Happy Family Friday, folks! Yes, I know, it’s a week late. We’ll be doing a double header, I promise. We’ve been busy.

That’s right. Mommy has been organizing! Watch out or you’ll get organized!

We will get to Family Friday, but I want to do something a little different first.

Early this week I had a dream. I was falling asleep saying the Rosary, as I almost always do, and suddenly, without warning I was standing in the middle of a street in Aleppo. I have never been to Aleppo, I just knew it was Aleppo the way you know things in dreams. A bomb had just gone off on a crowded street. To my right there was a pile of rubble from a collapsed wall, with about a dozen bodies in it. To my left was a tent where some first responders were just starting to set up a triage point.

I saw all this in no time, because my attention was immediately focused on one woman lying among the rubble to my right. She looked about middle-aged, in a black hijab, and she was alive, and not wounded at all, but she lay among the dead, not moving, because she was cradling her dead baby.

She did not cry, or move, or look around, or give any sign that she saw any of the commotion around her. She just held her baby close and stared at her baby’s lifeless face with blank, empty eyes.

Again, this took less than a second to take in. I must have started to wake up, because I had a horrible moment of confusion where I thought the woman was either Kathleen or I, and the baby was either Evie or Ellie. Then I was awake with my heart going about 180 BPM, and Kathleen breathing softly beside me, and my rosary in my hand. The real strange part is that I felt a sudden reassurance that it was a dream, and that the girls were safe and well in their beds in their room. This assurance was so strong and complete that I didn’t feel the need to get up and go check on them, which is completely out of character for me.

There was more to it as I drifted back off to sleep, before I completely passed out, but that doesn’t really matter. I was left with two strong impressions. One was of the Blessed Mother weeping for her children: “And a sword of sorrow shall pierce your soul.” The other was the certainty that I was being asked to pray and fast and offer sacrifices for the children of poverty and war: “Blessed are they who mourn.

I don’t want you to think this is some kind of PTSD thing, or anything silly like that. It isn’t. It was a completely fictitious, though plausible dream, not based on any real experience of mine. Nor would I consider it a spiritual experience, except in the way that every experience is spiritual, since we are spiritual beings.

It may seem like a strange thing to share in a Family Friday, and it is, but there is a point to it, which is really the reason we do Family Friday at all. That is, we hope to show that Family is the great adventure of our time; that it is good, it is beautiful, it is meaningful, and it is worth it.

Planting flowers!

It is also fragile and vulnerable. Our relatively happy, stable and peaceful family life coexists in a world where children are murdered, families are torn apart, lives are ended too soon, souls are lost to hatred, violence, addiction. These things happen in Syria, in Cambodia, in Nigeria, in Tacoma, in your home town. We are at war. We are in a spiritual war against demons of unimaginable power, cunning and malice, and their all too real human allies and minions. We are supported by beings of light, and incomprehensible strength, intelligence and burning charity, and by the saints, known and unknown.

But we are at war. Our happy family exists on a battlefield, and is a target in the war spiritually, if not also physically. It is never far from my mind, eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. (There is a difference between eternal vigilance and paranoia. The key difference is a sense of humor.)

But more to the point, I think, is that I want you, the readers, to remember that there are children who deserve a stable happy family no less than Evie and Ellie and your children do. Do not feel guilty because you have some happiness and stability, and they do not. This is not a privilege that we were given and they were not, it is a human right that they have been horrifically denied.

Do something to give it back to them. Pray and Fast. Give to worthy charities. Adopt. Join an NGO. Whoever has two tunics should share with the one who has none. Whoever has peace and security and financial stability should share with those who do not. You don’t need to look in Aleppo. They are not far from your door.

And enjoy the gifts you have been given with gratitude. Do not take them for granted. Hug your children and your spouse, be there for them, love them with every fiber of your being.

And that’s all for this week, or rather for the last two weeks. It has been a very busy, and I hope not too depressing, post. Please do pray and fast. It can move mountains.

And live with a grateful heart.

God Bless you all!

I recently heard a soldier say, “Ugh, I never want to have kids. Babies are SO GROSS! All they do is drool and poop all over everything.”

I have heard other (female) soldiers say that they never want kids because “when you get pregnant your legs swell up and you feel like a whale.”

