Gaudete Sunday reminds me of Deacon John Paul Zurawski.
Deacon John passed away on May 22, 2017, quite unexpectedly and at just 75. I miss him.
As a considerate tailor might say, Deacon John was not a small man. He was, in fact, large in body, voice, spirit, and conviction.
He also was not a man of theological subtly, weighing the gray nuances of right and wrong. His world was black and white, where right was right and wrong was wrong. He sacrificed a corporate career when he refused to do something he knew went against the teachings of the Church.
He served many years at my parish, St. John Vianney, Northlake, Illinois. During that time, there were two certain ways to find the answer to a matter of Catholic teaching. You could search through the Catechism of the Catholic Church – or you could ask Deacon John.
He knew the catechism and he knew the Bible. He had no hesitation of providing a parishioner with honest fraternal correction. Few would have called him “pastoral” but none would have called him unclear.
His homilies were loud and long and I always learned something new. His message was hopeful, even joyful. But he wasn’t afraid to use the “s” word (sin).
There was a certain gruffness about Deacon John. But as you got to know him, you realized he was funny and even sensitive.
As I said at the top, Gaudete Sunday reminds me of Deacon John. We had an annual joke on this Sunday. I would always seek him out after Mass and tell him how good he looked in pink. It was like telling John Wayne he looked good in a lace blouse.
Deacon John would raise his bushy eyebrows, roll his eyes and remind me that the color he was wearing was rose, not pink. A manly man like Deacon John could wear rose but never pink.
I’m sure some long-absent Catholics will wander into Church on Gaudete Sunday and think the priest is celebrating an alternative lifestyle. But the Sunday colors are to express the joy we feel for the soon-arriving Christ.
That is a joy Deacon John projected every time I crossed his path. His joy is a blessing I’m grateful to recall.