Did you know that you just kept singing all day, the day you were confirmed? We all know that you are not the most gifted singer, but sing you did. All day long, sheer joy bubbled up from you. Joy. You have found joy in Our Lord.
Two years ago, you told us that you could not honestly profess our faith. You had too many doubts, too many unanswered questions. You had learned too young that the Church is made of imperfect people. Alongside your seeds of faith, seeds of doubt had been sown. We appreciated the courage and honesty you showed in that moment. And we began a long, hard journey with you to find Christ.
There were nights I trembled with fear as I watched the storms rage within you. I prayed. Oh, how I prayed! There was a grain of faith there, I knew. A mustard seed, if you will. You tried to crush it.
We read great books. You talked to brilliant apologists. You remained unconvinced. You faltered. And you fell. You learned that living in a family of faith means that someone will pick you up and carry you as far as you need, for as long as you need. You saw in your father the face of forgiveness and the example of sacrifice for someone else's sins. You softened and opened yourself just a little bit to the grace of the Lord. You heard the voice of Jesus in the confessional. I will forever be grateful to that good and holy priest. You returned to the Eucharist, tentatively at first.
There were so many, many people praying for you. Among them was a band of brothers in Louisiana and their sweet, faithful Mama. You knew they could be counted on to drop everything and pray through overtime of the State Cup finals. We could almost hear them cheering from so far away when you scored the winning goal. But you also knew that a faithful woman in the deep South joined her prayers with mine and your godmother's and the prayers of so many people who love you for a much, much bigger triumph.
On a warm, late summer afternoon, just as you were beginning to embrace Our Lord, your world was rocked. The baby boy newly born to the merry band of brothers died in his sleep. And that afternoon, as we sat at an outdoor cafe on the way to soccer practice and I tried to make some phone calls, you cradled your baby sister very close and I noticed you were trembling.
We all held our breath. How would tragedy test your faith? How would you reconcile the pain you were witnessing to the gospel?
You, you saw a new saint and claimed him for your own. He is your constant companion. Some of the first prayers Mrs. Mitchell whispered heavenward to her dear little one were prayers for you. We begged his intercession even as we mourned the loss of him. September 1, 2009 was the day Patrick Foss began to step heavenward with a firm assurance that still astounds everyone around you.
You began to prepare in earnest for your Confirmation, eager to complete the healing begun in baptism.
You chose Coach Harkes for your sponsor. He is the perfect choice for you. He understands you. He understands your intensity about all things. He understands the formidable challenges that come with your remarkable gifts. And he is a man of God. He'll be there for you, wherever "there" is.
Finally, it is so fitting that in the same place where seeds of doubt were scattered years ago, a new priest celebrated Mass. You were humbled by his profound witness of faith. You were inspired by his obvious love for the Eucharist. And, you were renewed in hope and faith in your Church. You left that makeshift altar in a school gym and walked home with the confidence of a man who was very sure of his God. In the Year for Priests, we are so grateful for the holy example of an extraordinary man of God.
Did I cry on the evening when you were confirmed? Oh, yes, dear boy. I definitely did. And no tears ever tasted so sweet.
God bless you, Patrick Gabriel Bryce.