One male soldier told me, “I would make a terrible dad, but I make a great uncle. Being an uncle is the best, you enjoy the cuteness and the fun and then give them right back to the parents.”

I cannot deny the facts of these accusations (with some careful caveats about the uncle comments). Indeed, I would go farther and say that they grossly (hee hee! see what I did there?) understate the case. For instance, just a day after that adorable picture (above) of the newborn sleeping Ellie was taken, this picture of the two-year-old nauseous Evie was taken…

Immediately after this picture she puked on Kathleen and Ellie, right as Ellie was starting to breastfeed. The interlocuter mentioned above had understated his case because as Kathleen pointed out, “He totally forgot about vomit. Until you’ve flown across the country with a toddler with the two-bucket disease…”

Drool? Meh. That’s nothing. Just good clean saliva and wonderfully exfoliative, especially in the teething phase. Poop? Usually pretty well contained, and exclusively breastfed poop even has a delightfully earthy scent to it, never, alas, to be equaled by the poops of subsequent diets. It’s the snot that gets you, especially when the baby likes to wipe it off with her hand, and then wipe her hand off on you. The snotty faceplant is another favorite.

But vomit is king, when it comes to bodily fluids. It is sudden, it is copious, it is uncontained. It bursts forth with a magnificent freedom, untrammeled by social norms or constraining receptacles. It inspires imitation by the weak-of-stomach (we call them “sympathetic pukers”).

The pregnancy issues are even graver, and definitely understated. While it is a sociological fact that 90% of people think pregnant ladies are cute with a pregnancy-specific form of cuteness (a.k.a. “the glow”)…

It is equally a sociological fact that 99.99% of pregnant ladies do not think that they specifically are cute. Leg swelling, tiredness, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, constipation, hemorrhoids, weight gain… all of these are potentially real accoutrements of pregnancy. Nor should we stop there. It is a disservice not to mention the actual serious potential outcomes, e.g. pre-eclampsia, eclampsia, previa, abruptio, breech, C-section, hemorrhage, miscarriage, nuchal cord, post-natal depression, to name a few. Nor do the problems stop with child birth, as anyone who has struggled with milk supply and failure to thrive can tell you. Everything from the stomach bug to seizures to teenage rebellion is on the cards for you if you decide to have kids, or if you have kids as an unintended result of your decisions (which is not the same thing).

As for the uncle thing, I can’t deny it is true, but I do deny it is manly. I won’t get into that discussion right now, but I’ll let Jim Wendler sum it up.

The truth is that, yes, kids are gross. The truth is that kids are also adorable.

You might say that the purpose of children’s cuteness is to help their parents get past the grossness. It is also true that the purpose of children’s grossness is to help parents get past the cuteness.

The truth is that, yes, having kids hurts. It takes the spring out of your step, the shape out of your waist, the clean out of your house, the hours out of your day, and the money out of your bank. The truth is also that having kids heals you, if you let it. It puts wonder into the world, purpose into your pudge, life into your deadness, meaning into your time, and rescues your money from useless places like savings accounts and stock options.

Family is an invitation to enter a love that can kill your prejudice. I am using the term “prejudice” in a slightly broader sense than its narrow, modern, intersectional political sense, to mean simply any personal preference that I hold onto. (I am also distinguishing a preference from a conviction, for obvious reasons). There is nothing wrong with having a preference, for without it we would have no desire or drive. But there is everything wrong with holding a preference, because then it becomes a prejudice and limits us, even if it is for something as relatively trivial as rice over potatoes. The kind of person who insists upon rice rather than allowing for potatoes remains a person who limits himself to one kind of starch. Worse, he runs the risk of becoming the kind of person who demands that the entire world bend to his prejudice and take away its damn potatoes and give him rice! (Change that to mac-and-cheese or crusts cut off the sandwich and you have pretty much every toddler ever.)

You may be the kind of person who insists upon not getting puked on. Kids are your gateway to broadening your horizons.

