I got to spend a few weeks in June around my sister‘s awesome kids. I thought y’all might enjoy some of the theological conversations we had. And before you ask why they’re so awesome, here’s the best I can tell: the adults they know talk frequently and very enthusiastically about holy things–to them and to each other–and they’ve picked up on it.
Cecilia (3 1/2): How can you be a saint and a nun?
Me: Oh, lots of Saints were nuns. St. Therese, St. Teresa, St. Catherine Laboure, St. Claire…. To be a saint, you just have to love God and try your best to do what he wants you to do.
John Paul (almost 5): And I like St. Cecilia.
Cecilia: Saint Cecilia? Am I a saint already?!?
Me: Not yet, honey.
Cecilia: Why not?
Me: Well, because you’re not dead yet.
Cecilia: And why not?
Me: I guess because God has work he still wants you to do.
Cecilia: And if I die when I’m a child, I can still be a saint.
John Paul: Like Blessed Imelda!
How to get your kids excited about Saints: read them lots of Saint books, get them Saint costumes to play dress-up in, and suggest with wild excitement that we pretend to be Saints. You should see how excited they are when I ask if they want to play the martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch.
Cecilia (rather upset that Jesus has ascended): Why doesn’t Jesus come back down from heaven?
Me: I don’t know, Cecilia. Do you wish he would?
Me: Well there’s a great prayer for that. Maranatha. It means, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
Cecilia and John Paul: MARANATHA!!
I’m with them. Come back, dear Jesus, and heal our broken world!
John Paul, an hour in to a 3 hour ordination: It’s the prayer of ordination! (a few minutes later) AND NOW THEY ARE PRIESTS!! My turn!
(tries to push past me toward the aisle)
Me: No, buddy, you can’t be a priest yet.
John Paul, beginning to cry: Why not?
Me: Because you’re not old enough.
John Paul: I AM old enough!
Me: How about when we get home I’ll show you in the Code of Canon Law? Would that make you feel better? In Latin and English?
John Paul, sniffling: Yeah.
It runs in the family. I was once so upset after a football game that the only thing that could cheer me up was stopping at the library to read through a commentary on the Code.
Me, during the same ordination: John Paul, the bishop is getting Fr. Chris’s blessing. And after Mass, you will be able to get Fr. Chris’s blessing! And then you will hold out your hands and he will put his hands in them and you will kiss them.
John Paul: Why?
Me: Because they aren’t his hands anymore. They’re Jesus’ hands.
John Paul: Jesus’ hands!! Why are they Jesus’ hands?
Me: Because they were consecrated to celebrate the Sacraments. To say Mass and give absolution and anoint people.
John Paul: And to consecrate the Eucharist.
(later, holding Fr. Chris’ hands) *Gasp* These are Jesus’ hands! (Kisses them reverently)
Many new priests don’t expect you to kiss their hands, but I think it’s one of the most beautiful traditions in our Church. In any other circumstances, it would be wildly inappropriate for me to kiss a priest, but here I’m humbling myself in reverence to the God who works through his priests.
John Paul (reading the back of my shirt): I’m a Catholic. Ask me a question!
Me (playing along and asking him one of the most common): Okay, why do you have to go to Mass every Sunday?
John Paul (clearly distraught): Oh! Because I love Jesus!
It really is that simple. Maybe I should stop with commandments and canon law and go with this: we go to Mass because we love him and we’re trying to love him better.
Me, explaining the intense Virginia flag and, thus, what a tyrant is: A tyrant is someone who takes away your freedom. And the greatest tyrant is Satan because he tricks you into becoming a slave to sin.
Cecilia (disdainfully): Um, Satan has no power now.
Me: Why not?
Cecilia (a little condescendingly): Because Jesus died to save us from our sins!
I had to think about this one. I think she’s wrong that he has no power, but the nature of the power he has is different. Before the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, he had power by the very nature of things. Now he only has the power that we give him by our sin. I think. Is it ridiculous that her theological conclusions have given me so much to think about?