My name is George Arsenault. My first name is Henry but my mother called me George so George it is. You may already know me from my autobiography book “Seven Come Eleven.” I’ve written four books (three were autobiographies and one “Bits & Pieces” mostly for my family. You know, we had seventeen children and fifteen married giving us 40 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren for a total of about 84 and it’s not over yet.
One of my eight daughters spoke to you last week about her return to the Catholic Church. That was a gift from God. This week Father Andrew invited me to speak to you about my resurrection story and my life journey in faith and when and where I finally met Jesus.
My talk “Faith Matters” is from chapter nine of my latest book “Bits & Pieces”
FAITH MATTERS was first published in
The Michigan Catholic April 2, 2010.
In 1964, I was 36 years old, when my wife died from a brain tumor and left me with seven young children, ages 2 to 10 years old. I was devastated. My life was over and seemed to have ended. But I had seven children who needed at least one parent. I had to try to find an answer to the proposition of how to avoid depression and start living again for the children’s sake. I knew I had to cope with this unhappy event and I was determined to learn how to manage somehow in order to avoid my chronic depression that threatened my children’s happiness.
Trying to understand death after a traumatic loss led me to my religion and Jesus. Hungry for the right words, I turned to Jesus and the Bible. I believed that my answer would be in my faith. Bishop Sheen, at that time, wrote a book titled “Life Is Worth Living.” He said, “Happiness in this life was part of God’s plan for every one of us. Happiness the likes of which we could never have dreamed or wildly anticipated with our minute intelligence, if only we could believe.” Jesus was right when he said, “Oh, ye of little faith!” I struggled to find this faith.
While reading the words of Jesus; the Good Samaritan, the five loafs and three fishes, the healing, and what Jesus did during his ministry, I finally met Jesus. I began to realize that the secret of how to stop depression is to do something for somebody else because that’s what Jesus did every day. I finally realized that parenthood is a gift from God that forces us to think of somebody else instead of ourselves thus bringing joy to our lives. Parents are important, I told myself, especially mothers. Their unselfish love gives them the perfect opportunity to do something for somebody else without any expectations of getting something back. That’s what happiness in this world is all about -- -- God gives us a chance to do something for somebody else instead of just ourselves. So, I realized that Jesus had given me the perfect solution to my depression … my seven children.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself with the acknowledgment that I had seven children to help. If I can do that, I thought, that will stop my depression. And it did. God knows I tried. That was my prayer. Jesus became my constant companion to whom I spoke to daily.
And to tell you the power of prayer and my acceptance of Jesus at that time, two years later, I met a widow my age, with ten children. Ten children! I thought, it just goes to show you, when you think you have problems, if you look around, you will find somebody who has it worse. I know the problems I had with seven and here’s a widow, my age, with ten young children.
Delores and I met in downtown Detroit at a widow and widowers club by the Catholic Archdiocese called the Nain Conference. Nain is a small town in the Bible mentioned by Luke 7:11, (note that number) where Jesus met a widow who had lost her only son and Jesus gave the son his life and gave him back to his widowed mother… alive.
My gift from Jesus was meeting this widow with ten young children. She became my angel from heaven. She was dynamic right from the start. She had a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Education and was a teacher. I was the luckiest man alive when, thank God, I married this widow. We merged with a joint venture and gave these seventeen children a father and a mother where there was only one parent before. My widowed mother said, “Delores is one in a million.” And to me, she surely was one in a million.
Right at the start, Delores declared, there would be no STEP anyone. We would be one united family. Talk about Being Bold, Being Catholic and Being Holy; we were bold, we were Catholic and we were sure trying to be holy. I was no longer devastated and depressed. And Jesus gave me that happiness that Bishop Sheen had mentioned in his book, “happiness, and the likes of which I could never have dreamed or wildly anticipated with my minute intelligence” after our spouses died. Our life happiness was just beginning instead of being over and ending as I had thought. This happiness went on for the next 48 more years that Delores was with us.
I firmly believe that this could not have happened without Jesus that I met in the Bible. I lived on the West Side in Allen Park and Delores lived on the East Side in Grosse Pointe. We lived 17 miles apart. How we both happened to be in downtown Detroit, same place, and same time, same evening is almost miraculous in itself.
That was 49 years ago. I have written an autobiography book “Seven Come Eleven” (there is that number again 7:11) depicting how we did it, how I had stopped my depression and how Delores and I had started living again as one united family. My book, “Seven Come Eleven,” should have been called “Delores” because she was the angel sent by Jesus (God) to make me the luckiest man alive. I was the luckiest man alive at that time. My angel Delores died over a year ago and now I feel I’m not very lucky anymore since she left us. But I learned one thing. As St. Paul states in his 2nd letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight. I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me.” Nobody said it would be easy. I believe that it is our hope that if we keep the faith, we will win in the end
My son, Robert Ernest, gave me a Coat of Arms plaque with our motto in French, “Garder la Foi” i.e., “Keep the Faith.” And I firmly believe that if we can do that, we have hope that the crown of righteousness awaits us. We will all meet again in a new happy life with Jesus, our God, where death has no power.
Our family motto is “Keep the Faith!” … Faith Matters!