Kids will kill your prejudice, if you have any capacity whatsoever for letting go of it. I am not talking about putting on a wry face and simply putting up with not getting your way. I am talking about loving another human being so much that you no longer even really have a way. There is an ecstasy of love (I use the word “ecstasy” in its strictest possible definition, i.e. “to stand outside oneself”) that comes once in a while when you truly love someone else so much that you forget yourself. I do not meant that you sacrifice yourself, I mean that you simply no longer exist in your own mind. That little part of you that is always keeping an eye on your thoughts, your options, your feelings, your reactions, your wants… it just stops. You don’t even realize it has stopped until later, because you aren’t looking at yourself anymore. The very fact of noticing that it has stopped means, by definition, that it has started back up again. You may not even have realized that in that moment of total absorption in someone else’s need or pain or pleasure, that you yourself were more deliriously and wholly alive than you have ever been before, even in war. It is the fullest moment of your life not simply despite the fact that you were not aware of it, but specifically because you were not aware of it.

It is the closest experience I have ever had to heaven on earth.

One of the best examples of this I have ever seen was Kathleen when Evie was in the hospital with seizures. Kathleen is ordinarily the kind of person who has a prejudice for 10-12 hours of sleep uninterrupted sleep per night. It is important to her, but has often been denied by the realities of family life, never more so than when Evie was admitted to Mary-Bridge. Kathleen did not sleep for two days. She did not valiantly struggle to keep herself awake. She just didn’t sleep. Her entire being was focused on Evie and her needs and the thought of sleeping through this never occurred to her. She didn’t even realize she hadn’t slept until the next day.

This is the kind of self-forgetfulness that only comes from love. When you love in a family, the opportunity for it comes a hundred times a day. Hardly once or twice in a year, outside the honeymoon phase, will you experience that ecstasy of utter absorption in the other. It is useless and self-defeating to try to experience it. It must come as an unsought gift, or not at all, and anyway, this isn’t about using your wife and kids to manufacture some kind of transcendent experience. It is about living for your wife and kids in every mundane experience. That is how you can practice it every day, a hundred times a day, without ever knowing you are doing so.

The refusal to have kids because they are gross, or bothersome, or expensive, is pusillanimous. It is the same as refusing to get married because you don’t want to share your bathroom sink (is it possible to be any more small-souled than that?!) It is like saying, “No thanks, I don’t want to hike up to the top of a mountain, and experience fresh-air and healthful activity and human interaction. Netflix sounds like a lot less trouble.”

The only thing in the world worth living for is love. I pity those who are not willing to sell everything they think they own to purchase it.

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A friend of mine shared this picture on Facebook, recently. It caught my eye, and I shared some thoughts in a comment, but I have been thinking more about it since then and I want to look at it a little more in depth.

The first question was, what did Dr. Dobson mean by “respect” and was it the same as what the maker of the graphic thought he meant by it?

The second question was exactly what the both meant by “reflection.”

Unable to determine the answer to either question I interpreted both according to my own experiences. When I hear the word “respect” I think “leadership” and when I see that list I read “challenges.” However, I suspect the maker of the graphic has a different interpretation, since they cross out the respect quotation and replace it with a list of modifying factors and link it with fear in the bold words at the bottom. “Respect” for parents comes from fear and is opposed to raising your child with joy and understanding.

Last Saturday we took Evie and Ellie to the YMCA to go swimming. Ellie loves the water. We call her our little water-baby. She likes to float on her back and grin and giggle, then stick her feet up out in the air and grab her toes, and then she arches her back and splashes her own face and laughs some more. Let me tell you it is freakin’ adorable.

Evie is very different. She has never liked water, especially water on her face. She is terrified to float, she can’t let herself relax, and if water gets on her face in the bathtub she cries for a towel to dry it off. So taking her to the pool is mostly about carrying her around in the water, convincing her to ride on a foam noodle, and just getting her to kick her feet.

On Saturday we worked on getting her to relax. I held her on her back with one hand under her bottom and one hand under her shoulder blades. She kept trying to sit up, and I kept coaching her to lie back, to straighten out her body, to relax, to take deep breaths. She was frightened, and she just didn’t want to practice that. She wanted to go play in the other pool and just do whatever she wanted.

However, after about five minutes of coaching and coaxing and counting breaths with her, she lay flat on her back for twenty slow, deep breaths in a row. By the end of those breaths her lower body was relaxed enough to float without my hand supporting her, and I was maintaining only a light touch under her shoulder blades.

