MAN OF THE HOUSE | Little simplicities offer big lessons
On a pleasantly warm evening, 8-year-old Colin and I are hanging out in the front yard of his house. And my grandson gives me a spiritual lesson.
"Aw," says Colin, looking at their well-groomed lawn. "Where did all the dandelions go?" Immediately, I think: Dandelions are weeds. Weeds are bad. I wish my lawn didn't have so many of those dastardly weeds. But ... "I wanted to pick some of them," he says.
That's when I realize my perspective is all wrong. Where I'm seeing weeds, Colin is seeing lovely little dots of yellow splashed against a sea of green. And he's seeing long stems with a puff of white at the end, light seeds he can blow and watch as they waft along in the breeze.
"In everything," said St. Francis de Sales, "love simplicity."
What I regard as annoying, prickly balls that have fallen from a sweet gum tree, the 8-year-old sees as little spheres to whack into the street with his wiffle ball bat. What I consider light-brown debris to be swept off the driveway, Colin sees as nature's toys to toss into the air and watch spiral helicopter-like to the earth.
Why can't we remain 8 years old, at least in the way we see much of the world?
That thought came to me the evening of our Good Friday service at St. Cletus Church. During the petitions, we prayed for those people who don't believe in Christ as well as those who don't acknowledge God. We make those same intercessions every year. But this time, it struck me that I know quite a few people – including some close to me — who fit those descriptions.
I prayed especially for four of those people in hopes that, "enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they, too, may enter on the way of salvation." Truth is, back when they still displayed the innocence and simple perspective of youth, they had embarked upon the way of salvation. They attended Catholic schools, served at Mass, sang in the children's choir, received all the available sacraments regularly. They prayed before meals and at bedtime, along with other key moments in life. A firm belief in God, especially Jesus, and a devotion to the Catholic faith weren't reserved for an hour each Sunday; that permeated life.
Now, none of the four people attend Mass on a weekly basis. All of them are truly good, caring people with big hearts. None of them disrespects the faith of their youth or others who maintain that devotion. I don't know all the details of what they believe or don't believe; I'm not sure how much they might pray. But two of them aren't able to make time for Sunday worship, and the two others have questions at least about Jesus and perhaps about the basic existence of God.
Alas, they have grown up. Like a frightening number of adult Catholics, they have abandoned part or all of the faith of their youth. Life has gotten complicated. They notice things they didn't notice some years ago. They have reasoned away from some beliefs.
But reason has its limitations. Sometimes, when things get messy or confusing, it's best to return to the basics. It can be wise to be embrace pure innocence.
Colin and his little brother, Lukas, accompanied Donna and me on Good Friday. Earlier, I had told Colin about the veneration of the cross, its importance and symbolism, how we would have an opportunity to kneel at that wooden cross, touch it, kiss it if so desired. As the line began to form for the procession forward, I whispered, "This is the part I was telling you about."
We sat silently for a few moments. I could tell he was taking in the activity. Then, he scooted closer to me, leaned against my right side and said: "I love you, Pops." He then scooted next to Donna. "I love you, Mimi," Colin whispered.
"If all flowers wanted to be roses," St. Therese of Lisieux said, "nature would lose her springtime beauty and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wildflowers."
The beautiful simplicity of an 8-year-old. No wonder Jesus wants us to be more like them.
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