so much by the exposure. I ran a halfway house for ex-convicts, helped get a drug program started (N.A.R.C.O.) which is now the John Brooks Treatment Center today. Johnny was a special teacher in my life. I even had the experience of being a one-man campaign against gambling in Atlantic City. I lost the campaign but everything I predicted came true. The journey of my priesthood even led me to the 12 Step Programs and eventually the co-founding of the The Starting Point in 1977. I realize today with all my running and work I was missing the most important person, me. My journey through the priesthood led me to finally get started on the most important part of my journey, my connection to my wonderful recovery family of today. My final day in the priesthood led me to my next journey. I married and inherited a new family. I have so much gratitude for those wonderful years God allowed me to meet and experience so many special teachers on the road to recovery. Thank you, God, for the memories that began on May 21, 1966.
On the last Monday of May we celebrate a very special day in the history of our country, Memorial Day. It’s a solemn day to remember all those special people who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. In Holiday City where I live, we have a beautiful monument built to remind us not to forget. Even though it’s a day of picnics, parties, the beginning of the summer season, don’t forget the real importance of the day. On this day as I sit by the monument, I close my eyes and can see the spirits of all those who paid the price, living and dead. Their energy and spirit surround that hallowed place. Let’s all be grateful and not take anything for granted. Everything that is worthwhile in life must be earned. They taught us not to be afraid but to take the journey of life seriously. Many of us have been given so many gifts and have gone through so many life experiences so we can share them with others. Remember we have been given so much and we have the responsibility to give back to others.
We all have so many memories. Take time to reflect on them and know that every experience we go through now and in the future will happen because they become our strength. Don’t be afraid to face the memories of life because they are our most powerful, teachable moments.
As we celebrate the month of May, be reminded how beautiful and precious this month is. It’s a month when flowers bloom which came from planted seeds. Memories are planted seeds in us so we, like the flowers, may bloom and share our gifts with the world. Each of us is God’s creation. Don’t hide your gifts under a bushel basket. Let them shine so the world can see.
As we enjoy the month of May, do so with gratitude. Let’s be grateful for what was, what is and always grateful for whatever will be. God bless us all.
A Reflection of Prayer
“I asked God for strength that I might achieve.
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things.
I was given illness that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have people’s praise.
I was given weakness that I might feel the need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing I asked for; but everything I hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayer was answered.
I am among all people; most richly blessed”.