The list of things mentioned in the graphic are certainly factors in a child’s behavior, as they are in anyone else’s behavior. However I want to caveat that admission with a few points from my own experience.

First, these adverse influences such as fear, anger, hunger, fatigue, stress and brain “wiring” a.k.a. neural pathways are present throughout life. They don’t end when we reach adulthood, if anything they get worse. Part of being an adult is learning to act responsibly, courteously and compassionately even when we are tired, hungry, stress, angry or have a tendency the opposite behavior. For that reason the role of a parent includes the responsibility to coach children how to overcome these negative influences (obviously at an age appropriate level, topic for a good deal of discussion in its own right.)

Secondly, these things are not determinants of behavior, but rather influences on behavior. To say that behavior is a reflection of these things, and the inclusion of age, brain development and wiring in the same list as other modifiable factors such as blood sugar is to suggest that a child’s behavior flows automatically from these factors to some inevitable behavioral outcome. It glosses over the fact that the parent’s management of these factors and their example and teaching are also factors in a child’s behavior. The parents should represent the role of reason and discipline in modifying and overcoming the negative influences according to realistic expectations based on knowledge of that individual child’s capabilities.*

Thirdly, I want to talk a little bit about the concept of “wiring.” It is an imprecise concept, much in vogue on the slightly deterministic side of popular and even academic psychology, but basically presumes that levels of neurotransmitters and patterns of neural firing are the root cause of moods and attitudes and their disorders. This is certainly partially true about certain aspects of neural development. For instance the early development of motor, language and social milestones seems to follow a fairly predictable path which holds true across cultures and is minimally modifiable by parental input. However, the older the person gets the less true this becomes. For instance the process of synaptic pruning (the deletion of unused synapses that occurs during childhood) seems to happen deterministically on a pre-programed timeline. However, which synapses get pruned is based on which ones are being used most regularly. The ones that are used get preserved and reinforced, the unused ones get deleted. Even in adulthood, neural plasticity has been demonstrated throughout the lifespan. In short, your brain “wiring” influences your thoughts, attitudes and moods, but your mental habits also shape and reshape your brain wiring. Healthy habits of thought and behavior breed healthy neural circuits, all other things being equal.

This is not to say that primary pathology, genetic susceptibility and hormonal irregularities may not play a role in the development of neural and psychological pathology. They certainly do. However, these are less modifiable, while mental habits and choices are modifiable. Part of the purpose of challenging children with hard but achievable standards of behavior in childhood is to cement the neural pathways that enable the behavior we call “courage,” which is the ability to do what is right no matter what hardships, risks or consequences it may entail. This habit of mind and its attendant neural pathway is, in my opinion, the strongest of the natural defenses against depression, anxiety and the general purposelessness that is endemic in our society.

Fourthly, I want to talk about the concept of respect and its role in this process. Respect is not the same as fear. Fear is based solely on consequences and can be instill fairly quickly. Respect is based on consistency, fairness, and integrity and can only be developed over time. The child must have a long term experience of Daddy and Mommy saying what they mean and meaning what they say; enforcing consistent, achievable standards; and of practicing what the preach. To suggest that respect is not an influence, and even a very strong influence is to ignore experience, or to betray a lack of experience with real respect. Simply put, Evie would not have laid still as long as she did for her Aunt or Uncle, probably not even for Deedee or Papa. Only her mom or I could have gotten her to do that. Her behavior for an adult that she knows and respects will always be better than it will be for someone else in the same challenging circumstances.

In summary, we should teach our children that even when we are tired, hungry, stressed or angry, we still need to behave courteously and compassionately. We do this by teaching that obstacles are not determinants of behavior, but can be overcome by the child herself. This must not be an academic knowledge, but must be supported by long practice until it becomes an unspoken habit of mind. This is developed in the midst of challenge, but in order for the child to navigate the challenge successfully, she must trust and respect her parents. She must know that they will never ask her to do something that they won’t do, that they will always have a good reason for what they ask, and that they will not ask the impossible. The difficult, perhaps, but never the impossible.*

Respect is the result of leadership.

