We have seen them in our imagination when we first hear of a pregnancy. We may see them in an ultrasound and marvel as they show us the first outlines of their tiny selves. It is a self that will not soon enough burst out into the open air with a loud hello that informs us that our lives will be changed forever.
Such a tiny revolutionary!
We have seen them at birth and marvel at their little hands and fingers. Even those that cannot see them can feel the teeny-tiny fingers and feet wiggling. We feed them, clothe them, and teach them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Hopefully, we pay more attention to His direction with these charges than we have with our own lives. Yet, we often seem to treat them so casually.
So How Do They Learn?
The father carried two little boys about two years old or so, probably twins. He was not a large man. I would say that he was tall and of normal build but able to carry his sons one in each arm. Since this was an after Mass blessing, he carried them upright with each having an arm around his neck, instead of the usual playful position of one under each arm like logs. He set them down when he reached the altar rail and they all kneelt. They waited their turn as the priest gave his blessing to individuals and families. The father received the blessing for his family, kissed the priests two hands according to ancient custom, gathered his two bundles, one in each arm and rose to leave.
But first, a mandatory stop at the simple holy water font before they went out the side door of the church.
Okay…how is he going to manage that!
They have done this before. Walk to the font, lean the one in your right arm foreword just enough to reach his still tiny hand into the water. At this point, many things can happen, and I am sure that I have not seen every possible result. This particular time it looked like the little one was getting the idea fairly well.
I was too far away to see exactly how far his little fingers went into the holy water, or should I say how far did his hand get into the holy water. When they came out, he turned to his father and gently patted his forehead with those tiny wet fingers. He may even have patted three times, which would be just fine until he got the hang of making the sign of the cross. He patted his own head then his father said something to him. His brother was next to receive this gesture of family love, then out the door they went.
How About Before Mass?
A little boy appeared in my left peripheral vision as he sauntered passed me in the side aisle. He was probably two years, plus a few months old. He felt at home here. You could tell by his demeanor. He walked ten feet or so ahead of his mother looking at everyone with large eyes open and a face not sleepy or bored. He was confident that he belonged here, but not sure exactly where. He passed me, then his mother passed. They both had the same Where are we going to sit look. However, there was something different about this couple. Most times, parents and children appear to be connected by a short invisible leash in church. Often, a physical connection as Mommy or Daddy steers the child with a firm hand on his or her shoulder. The invisible leash between these two was very long. The same length as when you see a dog taking it’s owner for a run in the park. The owner tries to keep up at his end of a leash just long enough to give the dog a sense of freedom but short enough to sort of comply with the leash law.
In this case, the little guy knew the drill. Mommy found the seat and then when she motions to me, if I happen to be looking at her at the time, I join her. Meanwhile, I am allowed to wander around and check out all the people who already have seats. The next thing we do is kneel and pray.
Mommy gestured gently after waiting for him to turn towards her, then they both entered the pew. Mommy began her prayers as the little one kneelt and discovered the usual things in the rack for hymnals and missals that is fixed to the back of the pew in front of you. He was short and almost eye level to the middle of the books but looked slightly up to them.
Not much interesting here…oh yeah…mommy is praying.
He was in a perfect position to lean into his mother, open his eyes wide and tilt his head back and look up as she prayed. He returned to his personal space, placed his two tiny hands together palm-to-palm and ….
I don’t know what he was thinking, but I do know that he was being taught a tradition and a way that can guide him towards a responsible and happy future in life, and then eternal life with his Creator.
People were bringing even infants to Him that He might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it. (Luke 18:15-17)
This is exactly what we are doing when we introduce our tiny Catholics to the faith. We give them the opportunity to have Him touch them.
If you happen to be a parent, aunt or uncle, grandparent, or just an observer, I am sure that you have stories about tiny Catholics to tell. Share them with us in the comment boxes if you wish. I know I would like to read them.