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Nov 02, 2020 1062 Reshma Thomas,
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Heaven Is Real

It’s no easy task to bring up children in faith. Lots of surprises await those who really try!

Bubbling Joy

“Children come into my life with their laughter and their song.

When will I become like them? Teach me Lord to sing along.”

Whenever I sang these lyrics from the song “Living waters flow on” my heart longed for children of my own. As an only child I was always drawn to children and nothing could beat the joy I experienced in their presence. As a matter of fact, I chose the vocation of married life to have the privilege of bearing bubbling bundles of joy.

I remember writing in my diary about the songs I would teach them and the Saint stories I would tell them. I yearned to nurture my little ones in the way of holiness, teaching them to love Jesus and Mama Mary with all their hearts. I even bought a children’s Bible storybook before my wedding. From the very beginning of my first pregnancy, my heart was stirred to surround my little one with prayers and songs of praise to God, as I made numerous sign of the Cross over my womb. Being put on bed rest only doubled my fervor to pray more. I never suspected that God planned to bring my baby into the world at 27 weeks of pregnancy. When I held my first-born daughter in my arms, my joy overflowed into hymns of praise. Even as she spent her first 45 days strapped down in the NICU with needles and cannulae in her body I rejoiced in the gift of my daughter.

I spoke constantly about Jesus to my little Anna. Even though I had only a few minutes with her each day, I never forgot to trace the sign of the Cross wherever I could find her skin free of plaster and tubes, whispering that she was not alone and that Mamma Mary and Jesus were right beside her. Sometimes when I hummed a hymn for her, the nurses sang along and the NICU turned into a house of prayer. When I could finally take my baby home my joy knew no limits.

Through the Tears

About three months later, we came to know that our little Anna would be unlike other children. In addition to physical disabilities, her intellect was severely affected. The doctors said her brain was shrunken due to lack of oxygen during birth. I kept praying and singing hymns for her. Strangely, though she never looked me in the eye, there was a joy on her face that was contagious. Whenever I recited the Holy Rosary, all her whimpers and cries turned to peaceful bliss. It felt like we were surrounded by angels who prayed along with us. I never got tired of telling her Saint stories, not knowing if she understood any of it. There were days I wept while praying the Rosary with her, wondering if little Anna ever would be able to pray with me.

Four years went by and three miscarriages added to our pain. The doctors said it would be impossible for me to have healthy babies.

It would take a miracle! In His infinite love and mercy God blessed us with two cherubs, Issa and Aaric—two years apart. Now my little Anna is 6 years old with a little brother and sister to join the ranks of her crying symphony.

After the births of Issa and Aaric I returned to praying and singing just as I had with Anna. But I couldn’t get the spiritual vibe which had been so strong around Anna. When I tried to bless Aaric with the sign of the Cross or tried placing my hand on his head, he would flee like a vampire at the sight of a Cross; Issa would simply stare at me and blink as if to say “Are you serious?”

It was painful to realize that bringing up children in faith is no easy task after all!

You might think it is a joke that I worried about the faith formation of a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old baby. No joke! I seriously began to ask myself, “Am I doing it right? Are they moving away from Jesus rather than toward him? Am I too compulsive in trying to teach them to love God?

My Heart Skipped a Beat

One evening, as I pondered these questions while baby Issa was drooling over a teether, Aaric climbed onto the bed, stretched his hand toward a framed scripture quotation hanging on the wall, and then moved his hand to baby Issa’s lips. Suddenly it dawned on me. He gets it! I regularly bring Aaric to our image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, place my hand on the image and then touch his lips. I realized that Aaric was not only imitating my gestures, he understood that what he touched on the wall was no ordinary picture but something Holy. I was reminded of Jeremiah 15:16

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

From that incident I got the clear message that I didn’t have to stress about my children’s faith. In fact, my children would be teaching me about faith.

When the children constantly cry for my attention and won’t let me out of their sight I remember how often I try to get God’s attention and make him look at me. I’m forced to ask myself, “Am I as persistent in trying to be close to Him all day as my children are in getting close to me?

When I discipline my son for his mischief, he never wastes a second before coming to hug me and make peace. But when I’ve made a nasty comment or overreacted in some way, how soon do I turn to God to ask forgiveness? God too disciplines us and then waits for us to hug him and make our peace.

If I love these children who contantly create such messes for me to clean up, then how much more must God love us even when we make our own messes?

Impenetrable to the Eyes

Sometimes while watching adoration streamed on live TV I glimpse Aaric raising both his arms and baby Issa swaying to the songs of praise. I realize that our children imitate our expressions of faith. I know that no matter how well I speak of Jesus or try to inspire them with stories of Saints, what they look at most is what I do. Am I gentle and humble like Jesus? Do I love those who don’t love me as Jesus instructed? As they grow, children are more aware of what we do than what we say.

I am always fascinated when my little Anna turns up during Holy Mass. She is always peaceful. While at Holy Mass, her usual thrums that turn into her high-pitched glass-breaking screams are completely absent. Such is the vigil she keeps. At the point when the priest says, “And so, with Angels and Archangels… with all the hosts and Powers of heaven, we sing the hymn of your glory, as without end we acclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts…” little Anna’s big bright eyes dart about as if watching flying objects. She gets excited and her countenance turns so celestial that one look at her would convince you that Heaven is real. The ecstasy on little Anna’s face convinced me that the angels and Saints are with us celebrating Holy Mass like a real party.

My children remind me of the words of Jesus, “…unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Let us then with great simplicity and child-like faith offer our prayers which will pierce the clouds and reach the Heavens.

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Reshma Thomas

Reshma Thomas serves on the Editorial Board of Shalom Tidings. She resides with her family in Kerala, India.

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