 

 

 

*We try never to ask Evie to do things she is not capable of, although we have misjudged that in the past and have had to adjust our expectations. You can’t be afraid to admit when you are wrong and readjust when needed.

Last weekend we drove up north near Alaska somewhere (at least it seemed that way to Evie!) for Auntie Danica’s Wedding! It was a long drive and the north-of-Seattle part involved rush hour traffic. Evie was very happy to stop and eat at Bob’s Burgers, and take the opportunity to wiggle her waggles away.

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Unfortunately, we forgot to take pictures of the actual wedding. It’s a good thing we don’t try to make a living off this whole blogging thing.

Ryan was supposed to read the second reading for the wedding. They chose Peter 3:1-9 (they really chose it, and Danica herself asked Ryan to read it. It is probably not one of the most frequently chosen readings for Catholic weddings, but they are rebels like that. In this day and age the only way really to be a rebel is to go traditional again! But I digress).

Anyway, Ryan had a hard time keeping a straight face during the reading, not because of the passage, but because there was apparently a typo in the paper that they gave him to read off of:

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Which put me in mind of a some holy woman “whooping in the Lord” like this:

Anyhoo…..

The reception was like the wedding, which was like the bride and groom. Comfortable and laid back and super informal.

Also there were a lot of babies there.

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Evie and Edmund both wanted up. At the same time.

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Uncle Adam, how much time do you spend every day grooming Edmund’s mohawk?

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Uncle Ben and Auntie Christine’s new baby, Nolan, is not so new anymore. And he is huge! Poor Christine, he’s almost as big at four months as Noah was at a year! He’s going to be a big boy.

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We tried to get Evie to nap before the wedding, but it didn’t work. In fact, she didn’t nap at all until we left at around 3:00 P.M. but she was a total trooper about it. Completely miserable but still partying like it was her job, and keeping Mommy running.

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A quick visit to Mama Mary. It is ironic that this little shrine was dedicated to the memory of babies lost to abortion. I like to think that Evie’s life and health and happiness is at least some consolation to Mary and to Jesus for all those innocent lives lost. Not a consolation in the sense that it make up for it, because, you know no mother could ever forget the baby she lost, no matter how many healthy babies she has. But still, a consolation in the sense that Evie makes them happy, I hope.

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Noah says, “Zoom!”

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ZOOM!

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Power Nap time! She doesn’t actually close her eyes, but she does stop moving for five seconds. Then up and at ’em again!

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The Bride and Groom making their rounds.

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It is sometimes really hard to coax a smile out of Evie, especially when her nap is four hours overdue.

Later on, back at the house, life continues

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Evie “types” on Daddy’s Korean language keyboard skin.

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What is this doing here? These are Evie’s diapers, she needs them!

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Modelling Mommy’s sneakers.

But that’s okay because later, when we went to Dinner at Uncle Adam and Aunt Maryanne’s house…

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Mommy models Evie’s bib that Grandma Kraeger made for her.

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Evie is becoming so grownup and big now that she doesn’t feel she needs to sit in a highchair at dinner. She can sit in a big people chair at the big people table. Also she can feed herself. And Also, no baby spoons, if you please. She will be using the big people spoon, thank-you-very-much.

Which is cool and all but… 😦

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Here, Edmund, it’s for you.

Ryan took a break from discussing with Adam the interpretation of entropy as the conservation of Gibbs free energy and its plausibility as a mechanism of non-DNA mediated evolution (not our theory, we were critiquing it) to snap this picture. It’s a terrible picture, but almost the best of the evening, so you’ll have to be satisfied with it, Mom.

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Long week. Family Friday 65 17

And Mommy is on call tonight and hasn’t even made it back from the hospital once, it’s been one call back after another, and Daddy has his last test for summer quarter tomorrow, but…

After that we have the day off tomorrow! Woo hoo! And a five week break for Ryan to get caught up on stuff like fixing the deck, National Guard preparations, VA stuff, insurance, finances, read ahead for fall quarter, blah, blah, blah.

But hopefully we’ll have time for at least one fun project…

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That’s all for this week, folks. God Bless!

jesus20blessing20childrenThis weekend we went to Mass on Saturday evening because Kathleen was on call on sunday. That’s right, she was on call all mother’s day. However, it turned out to be a pretty light call day. She only got called in twice, once at 9:30 AM and once at 1:30 AM.

