Honoring all souls

Bill Murray’s new movie is called “St. Vincent.” He’s a gambling, drinking, swearing old coot who has a change of heart when he babysits his 12-year-old neighbor.

Didn’t see it, so I don’t know if “St. Vincent” is any good. I also don’t know if the kid says, “God bless us, everyone!” like Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol,” but it does sound familiar.

A promotional gimmick they have going with the movie is a “Modern Day Saints Video Contest” (moderndaysaints.stvincentfilm.com).

According to the release, students ages 13-18 can submit one-minute video essays to nominate someone in their lives — parents, teachers or mentors — who they think makes the world a better place.

And deserve to be deemed real-life saints.

His first name was Yetive, and I was heading back to Indiana recently for his funeral. He was just a few years older than me when he died.

“I feel like I’m on that list,” a friend said when I told him where I was going. “We’re all on that list,” I said.

Yetive was the father of my son-in-law — the father-in-law of my daughter. We shared granddad duties, but we first met back when our kids were younger than the grandkids today.

Yetive was the kind of guy that made other young men jealous back then. He was what we tried to be, but fell short. He defined “good man” to all of us. Good father. Good husband. Good Catholic.

The bio on him is simple. Born at the cusp of the baby boom, he was a pretty fair country basketball player, a skill he would pass on to the small-town kids he coached. He was drafted and served overseas, worked for an ice cream company and then over three decades for the post office.

With his wife, he raised three boys and a girl. They are all good adults, good spouses and good parents today. The youngest boy is my son-in-law.

His last years were not easy. But he did his best with the hand he was dealt. He kept the faith to the end.

We prayed the Glorious Mysteries at his wake. After the wake, we took the grandkids to a park to blow off a little steam. The park is a stone’s throw from the house where my kids were little ones. That’s life in a small town. The past is always just down the block.

Yetive’s godson is a priest. He concelebrated the funeral Mass and gave the homily at the parish church where Yetive was married and his kids were baptized.

It was a good homily. He reflected on how Yetive’s life was a fulfillment of promises kept — baptismal promises, marriage promises, promises of a father. Promises to others. Promises to himself. Promises to God.

They opened the doors of the church at the end of the funeral Mass. As the casket was carried out, a blue fall sky greeted Yetive as if God was smiling.

It’s a weekend of All Saints and All Souls. We celebrate all the saints — those known by the whole world; those known only to God. We remember in our prayers all the souls who have gone before us. The faithful departed.

I had a priest friend who would make guys smile by telling them, “you are a great man.” Even when they were just working on it. That was his point. He was encouraging them to greatness. Because he knew what the Church has always known — we each have it in ourselves to be saints. If we keep our promises.

My friend Yetive was not famous. Not much known beyond the small town where he lived most of his life.

But he was a great man. He kept his promises.

May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.