If you picture in your head the quintessential Italian grandfather, my grandpa was it.
As the eleventh of 14 brothers and sisters, my grandpa Salvatore was boisterous and friendly, talked loudly using his hands for emphasis, and clocked in at a whopping 5 feet 2 inches. He loved his family fiercely and never missed an opportunity to talk about his eight grandchildren. He even had a license plate in the back window of his sedan that read, “let me tell you about my grandchildren.”
Aside from a huge love for his family and pasta, his greatest love was for God. I have never met another person with faith as big as his. He went to Mass daily, and it was not uncommon for people to mention that he could have easily been a priest. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as one of his sons and a nephew did become priests.
One of the many stories my family loves to retell is from when Grandpa was growing up in Pennsylvania. He was a big football and baseball enthusiast, and as a young boy, he decided that his favorite MLB team was the St. Louis Cardinals solely because he thought the team was made up of saints!
But a story that will always stick in my mind is one I learned after he passed away when I was in college.
He lived in the same two-story mustard yellow house with brown shutters for 45 years. The same house where he raised his five children with my grandma, grieved the passing of his wife, played with his grandchildren, and hosted countless family celebrations.
One of his nightly rituals was to kneel and pray at his bedside before lying down (although, as my mom recalls, they often found him asleep in the kneeling position next to his bed and had to wake him so he wouldn’t be there all night!).
His bedroom was small and modest with a twin bed and crosses on the wall. There were holy statues scattered here and there atop dressers. But what was next to his bed was the biggest display of faith in the room: two knee indentations worn into the carpet. Proof that he chose to live his life on his knees before God day in, day out.
This Christmas, with nostalgia in my heart, I’ll think of my grandpa’s example of faith as I kneel next to my daughter’s crib at night. I hope to leave an impression too, not on the floor but on her future prayer life. Nothing would make my grandfather more proud.