The following came in an email to Cal Catholic on July 1, written by Anita Zepeda, one of the 17 Grimm children, raised in Pasadena, most of whom graduated from Thomas Aquinas College.
I ordinarily set no store by the idea of planetary influence on our lives, but obviously the Magi did, so I will just say I would not be surprised if the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter this month did indeed have something to do with Grandpa Bill and our family Summer of Love. I have been watching these planets draw nearer and nearer through a string of lovely Southern California evenings, musing a lot about my recently deceased father and his countercultural life.
My Jupiter is Bill Grimm, father to us 17 siblings, grandfather to 168, great-grandfather to 70 and counting. He was a loving and present father, a Good Samaritan, at times a hurler of thunderbolts. He died in June on his 88th birthday after nearly 9 months of illness and suffering, his gestational period for eternal life. During that same space of time, six of his grandchildren got engaged and planned to marry this summer. So our Summer of Love string of weddings was kicked off, or you might say upstaged, by my father’s huge funeral, a solemn Latin requiem mass attended by many relatives, friends and descendants, with a priest officiating whom he had mentored as a boy and a glorious choir of grandchildren singing his favorite motets and chants.
To borrow a phrase from the mass, “dignum et justum est,” it is right and just. For these young engaged couples, their grandparents’ marriage has been both the cause of their existence and a powerful countercultural example for them of the real meaning and purpose of marriage. Bill and his Irene were just beautiful teenagers when they committed themselves absolutely to a life of unswerving fidelity and devotion to each other and to the children they welcomed with complete generosity and trust in God. The permanence of their marriage, our happy childhoods and our eternal happiness were their main concerns. We knew it and we felt it like a warm blanket or, at times, a hair shirt, or like the ground under our feet: we were the most important things in the world to them.
In sharp contrast to other examples plentiful today, they did not look upon us as something to “juggle” with their careers. They didn’t have us to complete or fulfill their lives, or to have someone through whom to vicariously live out their frustrated dreams. They were, as my brother Stephen wrote in his eulogy, PRESENT to us in a thousand ways, but mostly by really being in the same place with us as much as possible. They had none of the prevalent delusions that any pursuit outside the home held a candle to us in terms of importance. Their love overflowed to the world around, as it is wont to do, but we were the big deal. We were entrusted to them by God, who willed us to be through their love, and to be His forever.
I used to find it strange, when I was studying all the wonders of sacred theology at Thomas Aquinas College, that my father would assess the orthodoxy and wisdom of a priest or theologian according to their understanding of the encyclical Humane Vitae. He called it a “litmus test.” Surely there were far more transcendent matters than marriage and children, I thought. Now I see his prophetic wisdom. Christian marriage, with its two inseparable purposes of the union of man and woman and the creation of new life, is the tangible image of God’s total self-giving love for us and of the life-giving power of that love. It stands as a sign of contradiction in our self-centered, pleasure-seeking times. It is the Good News to those stymied, frantic and frustrated by their sad pursuit of love in all the wrong places.
As Jupiter and Venus drew closer this week, the leading legal lights on the Supreme Court put their heads together and foisted a new definition of marriage on us, much as they foisted a new understanding of motherhood and the slaughter of innocents on us 42 years ago in Roe v. Wade. They felt it was high time, and they needn’t wait for the legislature. In fact, the second decision is a younger sibling of the first, bound to show up sooner or later, given their common parentage: the legitimization of divorce and artificial contraception which gutted marriage of its real meanings of total self-giving and the transmission of life. Perhaps it could have been prevented had more teachers of the Faith passed Bill’s Humanae Vitae litmus test, had more people understood marriage as Bill and Irene did.