I wrote a post a little while ago about the growing faith of my three oldest children. Knowing that they're our kids, my husband and I are rarely shocked by the sweet and faithful kids our things say. The truth of the matter is that their lives are deeply soaked in the stories of their faith, and everyday problems and duties are framed in light of service. (Or at least we're trying). Even now, the three oldest kids are watching the biographical film Therese, about one of my favourite Saints, St. Therese de Lisieux. They haven't yet asked to watch any of their other favourites, mostly from the Disney catalogue. My oldest daughter is especially in love with this movie, and keeps putting blankets on her head like a veil. The life of her faith, and that of her younger brothers, is growing before my eyes. We've started going to daily mass as we can, and I see through my own struggle to keep 4 little ones even mildly calm that somehow, some of this is getting through the fog of princesses and cowboys to have a firm place in their hearts.
This weekend was the first time my Dad was the Deacon at our regular Mass. He was ordained to the diaconate on the 8th at our Basilica, and even though it was a day of great spiritual joy, the Mass was later in the evening and the kids were tired and very cranky. A few days after his ordination, my eldest son was having a rough night, so I came in and cuddled with him in his bed for a few minutes in hopes of helping him relax. He and I got to talking, and something we ended up talking about Heaven. He really liked this idea and wanted to know what Heaven was. I told him that it was the place where we go when we die so we can be with Jesus. We talked about the fact that the people we loved who had died were in Heaven with Jesus. When I asked him what he thought Heaven was like, part of me expected him to say that it was like being on the playground all day or something sweet and childlike. To my surprise, he said: "Like Church for Poppi's ordination. (A pretty big word for a 3 year old!) We would have Jesus and our family. We would be happy. And we would eat cake and I would smile." This really warmed my heart. Of all the kids, he had been the wildest during the ordination, but through all his tiredness and crankiness, he had seen our time at the "big church" as something special, beautiful, and worth experiencing again. It was wonderful to see too that he felt Jesus was an important part of his Poppi's ordination.
Fast forward to this past weekend, we're sitting together, all in a good mood (shocking I know), attending my Dad's first Mass as a Deacon at our regular Sunday morning Mass. Even though I knew they didn't quite understand what Poppi was up to in the Sanctuary in that big green cape (aka dalmatic, haha), their eyes were on all the action more than ever before. While they were preparing the wine and bread to be consecrated, our oldest girl was watching intently. She turned and asked me what her Poppi was doing. I did my best to explain that he was helping prepare the wine and bread so that God could make it into his Body and Blood. She nodded sagely, noting that when Jesus was crucified he bled and it was sad. A few moments later, when the priest elevated the cup and recalled the words of Christ that before us was His blood given for us and our salvation, my sweet little 4 year old daughter turned to me in all earnestness and whispered: "Mommy, look at the cross. Look how Jesus is bleeding into the cup!" She then turned and stared intensely at the crucifix at the back of Sanctuary, which from her perspective was right above the uplifted chalice. I felt a shiver go through my whole body and tears spring to my eyes. I wished in that moment I could see so clearly what she was seeing, that my faith was as innocent and fearless as hers. I know that if I saw what it was she was seeing, I might be nervous to share it with anyone, but with her childlike faith, she assumed this was normal, and needed to be shared. The rest of the Mass went on as normal, which its share of giggling, pushing, smiles and tears, but I was struck by the depth of her words. Even now I'm still in shock at what she said.
I know as my children get older, they faith will grow in some ways, and possibly wither in other ways. They will be taught by others to suppress their innocent belief in favour of greater understanding. In some ways, it will be wonderful to watch them grow in knowledge about the facts of their faith, but I pray that they will be the lucky ones who will be able to maintain their complete trust, innocence, and vision.