does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Graceful, Wise, and Humble Man

A young woman new to the country shows up crying at the front door of the minister’s house. Her husband has abandoned her penniless and with a newborn child. She is invited to stay until a solution can be found.

A meeting among ministers goes on endlessly. Words are heated. A man who has been seated quietly says, “Here is another way to look at this.” The room grows silent. The matter is soon resolved.

These are just two of the many stories people love to tell about my late father, Rev. Miguel Angel Mercado.

This weekend, his church is dedicating its new library, which it is naming the Mercado Library. In today’s mega-church environment, that a church of modest means establishes a library and names it after someone already deceased is hardly media-worthy news. That it is my father who is honored is also of minimal interest, even for followers of this blog. Why then do I write about it here?

When I received the email informing me of the dedication ceremony, I was thrilled, of course. It’s my dad after all. Then I reflected on how amazing it is that almost 23 years after his death, my father still has such a sentimental hold on members of his church. He was their minister for 33 years, yes, but enough time has passed by that a sizeable portion of the current membership never knew him. Those new members, though, may have heard so much about him that they feel as if they knew him.

That the stories are retold at every opportunity is perhaps not surprising. For a man who was unassuming to a fault, his influence is still felt far and wide. From his modestly sized church emerged thirty-three ministers who went on to lead congregations across national borders. Indeed, I sometimes regret that I was born with a deaf ear when it came to his particular religious beliefs. I wish my eyes could also light up and my smile become dewy whenever I hear what an amazing man of God my father was. When thinking of my father, my eyes and smile will do the same, but only because I remember what an incredibly gentle, wise, and humble man he was.

Perhaps it all comes down to the same thing. Maybe, like all politics being local, all religion is ultimately personal. Others’ memories of my father may be couched in religious terms, but his impact was essentially personal. And I am in awe of anyone who can have such a lasting influence on people that, long after he is gone, others are eager to share their recollections about him. More importantly, their current lives are elevated through the recollection. That is a service of the highest order.

And that is why I write about him in the installment usually dedicated to discussing religion. His religious beliefs were not mine, but in the end he helped me keep an open mind about why religion matters to people and how it can have a positive impact on their lives. Nurtured by my father’s example, I am also led to ask on an ongoing basis how I can live a life of meaning and of service.

To read my remarks at the dedication ceremony, I invite you to visit my other blog. Though my remarks were delivered in Spanish, I have provided an English translation. In any event, thank you for allowing me to share this with you.


Sheila Deeth said...

He sounds a wonderful man. Reading about him makes me think of similar stories about my grandfather, a Methodist lay-preacher.

Judith Mercado said...

Sheila, yes,he was a wonderful man. I miss him very much.

Nevine said...

Judy, I have always believed that it is the truly humble of heart and spirit who are remembered. After all, humility is a quality that resounds... and is so very rare. You must be so proud of your father, regardless of your religious beliefs. At the end of the day, he is your father... and no ordinary man.


A Cuban In London said...

I agree with your sentiments here, that such a small church can open a library in such dire times, it ought to be commended.

I loved the way you wrote about religion being personal. It is my experience with religious friends, that we get on so well because they don't try to 'convert' me, the heathen, and rather concentrate their efforts on making the world a better place to live. Your father sounds like he was that kind of man.

Many thanks for such a heartfelt tribute.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you, Nevine and Cuban, you grasp the intent of my post.