This weekend we celebrated Luke’s and Will’s First Communion. In Catholicism, there are seven sacraments (baptism, reconciliation, eucharist, marriage, holy orders, anointing of the sick). Most Catholics will receive six of these sacraments over the course of their lifetime. The sacraments are signs of God’s grace. I love this interpretation from www. AmericanCatholic.org: Grace is God’s self-communication with us. Grace is experienced as divine love directly from God.
Phew. End of the theology lesson. . .now on to parenting because GRACE plays such an important role in parenting and never more than during a rite of passage like receiving a sacrament!
We needed grace–that divine love that infuses all– with Will.
As he was getting dressed for the Mass with the help of his Grandfather, Will, in a contrary mood, decided to express his irritation by engaging Grandpa in a conversation about the existence of God. Will decided to argue the point of view that God did not exist. Yep, just the conversation you want your child to have with his Grandpa right before Mass when he is to receive the Holy Eucharist. Timing isn’t one of Will’s strong skills. Both Grandma and his brother Marc were quite concerned that this questioning of faith was going to jeopardize his receiving the sacrament.
Luke is the quiet one. He watches. . .observes. . .makes peace where and when it is needed. I’m not sure who tied his tie. Neither boy liked wearing them and I should have ditched them right at the beginning of getting ready. They were more trouble than they were worth. Will totally took his off minutes before he was to walk down the aisle at church. His Godfather had to re-tie it for him a couple of times. I’m envisioning a beach-tieless wedding in his future.
But back to Grace. I love the word. . .I love the meaning of it and how important it is to our lives. Father Conor’s homily during Mass compared God’s love for us to the love parents have for their children, especially the babies who cannot do anything for themselves. Parents, out of love, do everything–all the child has to do is cry and the parents lovingly attend to the baby.
I realize that my boys, in the immaturity and self-centeredness of their age–really just stopping places on their journey to adulthood–don’t understand much about Grace and Love. They probably didn’t realize how much love and grace they were surrounded by on Saturday. Grandma Judy and Papa Jim flew in from Colorado. Uncle Tim and Jen drove all the way from Denver; Grandma Lucy, 91 years old, and every movement a struggle between the will of the spirit and the limitations of age, was determined to attend; Uncle Jerry and Aunt Cindy made sure that they were there to celebrate the day with the boys.
Notice how Jen was holding Will’s hand.They were surrounded and touched by Grace and Love.
Author Bill Huebsh writes that, “Grace is received and celebrated in community with others.” I love that.
And, throughout the Mass and during the pictures before and after it, my sweet boys fidgeted, balked at the ties and the pictures, and complained and complained and complained. Annoyed, I scolded in harsh whispers and that sharp snap of the fingers that moms worldwide have perfected to get attention and sound a warning to offspring. I watched, with mounting frustration, the twins sitting in front of our pew who were the attentive, well-behaved angels that I wanted my boys to be.
Breathe, mama, breathe–and ask for Grace. Ask for that divine love that accepts all without judgement but with compassion and kindness.
This Grace piece is hard. . .and it obviously takes a lifetime to understand regardless of how many sacraments have been received. Huebsh writes that through Grace, “We are empowered to forgive, to accept without judgment, to give without asking for return, to love without end.”
The love of a parent for a child. . .the love of God for us.
Half-way through the Mass, as I whisper-scolded another warning to Will to “get off the kneeler and sit on your bottom!” I thought, “My boys are too immature for this sacrament. They cannot yet approach it with the seriousness and reverence and awe that they should.” Good God! One of them even wiped his mouth with his jacket sleeve immediately after he received the cup. I whisper-scolded him by name right then and there–seconds before receiving the cup myself with an “AMEN.”
And yet, Huebsh says that Grace “. . .is a power that can do marvelous things! It can heal and bind people together, give comfort and peace, offer affectionate love and create new persons, rest peacefully and disturb the comfortable.”
The boys have yet to understand this. Honestly as a 40-something year old parent, aren’t I still learning it . . .asking for it. . .every. single. day?
Luke and Will will now be able to fully participate in the Mass–to gather around the Lord’s table–to receive grace in its most precious and divine form. They will grow in grace through the family and friends and rituals that surround them. They do not know this yet. . .but I do and the people around them also know this as well and will constantly be reflections of God’s grace and love.
Huebsh summarizes it best when he writes, “This is how we will live together forever, in this love.”
An understanding, generous and good-natured priest will probably help with this Grace piece, too!