The Beauty of a Child's Prayer

The Beauty of a Child's Prayer

“Do you mind if we stop at the church for a couple of minutes?” I asked my nephew.
“Why?”
“To say hi to Jesus.” He said nothing. “Do you?” I said as I turned on my blinker. I asked again as I pulled into the parking lot. He remained silent.

We walked into the sanctuary, the heavy fragrance of incense making me close my eyes and breath deeply. For a few minutes, we knelt and then sat back in the pew. It was completely quiet and empty. The stillness in striking contrast with the usual full bustle of a Sunday morning Mass.

I turned to say something to my nephew and saw that he sat there with eyes closed and hands folded. And so I waited in the weight of silence until he suddenly turned to me and asked if we could go.

We spoke for a little bit about the silence, spent some time reading about St. John the Beloved on his feast day, and then I asked if we could pray for a friend of mine who was suffering from an illness that was lasting years. It was her birthday and she was on my heart and mind throughout the day. So I offered a brief intention for her and my sister before asking if he had anything to add.

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I’m Busy

“No, I can’t.  I’m too busy.”

I’m a bit surprised to hear these words uttered by my three year old nephew.  I don’t think he really knows what those words mean.  I asked if he had given a hug to his grandma and he said he was too busy, as he tiredly walked away from me. He has heard this phrase but he doesn’t understand how to properly apply it.  My brain thinks briefly of The Princess Bride and the misuse of the word “inconceivable.”

Then I think about my conversations with my relatives and I realize that I am very quick to fall back on, “Life is busy.”  It is a nice conversation filler but it doesn’t really tell one anything.  Which is partially the point–life is filled with many things but I don’t want to fully articulate them right now.  Life is either busy or nothing is going on.

Somewhere along the line I began to think of busy as success or as the necessary answer for how my life is going.  Because I can’t say I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.  I can’t admit in casual conversations that I’m at times frustrated with the Lord and myself.  Or that I want to sit in my classroom and cry some days while other days fill me with over-the-moon excitement and joy.

“I’m busy.”

Oh the contradiction!  Here we are at the “busy” part of the year that revolves in essence around a quiet manger scene. The God of the Universe enters into our chaos, confusion, and hurt and the world for a moment seems to be still.  We are enraptured by the glint in the newborn’s eye, in the soft giggle, in the squirm of chubby arms and legs.

I need to come up with a better response than, “I’m busy.”  I’m present.  I have time for you.

The Spider-slayer

He is the king of the yard as he runs around, playing with the random toys that are scattered where he last left them.  The dogs are a repeated amusement to him but he is most taken with the newest addition, the little unnamed puppy that seeks refuge in a lawn chair lying folded on the ground.  A few “nice touches” on her head, a few joyfully babbled words, and he is off to find a new occupation.  The red and yellow mini-car is the next adventure.  He climbs in and I go around to the other side, intent upon scaring him but failing in every way.  Instead, he observes me calmly and I ask if I can get in, despite the fact that age and science are completely against me.  Before he is able to respond, I see a spider crawling on the passenger side.  I mention it to him and he turns quickly to see it.  Even with the quick reflexes, the spider has evaded his gaze and is now on the outside of the car.  I expected him to be slightly frightened or disgusted.  Rather than running away, he pokes his head out the passenger window, sees the spider, and rapidly smashes it with his little hand.  He pulls it away and a leg or two remains squished to the toy.  The rest, I now see, is on his hand, parts of it still moving, as if trying to pull life back into itself and resurrect.  My reaction of disgust is again different from this little one’s reaction.  He nonchalantly brushes the spider guts off his hand and sits back down in the car.  “Spiders are ucky.”  I laugh in amazement.  “Spiders are ucky, Trish.  Spiders are ucky.”  My little nephew, the spider-slayer.