Sunday, June 13, 2004

Our Sacred History - God acts deep in our soul. "Look deeper in children and help them to hear God's voice, to notice and respond to his attraction."

I'm very much a neophyte in this exercise of web publishing, and am afraid I just wiped out a reflection on this topic. I clicked on the B for bold and got a coded phrase at the top of this box, but the entire text I had composed disappeared, and I couldn't find a way to recover it; so I guess it's gone.

Briefly, I was reflecting on a mother's remarks today about her first communicant relating that the host had tasted like cardboard. Her mom was dismayed and tried to refocus the child's attention on what's really important, but had a hard time recovering from the comment. I believe there is a veil of secrecy, or mystery, that hangs over what happens between God and the soul. I would never have become aware myself of anything happening at the time of my First Confession, Confirmation, and First Holy Communion, had it not been for Fr. Walter Lallemand.

When I was in my twenties and on retreat, he invited us to begin writing our own sacred history, explaining that the Bible is the sacred history of God revealing himself over many generations to the people He had chosen as his own, bringing them in time to be able and willing to accept and believe in his divine Son when He came to earth as a man.

Much in the same way, our life is a sacred history of God's dealings with us, filled with countless moments where God is present, speaks, and acts. Most often we are not aware of what Marie de l'Incarnation called the "touches" of the Holy Spirit, but at times we can become aware of them. That's what happened when I began that sacred history exercise, and remembered for the first time as an adult my experience of Christian Initiation at the age of eight.

If name had asked me at the time what my First Communion had been like, I probably would have talked about the kid in the lineup in the church hall downstairs who puked and how gross it was and almost made me sick too. We had all been fasting since midnight. As an adult twenty years later, I gained access for the first time to a memory of feeling a warmth inside me, a presence, which I also felt beside me. Someone was there, and someone was within me.

This awareness developed into an exercise I repeated, and the memory became deeper each time, and contributed to the ongoing process of discerning my vocation: God's call to me to follow Jesus with my life, and what to do with my life in following Him.

I sense a need to overcome the disappointment of apparently wiping out my first attempt at this blog entry because of the significance of this incident today, and a connection with a similar incident on Thursday night after the meeting of parents and godparents to prepare for the Baptism of their infants had just ended.

I was standing around in close proximity to the Blessed Sacrament with a family and the team couple, one of four teams, when the baby held by a mother standing in front of me began to smile and coo ecstatically. It was a noticeably unusual behavior for this baby boy, the parents observed, and I don't remember having seen anything quite like it myself. Without planning to do so, I found myself talking about how this is precisely the way that God touches a soul, even from such a tender age, and develops that soul's vocation, preparing it to respond to his call for a whole lifetime.

In fact, the Scriptures have abundant references to God knowing us personally from our mother's womb, knowing us from the moment of our conception, and even loving us and wanting us before we were conceived. He calls us by name. I encouraged the parents to be alert to all the little things that happen to their child, that nothing is insignificant, and to encourage their child to be attentive to the various ways in which God might touch his heart, mind, and soul with his light, power, goodness, beauty, and love. The parents' role is to have faith in the faith of their children, to strengthen their children by relating to them stories about their own faith relationship with God when they were children, and how that developed as they got older.

I don't know whether this second attempt captures the power and wonder that inspired the first draft, but I do wonder at the mysterious ways in which the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are truly present in the pure soul that welcomes them, how mysterious is their presence, action, and effect on each soul, and how with guidance and prayer the Holy Spirit enables us to become aware of God within us, to learn to recognize how God speaks to our soul, and to respond to his call.

In addition, I also wonder - as I have for 21 years now - how God uses a priest as a storehouse of things old and new - and draws from us, from me, those words I couldn't have planned to say to these two sets of parents. In both cases, the words brought them light to understand something about how God works in our lives in such a reasonable and sensible way, stirred up their gratitude for God's kindness and generous blessings, and encouraged them to not judge their parental effectiveness simply based on external observances, but put more trust in God's presence and action directly in their children's lives, as well as indirectly through them, their parents, and their conscientious participation in their children's lives and faith.

"Glory to You, O Lord, for your abundant grace, wisdom, and love, which You lavish upon us. Help us all discern our vocation, respond generously to this call, and live it out with our whole lives in the power of your love; that all may come to know, love, and serve You."

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