By Noelle Mering
Below is an excerpt of something I wrote about my dad for the first 'Theology of Home' book. He passed away on September 29, 2022, at 3:18 pm right after a Divine Mercy Chaplet and the singing of the Regina Caeli. He was surrounded by his twelve grandchildren, two daughters, two sons-in-law, and his wife of 52 years. Today would have been his 84th birthday.
In the months leading up to his death, I was struck by the beauty of fatherhood: spiritual, biological, and potential. Watching my dear priest friends drive inconvenient distances to bring him the sacraments, watching my husband, brother-in-law, nephews, and sons lift and carry him when my mom, sister, and I could not, and thinking of his life and how he deeply loved our mom, and delighted in my sister and me...I kept thinking, "Good fathers will change the world."
Growing up every Saturday afternoon, my father would sit in his favorite chair reading for hours while classical music played. I would often curl up on the sofa across from him with a book of my own, though the book was really just an entrance into the sphere of his afternoon.
We would talk about the composer or what we were reading, or discuss politics or philosophy. To this day he is eager to hear what I think about anything and everything, but looking back to my childhood, it was particularly striking that he would listen to my ideas so attentively. How could my juvenile thoughts on the world and its meaning compare to the great minds he was reading?
It was only as an adult that I realized the effect those afternoons had on me. From this formative relationship with the first man in my life, I learned that sharing in the life of the mind was a particularly rich mode of human encounter, that a seasoned sophisticated mind like my father’s could still be full of wonder, and that even a simple, childlike mind had something to contribute.
Years later, while at college living in a Southern California beach town, I often felt surprise that some of my male peers would objectify women, or that some of my female peers would objectify themselves.
We live in a time when much confusion and disorientation characterize the relationship between the sexes. We speak about the dynamic between the two as being an almost unbridgeable chasm, fraught with toxicity and danger.
Perhaps inadvertently, all those Saturday afternoons my dad spent effortlessly crossing that bridge taught me who I was. In establishing a welcoming environment to think, disagree, and speak freely, he showed me that male and female relationships can be characterized by great depth and respect, and to identify as counterfeit any relationship that remained in the shallows. As a child, my views likely did not merit such serious consideration, but as a beloved daughter it was freely given.
Please pray for the repose of the soul of Phillip Stephen Cronin.