Late one Friday afternoon, four-year-old Joe opened his bedroom door, ran through the hallway, careened down the stairs, and practically flew out the front door, repeating, “My daddy’s home! My daddy’s home!” For years, Joe kept a bag packed with a flashlight, books, underwear, socks, and pajamas underneath his bed — just in case daddy would take him camping. Joe, and his three brothers, loved the call of adventure in the wilderness, the nearest park, or the backyard. But most evenings, you would find all four boys “camping” in their bedroom, listening intently to my husband, Mike, read and discuss stories of adventure, filled with heroes and villains: The Hardy Boys, The Lord of the Rings, Encyclopedia Brown, The Chronicles of Narnia, and more. Undoubtedly, evening storytelling was the boys’ favorite time of the day and a most cherished part of their childhood.
My 3-year-old has been one of my best spiritual teachers. Becoming a mother has given me new insight into Jesus’s words: “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:2-4). Her natural curiosity and desire to learn make her humble and attentive. She greets the world with awe and wonder. Her faith in me is unwavering. She knows, without a doubt, that she is worthy of love.
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The Rosary was not a prayer that I prayed all that often with my family growing up. We prayed as a family around the dinner table and went to Mass on Sunday, read a Scripture passage and reflection together during Advent and Lent, and were very faithful, but praying the Rosary simply was not a big aspect of our spiritual life together.
I stopped by Padre Pio’s statue recently, pausing to kneel and ask the venerable saint to help me to “Pray, hope, and don’t worry,” as he advised many of his spiritual children to do. One could easily observe a deep joy, even laughter, depicted on the face and in the eyes of the statue, giving a glimpse into the heavenly bliss and beatitude that the blessed ones must enjoy with the Creator in heaven, even as we, the militant, continue our daily uphill trudge toward that promising destination. My spirits were instantly lifted as I considered Padre Pio was smiling – even laughing – with me! The saint, in fact, has been quoted as saying, “Joy, with peace, is the sister of charity. Serve the Lord with laughter.”
Watch that woman standing on the farmer’s porch. She pulls on her work jeans that still show patches of garden dirt. She sprays insect repellent on her work boots, arms, and neck. Next comes a mesh insect protection net that loops under her armpits and covers her entire head. With great precision, she dons her work gloves and picks up a garden fork. She is ready for war. Not just any war. She is ready for jungle warfare. Now comes an all-out attack on tangles of weeds that threaten to take over the garden.