This past week I read Ditch Diggers Daughters and The Shadow of His Wings. Both books show what absolute commitment to a goal can achieve.
DDD is written by Yvonne Thorton, one of five daughters of Donald and Tass Thorton. Donald began his life with his bride to be when he was only 16 and she was 26. After the 5th child was born, a fellow ditch diggers unseemly comment about their future led the father to declare that they were all going to be medical doctors.
This lofty goal became the driving force of his life. He would raise five doctors whom all would respect. No amount of work, no amount of sacrifice was too much to attain this end. And work and sacrifice Donald did, enough to put us all to shame. In many ways it seems impossible what he did, but his drive toward the goal pushed him onward.
The parents had decided that education was what the daughters needed most. Even when the girls with their mother began to get recognition as a musical group and record offers and almost certain fame and fortune were close at hand, Donald did not let it happen because music was only a means to and end it paid the tuition for their education. Their talent, for the most part, was not known beyond college campuses on weekends.
Through his push to get his daughters educated, Donald guided them toward many virtues.
No one, however, can control someones will. And the two oldest daughters after several years of college decided to go their own way. One dropped out to become a secretary and the other changed her major.
Donalds reaction to this and a line in the epilogue, show the fundamental flaw in his quest.
After the two girls back to back told their father that they were not going to be doctors, he became despondent, feeling like a complete failure, and he took out his frustration by becoming abusive to his wife and unfatherly to his three other daughters. Eventually he rebounded from this through Yvonnes pursuit of her MD.
In reality, four of the daughters ended up as doctors: of medicine, dentistry and a PhD.. In an ironic passage in the epilogue, Yvonne, who was the first to become a medical doctor and one of great achievement, is writing about the legacy of her father including how his drive and determination lives on in his grandchildren. In the midst of this she says of one of her married sisters that she remained childless by choice.
A very sad statement in a tribute to her father.
DDD is a book worth reading for many reasons, but I think primarily to show us that there is so much more that we could be doing. It is a book like The Shadow of His Wings, though, that shows us what it is exactly that we should be investing our efforts in.
SOHW is the autobiography of Father Gereon Goldman whose life story borders on the unbelievable. It is, however, five women that make the story most amazing, and it is the five women who show us what drive, determination and sacrifice properly applied can achieve.
Father Goldmans mother opened her kitchen to the women of the countryside who came to pour out their troubles and to be consoled and refreshed. Father learned from her to defend the little and the weak. His mother died before he reached his teens, but she was his first great teacher of the Faith.
Sister Solona May, the sacristan at the convent where Father regularly served as an altar boy, told him that she would take his mothers place. She did this by secretly praying faithfully that he would become a priest in 20 years. His induction into Hitlers army was not seen by her as an obstacle to this plan because God did not say that prayers are answered except in cases of war. When the 20 years were up, Fathers assignment to the Russian front and lack of the last four years of seminary training were still not seen as an obstacle. She told Father that he needed to go to Lourdes to pray to the Blessed Mother and then to Rome to get permission from the Holy Father to be ordained. Father thought all this ridiculous because he was off to Russia, that was, until his orders were changed as he was boarding the Russia bound train.
The last three women are Sister Jeanne, Mere Monique and Sister Veronika who are also most remarkable in their dedication to prayer and sacrifice that they offered for Christ, His Church and Fathers vocation, but I will not tell their stories here.
DDD and SOHW both extol hard work, sacrifice and worthy goals. Nonetheless, SOHW soars above DDD because it shows only when these three are subservient to faithful prayer and absolute trust in God, will one know life in its intended abundance. Where Donald tried to control and direct his five daughters lives through sheer will power, the five women of Father Goldmans life entrusted their efforts to the Almighty because they knew He would do great things for them.
Jezu, ufam Tobie.