On this day –the Feast of Saint Isidore of Seville- in the year 2000, my father died. Haki Resul Gaba was born in the Albanian town of Gjirokastër on the 15th of February in the year 1919, and from there his life extended to an eventful eighty years. When he was in his mid to late twenties, ie., the 1940s, he fought against the Communists in a doomed attempt to overthrow that government, eventually settling in America by way of a several year sojourn in Great Britain. By contrast, when I was in my twenties I was pretty much doing what I am doing now, working and studying.
His life had an impact in several important areas, 20th century Albanian history, the Albanian Islamic community in this country, and of course family.
Ultimately, in the even broader view, his life stands as a testament to a very Lenten truth, one which we all must face. In the words of the 90th Psalm:
"The days of our age are threescore years and ten;
and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years
yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow;
so soon passeth it away, and we are gone."
With love for my father and his legacy, I must not let this day pass without remarking that one of the lessons of today's feast is that while we have family according familial bonds, there is a family which transcends even the strong bonds of biology and marriage, namely, the family which a Christian enjoys in the Church. Blood is thicker than water, it is said. And to that we must respond that as strong as the bond of blood relation is, an even stronger bond is the bond of unity which brothers in Christ share as a result of being baptized into the bloody death of Christ. His precious Blood, indeed, is our strong bond, stronger than death itself.
Thus, Saint Isidore is as much my father as Haki Gaba was. Like Haki, Isidore highly valued learning and study. A man of the late sixth and early seventh centuries, Isidore lived the same time as the founder of Islam, whose view of Christians was rather positive, but whose view of the Christian faith was unfortunately influenced by monophysite christologies en vogue at the time. Of lasting value was Isidore’s relentless struggle against just such false christologies. He was a true man of the Church, and he both preached and lived for the honor of Christ. Much more than a local bishop of seventh century Seville, Isidore is a man of the Church, and eminently relevant for our own time. And so today I am reminded that we honor both our fathers by family and our fathers in the faith.