When I got Evie up for breakfast at ate I had the strangest desire to go to Mass. Not that it is strange to desire to go to Mass. I like to go every day when I can. But it was a Sunday Morning Mass, and we had already fulfilled our obligation. More than that, it was the nature of the desire that was strange. It was a feeling that I should get Evie fed and changed and out the door to Mass right away, coupled with the certainty that we had just enough time to make 9:00 AM Mass at All Saints (not our usual parish) if I didn’t dally.

So I did. I didn’t understand why, but I was fairly sure that God was directing me to it, so what the heck, you know? Like I really have anything better to do than take Evie to visit Jesus?

Two occurrences made the whole thing a little more clear after we left.

First, I am currently doing the Divine Mercy Novena and yesterday was day 6. I hadn’t read the intention for the day yet, but I grabbed the book on the way out the door and read it right before we went into Church:

Today bring to Me the Meek and Humble Souls and the Souls of  Little Children, and immerse them in My mercy. These souls most closely resemble My Heart. They strengthened Me during My bitter agony. I saw them as earthly Angels, who will keep vigil at My altars. I pour out upon them whole torrents of grace. I favor humble souls with My confidence.    

Most Merciful Jesus, You yourself have said, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble of heart.” Receive into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart all meek and humble souls and the souls of little children. These souls send all heaven into ecstasy and they are the heavenly Father’s favorites. They are a sweet-smelling bouquet before the throne of God; God Himself takes delight in their fragrance. These souls have a permanent abode in Your Most Compassionate Heart, O Jesus, and they unceasingly sing out a hymn of love and mercy.

Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon meek souls, upon humble souls, and upon little children who are enfolded in the abode which is the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. These souls bear the closest resemblance to Your Son. Their fragrance rises from the earth and reaches Your very throne. Father of mercy and of all goodness, I beg You by the love You bear these souls and by the delight You take in them: Bless the whole world, that all souls together may sing out the praises of Your mercy for endless ages. Amen.

Suddenly it became clear, but it was about to get clearer still.

All Saints, as I said, is not our usual Parish. They are closer to us than Cabrini, but their liturgical practice is a little looser than I like. Particularly I don’t like that they don’t kneel for the Consecration. How is Evie supposed to see Jesus if everyone is standing up blocking her view?

That being said their hearts are in the right place. They are one of the friendliest parishes around. Around the walls of the church, where the vault of the ceiling begins, they have posters of various saints, which they rotate through. Some are there all the time, like St. Joan of Arc and St. Mother Teresa. Others, like the evangelists and apostles, come and go according to liturgical season. However, yesterday they had a picture that I had never seen before, featuring these two:saints-martins

That’s right, Sts. Louis and Zelie Martin, the parents of St. Therese de Lisieux, Evie’s patron Saint.

The message couldn’t be clearer. It was not a new thing that God was trying to teach, but an old thing that He was trying to remind us of, namely that our only business as parents is to bring our children to Him. The calling of each and every family is to be the birthplace of Saints. Any other success or failure means little or nothing compared with this question, which Jesus will ask us when we see Him in judgment: “Did you let the Little Children come to Me?”

“The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.” Isaiah 11:8

Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said,
“I give you praise, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.” Luke 10:21

Family Friday 27 1These readings (from Tuesday of the First Week of Advent) were the topic of our Bible Study on Monday night. I had brought Evie with me to MC, and she was having a great time, despite the lateness of the hour and not feeling too well. She is such a social butterfly. I don’t know where she gets that from.

But when we started talking about that verse from Luke, Evie began babbling up a storm. Suddenly she had an awful lot to contribute to the discussion. We joked that she was “rejoicing in the Spirit,” and wondered what kind of things she could see in the spiritual realm that we cannot see.

I wonder that continually, as a matter of fact. I remember the first time I took Evie to Holy Hour when she was a couple of months old. Holy Cross Parish in North Tacoma has Perpetual Adoration and we had to drop Kathleen off somewhere up there for some kind of meeting. Evie was asleep when I brought her into the chapel in her carseat, but she soon woke up. So I took her out of the carseat and set her on my lap, and the very first thing she did was look directly at the exposed Host in the monstrance and laugh and open her mouth in the biggest, widest, gummiest grin ever. It was the same smile that she uses when she recognizes people she knows, or flirts with the old folks at church.

