Laura Bernardini is director of coverage in CNN's Washington Bureau. The views expressed in this column belong to Bernardini.
A Catholic reads the Bible, week 23: Calling all angels
My father died almost seven years ago.
Dad was a devout Catholic who fought for years against cancer. While he was ill, his already strong faith became even stronger.
A memory that I hold dear is the image of Dad on our front porch with his rosary and prayer cards. Those were the quiet moments when he had his conversations with God.
My Dad's name was Ralph.
This week, I read about the angel Raphael in the Book of Tobit, and I couldn't stop thinking about Dad.
The Book of Tobit, which is not in Jewish or Protestant Bibles, is a bit hard to summarize, but here it goes: Tobit was a regular guy and righteous Israelite who lived in exile in Nineveh (modern-day Iraq). He tried to honor Judaism, particularly by giving a proper Jewish burial to Jews killed by King Shalmaneser, who promptly sends Tobit away for his transgressions.
When a new king assumes the throne, Tobit is allowed to return to Nineveh, but his bad luck doesn't end. Alas, a pigeon poops in his eye, causing cataracts that blind him.
Tobit feels hopeless. He wants the Lord to kill him. Instead, God sends the angel Raphael disguised as a young man to help Tobit and his son, Tobiah. Together, they travel abroad to reclaim a fortune Tobit has protectively hidden in a far land.
As soon as I read about Tobit and Raphael, I felt an immediate connection.
The first thing I wrote in my notebook was, "I am so glad to meet the angel."
I wish I had known about this story when Dad was sick. While he always wished he hadn't gotten sick, there was an acceptance that this was something he would have to deal with and try to overcome. My family referred to our shared experience of Dad's illness as our "new normal."
Like the Book of Nehemiah last week, it was the normalcy of Tobit's story that resonated most strongly with me this week. These are finally Bible characters to which a 21st century Catholic like me can relate.
Tobit loved his wife and son and upheld his beliefs in a place that didn't appreciate them. He worried about his son when he didn't return from his journey in the anticipated time. While not exactly the same, my Dad used to pace the house when we kids were late coming home.
What I have been learning through this project are that there are passages of the Bible that speak to us more than others. This week was a gift because all of my meditations passed through the prism of the lessons that I learned from my Dad.
My Dad's mom lived until almost 100, and his succumbing to cancer was not what any of us expected. But, our memories live.
And to me, my father, like Tobit, was a common man who did great things.