My parents met Father Phil Merrill when he and my uncle were classmates and fellow seminarians studying for the priesthood in Detroit, Michigan in the late 1930s. He quickly became one of our family's nearest and dearest friends. Just two days after Pearl Harbor was bombed, Father Phil managed to find some very feminine, pastel pink stationery covered with tiny white Polka dots. He then sat down and wrote a letter to a baby yet unborn and sent it to my mother, who was in the hospital awaiting the birth of her first child, my sister Cecilia. This is the letter my sister found many years later, carefully tucked inside her baby book:

December 10, 1941

Hello, Honey!

     We are all so glad you are here. For months and months we have been longing for your coming, for we know the world will be a happier place because you are here.
     You know a couple of days ago our country was attacked by a most implacable and dastardly foe, the forces of Satan united against all the world has gained since the birth of civilization in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Darling, the power of hatred will be dissipated before you are old enough to fear it. We thank God for that as we thank Him for giving you to us. But it will be up to you and those of your generation to rebuild all that we and our fathers have destroyed. All of you will have to be great, your age will have to be a new age of giants, for we have given you a sorry world into which to be born. We have given you a giant's task to perform.
     You must see to it that your children are born to the peace and culture and civilization — above all to the charity — proper to the children of God and the sons of men.
     In a few days you will be brought to the fountain of life. There you will be cleansed of the stains of original humanity and lifted to the dignity of the sons of God. Dear child, remember this dignity of yours as long as you live; remember that you are not one only a little above the beasts, not a creature arisen out of the slime of earth, no more than you need be of the generation which made this glorious world a place of fear and dread and hatred! No! You are made but a little less than the angels, so high that God Himself does not disdain to call you His.
     Remember your great dignity always; keep yourself on the plane which is your birthright. Do so, and you will lift men up to you, and you will never need to fear, as your father and mother do, when you bring a child into being, that that child will have little to be thankful for when it understands the world of which it has been made a part.
     You are born of good and worthy parents; you are made divine by the miracle of water and the Holy Spirit of God. Noblesse oblige. Remember this, and the destruction wrought in our generation will be undone in yours, and your children will live to bless you for the beauty you will have created for them.
Now, lover, you may unscrew your funny little puss, for we will make an end to seriousness. I am going to give you a chance to look at me soon, and from that day you will be known by all your intimates as "Happy". Only this, Sweetheart, never tell anyone why you are always smiling and laughing, for I am very, very super-super-sensitive and would not want the world to know the reason for your joyous disposition. Let's keep it a secret between ourselves, shall we?
     Sugarpuss, your mommie always loved Polkie dots. Do you like them? I bought this paper just for your letter, because I thought you would be pleased.
     You like the secrets, don't you? Here's another: I saw Santa Claus today, and told him about you. He said he had not heard from you, and I explained that that was because you had not heard about him until very, very recently. He was slightly put out, until I gave further data, statistics, and facts, when he appeared mollified. I am sure everything is straightened out now, and you may expect him to call on or about December twenty-fifth.
     I also met Mr. Ripley in front of the Book-Cadillac Hotel. He said he might have a spot for you on his program in a couple of weeks. He would have to investigate a little further, but he believed you were about the youngest person ever to receive a love letter, "Believe it or not!"
     Good-bye, Lambie Pie. Remember me to the angels tonight, when they come to kiss you to sleep (angels are aseptic, so they can do it now, but my time will come).

                            Father Phil 
Barely four years after he wrote this love letter, our precious Father Phil was killed instantly in a horrible automobile accident on a highway in northern Michigan. More than fifty years later, my sister and I still remember this dear man's beautiful round face, the twinkle in his eyes, the joyful sound of his laughter and the warmth of his love.