Of course the scientist in me posits all the possible explanations it can think of, spiritual and non-spiritual, e.g. she enjoyed the shinyness of the monstrance, she was happy to be out of the carseat and just happened to look in that direction, she was glad to be picked up by Daddy, she is seeing some faint manifestation of the spiritual reality of the Real Presence.

I don’t know what the fact of the matter is. I do take Jesus’ words quite literally, that God reveals things to little ones that He does not reveal to the wise and learned. Perhaps our urge to clarify and quantify precisely what was revealed is part of the reason for that. It is a response that would occur only to a “wise” and “learned” person, but a child would simply accept and enjoy.

Also, a wise and learned person is always in danger of thinking that he has discovered the insights rather than received them undeservingly. This is a spiritually deadly error, and in such a case God may very well withhold insights simply to protect the person from that error of pride. Jesus certainly seems to take some caution against this error in His disciples, for in the very next paragraph He turns to His apostles and says, “I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.”

It is as if to say, “You all have received some astounding revelations. Don’t take them for granted, and remember that the reason you received them is not your greatness or learning, but the fact that you really are the little ones that I was speaking about previously.”

A child does not earn his insights. A child does not earn his keep. A child does not earn anything. Everything he is and has up to and including his very life is given him by pure gift from his parents (and ultimately from God). Because they have no illusions of self-sufficiency they are able to trust completely in their parents and in God. This is why the prayers of little children are very, very powerful. They ask in trust.

Whatever the case may be, as to how much Evie sees or doesn’t see, she shows me every day how my relationship with God ought to be. IMG_3930

Aylan Kurdi, 3 year old Syrian refugee, washed ashore in Turkey after his family's boat capsized. Aylan Kurdi, 3 year old Syrian refugee, washed ashore in Turkey after his family’s boat capsized.

Some things I am thinking about in regards to this:

  • Most people do not have the training and experience to make a difference in this situation. I do. That makes me mad. All of the time an energy I have spent training, all of the money the government has poured into me, and I am sitting here doing nothing. If there was a National Guard mission to go fight ISIS I would consider it. If there was a mission to provide Humanitarian Assistance, I would volunteer for it.
  • That isn’t the half of it, though. I am just one man. There are literally tens of thousands of other men trained to the same level, representing billions of dollars invested in soldiers. The government owns carriers, helicopters, hospital plains, transport boats, hundreds of billion dollars worth of assets that could make a difference.
  • For myself, my place is not over there, at least right now. My place is with my wife and family. But God willing someday I will go, either to Syria or somewhere else, whether to fight bad men or provide medical care for the innocent or to die a martyr makes little difference. From him to whom much has been given, much will be required.
  • This picture is causing a groundswell of indignation, as well it should. Hopefully it causes some action. However, from my experiences and my reading, I am only too aware that this sort of thing is not new. It happens every day. We are outraged once a month or so by the Horror of the Century For This Week, and vent our feelings on social media for a few minutes, before going back to whatever useless entertainment was interrupted to bring us this message. The truth is this happens every day, in dozens of countries around the world. The strong prey on the weak, the women and children and poor suffer and die. Iraq, Syria, Cambodia, Laos, Nigeria… the list goes on and on.
  • Children and women and men are trafficked for labor and sex in every “First World” country, including our own, every day. Unless someone reminds us we forget. We forget because we want to forget. We don’t want to bear the burden of being aware all the time, of perhaps being forced to take action where action is needed. We wouldn’t want to have to protect the widow and the orphan in real life, up close and personal where I can smell them and they can break my heart.

So, what can we do?

I will do tomorrow what I do every Friday, fast and pray for Mercy. Only tomorrow I will fast until 3:00 P. M., the Hour of Mercy and complete the fast with a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If you are reading this I invite you to join me however you can. I will continue to pray, continue to train, continue to love my family and bring up my children as best I can. I will look for ways to serve the poor, the widow and the orphan in my own backyard.

What else can I do?