The 2023 Father Charles Irvin Memorial Essay Contest Winner
Each year, FAITH Catholic, which partners with the Diocese of Portland in the publication of Harvest magazine, sponsors an essay contest for high school seniors. In 2023, the contest was open to students in any diocese where FAITH Catholic has a publishing partner. David Robichaud from St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Bangor entered the contest and won a $1500 scholarship.
The topic this year was: "Tell us about the person in whom you most see the face of Christ." David Chose to write about his grandmother. His winning essay is below.
I have never liked birds.
Yes, I know that is not very St. Francis of Assisi of me, but it's true. Ever since my sister rolled down the window in the Books-A-Million parking lot and let a seagull in, I have never liked them. Having bird feeders in our yard did not help; seagulls, blue jays, and even hummingbirds, I have never found a liking to them.
That anecdote represents my family very accurately, as it showcases our chaos. From my sisters to my parents, we tend to get pretty loud due to laughing or having chaotic conversations. However, there is one more member of my family who does not fit into this category. One who is soft-spoken and kind-hearted. One who has never complained a day in her life. One in whom I see the face of Jesus. That woman is my grandma.
My grandma has lived with me ever since I was born. Comfortable in her room, she always showed me that all you needed to be happy was family, faith, and a few good TV channels. No matter the time of day, her TV was always set on one of 3 channels: Food Network, Hallmark, or EWTN. As cliché as it sounds, words can’t describe how kind of a woman she was. She never spoke ill of anyone, nor did she ever snap at us the way we got frustrated with her. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
My grandma was the most patient and happy person I have ever met. I can’t express the joy she had when 11 o’clock occurred and she could watch “The Price is Right” and play along whilst eating ramen noodles that she called “Oodle Noodles.” I can still hear her voice whenever she said she wanted “Oodle Noodles.” Recounting all these memories assures me of one thing. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
The one thing I have yet to mention in depth is her faith. Yes, she watched EWTN daily; but she did so much more. She was not able to go to Sunday Masses so my mom would bring her the Holy Eucharist in a pyx. Praying the Rosary daily, she showed me what it truly meant to have faith. I went to a Catholic school from Kindergarten to Eighth grade, yet I believe I learned more about my faith from her. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
When the world had to quarantine in 2020 our family had to watch Mass online. My grandma showed me what it meant to be reverent, never opening her eyes, crossing her hands, and praying angelically. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
My grandma loved the Christmas season. She loved spending time with her family and calling relatives out of state, but more specifically, she loved the color red. The Masses on EWTN were clothed with poinsettias, and this season brought her so much happiness. Whenever she asked me to find her a new movie, she always told me to put on either a Christmas movie or a princess movie. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
Her bedroom was a neat corner in our house that was devoted just to her. With many blankets, she sat cozy surrounded by countless pictures of the Holy Family and crucifixes. She used her teal-colored, glass-beaded rosary whenever she prayed; the same rosary she was buried with. She was perfect; the one who truly showed the face of Jesus, and I could only feel peace the day she passed.
November 26, 2020, at 10:17 a.m., was theoretically one of the saddest days of my life. The day your grandma dies is supposed to be a day of sorrow and grieving, yet I felt peace. Yes, we cried and yes, it was sad; but with the life that my grandma lived, I couldn’t help but feel at peace with her passing. She died peacefully in a hospital, surrounded by her family, after having the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick.
It is no coincidence that my grandma died on Thanksgiving Day of 2020. I am not saying I am thankful for her passing, but there is still so much to be thankful for. She showed me to be thankful for a simple life, filled with family. She showed me to be thankful for having faith. She showed me to be thankful for everything, even the outcomes that don’t go our way. She could not have shown this to me if she didn’t act with faith.
Driving home from the hospital was odd; our car had never been this quiet. We came home to a house that had lost its most patient, faithful, kind person, and yet, it wasn’t a time for grief. We finished packing up her things and closed the door to her room. We sat and talked and tried to figure out what to do until we looked out at our bird feeders. What I expected to see was another menacing bird, reminding me of that horrendous day in the Books-A-Million parking lot, but what I saw was a beautiful red cardinal sitting on the feeders.
Cardinals are said to be a sign of a visitor from heaven, and since then, every cardinal that I see in my backyard acts as a little memory of my grandma. I can’t say that I love birds, but seeing the majesty of the red cardinal now and then helps me to remember my grandma. My grandma was the most faithful person I have ever met and it is soothing to know that she can come to visit me when I struggle in life or my faith.
I still don't like birds, but because of my grandma’s love, patience, and faith, I love cardinals.