The Grands

The Grands
"Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children".
--- from the writings of Roots author Alex Haley

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Communing with the Spirit of the Past, Present, and Future

Audrey begins her spiritual journey
Yesterday was the first of what I hope will be many special days in the spiritual development of my granddaughter Audrey. She celebrated her First Holy Communion in the All Saints Catholic Church.

Now I have no idea how Audrey's relationship to her spiritual life will turn out. Neither does she, for she's only 8 years old. Audrey may be like her great-grandmother Price and become an avid churchgoer and true Christian, exemplifying the teachings of Jesus Christ in every aspect of her life. She may decide to be more like her Nana Sullivan, a believer in God who goes to church, but doesn't accept all the tenets of the Catholic faith. Or she may opt to follow her father, her grandmother Price, and myself, all of whom were raised in the Methodist Church but elected to reject regular church going as a requisite to living a good life on Earth. Or, of course, she may choose some other way.

But no matter which path Audrey heads down, I think it's important that all young Americans receive an understanding of Christianity. I say this for three main reasons:
  1. It gives you a solid basis to begin forming your own ideas of spirituality
  2. It gets you to start exploring many of the essential questions of life such as who am I, why am I here, how should I live my life, and what is my relationship to others and the world around me.
  3. It gives you a better understanding of America since so much of religion is embedded in our history, politics, and culture.
I found it both interesting and hopeful that the idea of true spiritual choice and understanding was central to the message that church priest Father Hugh Marren delivered directly to the 60 or so young people who were participating in their first communion.

After taking the group through a brief history of the Catholic books that taught young people through the ages about Holy Communion, Father Marren, in his lilting Irish brogue, noted the modern church tradition now calls for a more personal understanding rather than rote memorizations of the precepts involved.

He illustrated his point of the drawbacks of mere memorization and recitation by offering the following story:

Once, there was a Catholic Church where the Monsignor regularly visited to see how well the students were prepared to receive their first communion. Now the nuns there, being very bright, realized that the Monsignor always asked the questions in the same order, beginning with the first student on the left. So they made sure the first student knew the answer to the first question, the second to the second, and so on until all the questions were answered correctly. This pleased the Monsignor, who praised the nuns and their students for their hard work and faith.

And so it went for several years, until one year, when the third student was absent. When the Monsignor asked the third question, which was who made you, he directed it to the fourth student, who had memorized the response to the fourth question. Obviously, the student didn't give the correct answer.

Now not wanting to embarrass the young man, the Monsignor bent over and said, "Now son, you know 'twas God that made you".

"Oh no sir," the young boy replied. "God made Johnny and he's not here today".

"So you can see boys and girls," Father Marren concluded. "It's important not to just know the words, but to understand what they mean, believe them, and follow them".

But I hope Audrey wasn't only listening to Father Marren's words, as important as they were. Here is a sampling of some of the other ideas I hope Audrey was beginning to internalize on this special day.
  • the power of people gathered together for a single purpose.
  • the purpose of traditions in our lives and the fact that these traditions are not sacrosanct, but can be altered over the years to better accommodate the times.
  • the absolute need for what some term religious stories, others call myths, and still others term scientific certainties to understand the mysteries of human experience and the world around us.
  • the understanding to realize that action is also called for when a congregation repeats these words: "For all those people in the world who need our prayers  - the sick, the homeless, the hungry, the sad, the lonely, we pray to the Lord". Prayer is good; prayer with action better.
  • the benefit of turning to those near you and saying "Peace be with you" and hearing the refrain back "and peace be with you also". This message is magnified when it is carried out of the confines of the church and put into practice in daily living.
After the ceremony was over, as family, friends, and communicants milled about, chatting and posing for pictures, I stood to the side watching.

During the service, one of the most frequently mentioned words had been love. You could feel the love in the church. You could feel the love now outside. I directed a silent hope to Audrey that she would find much such love on her continuing journey.

For however anyone spiritually decides to travel his or her road, 1 Corinthians 13:13 suggests three good companions: "And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love".

And I believe anyone of any spiritual calling, even the greatest of atheists, should be able to say a big Amen to that.

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