The “Catholic Way” of doing things includes our sacred tradition of honoring the men and women, extraordinary-ordinary people, who went before us in the struggle and who succeeded despite all obstacles, including their own faults, to remain one with God. We call them “the Saints,” and we honor and cling to our holy communion with them in hopes that they can help us to make it, too. Many there are who call the practice ridiculous, holding that Jesus Alone is the One to pray to, or to His Father. No one else can or is needed to help us. i, however, hold fast to my connection to this great host of characters, especially those who apparently suffered the many character defects which i suffer – but never gave up. They help me more than words can say. It’s so comforting to know, e.g., what knuckleheads the Apostles were!
Each day, or almost each day, there is another Saint for us to reflect upon and to cry out to, as we would to a brother or a sister or FRIEND, when we are in need. The day of each one’s “Feast” or celebration is generally that day on which the person died, as each one’s ULTIMATE GIFT to us is the faith that “not even death can really harm us,” as the great St. Francis put into his Song of Creation; “Sister Death shall simply bring us to our true Home.”
It is for this reason that October 16 has always been so special to me. It is the day of one of my very favorite saints. EVEN THOUGH he is not CALLED A SAINT. Of course he is not, as he was not a Catholic. SO WHAT!!! i still, and will always, rank him up there among the tippity-tops, and whenever i am down, really down, and sinking lower in life’s quicksand, i’ll always call, HORATIO! If i had my way, every man, woman or child who feels an urge to rage would replace every curse against God with to a loud cry to the man who surely had reason to. Horatio’s story can never be told enough. Had he been a Catholic, it would have been retold at least once a year on October 16, the day he died. In fact, if ever there were two saints on earth, it was Horatio and Anna Spafford.
Here was a man just like me, in many ways. If ever a man got the wind kicked out of him, that was Horatio. Let me review his amazing life briefly.Born in Troy, New York, in 1828, he grew up as a great exerciser of both intellect and faith, more so of Faith, as Life he found went WAY BEYOND HUMAN SENSE!!! By the age of forty he was one of the nation’s most prominent, and wealthy, attorneys, living in Chicago. By 1870 he and Anna were praising God for more blessings than they could count, especially four children, and a fifth on the way. Then, tragedy began to strike. That was the year their first son died at the age of four. The next year was not much brighter. 1871 will always be known in American history as the year of the Great Fire, the Chicago Fire, or “the Spafford Fire”, as it swallowed up most of the family’s material fortune. But it did not take them, nor their spirit.
Celebrating at least that they had each other, Horatio and Anna and their four girls, Annie, 11, Meggie, 9, Bessie, 5, and Tanatia, 2, began to plan a getaway to Europe to join a good friend, who was a famous evangelist. At the last minute Horatio got held back for business, but the five ladies went ahead of him. It was not long before dad received a telegram from his wife, that only she survived a crash at sea. Horatio jumped onto the first ship out and sailed right through that dark abyss to his darling, and their love lived on and on, more alive and passionate than ever. Soon they would give birth to another Horatio, who would also leave them at age of four. And finally, their Bertha and Grace, who would join them in Jerusalem, where the Spaffords decided to live out their lives dedicated to the Gospel life, caring for the sick and poor of any race or creed, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, atheist, anyone in any need. They were not “Catholics,” but they were more “CATHOLIC”
than most who bear the title, as they were TRULY UNIVERSAL. After the Roller-Coaster of their raising (and losing) so many children, they devoted themselves to living Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan, WHAT MATTERS MOST IN THE END: Did we show compassion to everyone?
What Horatio is best known for, however, is one simple song which, along with “Amazing Grace,” is among the world’s most popular hymns. The real beauty of it all is that Horatio wrote it in his own ship cabin, just as the captain informed him that they were sailing over the very spot where his four girls were lost:
When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows, like sea billows roll,
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
it is well, it is well with my soul.
Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back like a scroll,
the trumpet resound, and the Lord shall descend.
Even so, it is well with my soul!
Of course, you, as i, might say, “I could never, not in a million years, have a faith like this.” i would settle for even a drop of it – and of the PEACE which only it can bring. Horatio is a like a star in the firmament, a great ideal that i look up to for guidance and strength. These Horatios and Annas make me want to do better, to keep trying, to be better and freer, free from the burdens of failures or fears, and from the weights of too many possessions or worries. Whenever some thing is snatched from me, or something i want won’t seem to come my way, i will always say, HORATIO! It’s ok!