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For Your Marriage

Dennis and Mary Jo Weiss have been married for more than 30 years. They write about a shared love of nature, prayer, and their children and grandchildren from their home in Hamburg, New York.

A Childlike Wonderment of God

Recently, Mary Jo and I were baby-sitting our two grandsons while our daughter had a doctor’s appointment. As any parent of boys will tell you, when you put five-year-old and three-year-old boys together, the result is usually not much quiet or “downtime”. The high energy of our two grandsons is a testament to that.

After some play time outside, which included riding scooters, playing baseball, exploring the yard and picking a few raspberries from the bushes which grow wild along the edge of their property, we all came in from the summer heat to chill out for a little bit. While Mary Jo was busy in the kitchen preparing supper, I told the boys it was time to relax and that I would read a few books on the couch with them. Well, Joseph, the three-year-old, immediately proceeded to the shelves which held the children’s books and without even looking to see which ones he was grabbing loaded up his arms with as many books as he could carry. He came over and dumped about six or seven books on my lap. His older brother Stephen sorted through the pile and noticed two books about Easter he chose to read.

This somewhat surprised me as it was mid-summer and the Easter season was long past. I was almost going to say to Stephen, “It is not Easter time, so are you sure you want to read these books?” Luckily I caught myself in time. Yes, I was thinking like a practical adult again, rather than embracing a child’s view of life.

So we read the Easter books. One was on the story of Easter morning and the empty tomb where Mary Magdalene meets the risen Jesus. The other was about a weak little donkey that is chosen to carry Jesus into Jerusalem. As we read these books Stephen asked one question after another about the stories. “Who was the person in white who spoke to Mary?” “How was the donkey cured so Jesus could ride on him?” I could see his mind taking in all in and processing the plot and meaning of the story.

The choice of these books demonstrates that a child has a natural curiosity and wonder about God. I believe there is natural capacity in children to be open to receiving the message about the wonder and beauty of God and his creation. This is especially true for those young minds in the early years, which are so pure and uncluttered by the concerns and worries of teenage or adult life.

This reading time with my grandsons reminded me of how I used to read bedtime stories to our own children when they were young. We usually read while we were all snuggled up under the blankets in Mary Jo’s and my bed. While I read many different types of books, we frequently read books on the lives of the saints. Each of the children had their favorites, from Kateri Tekakwitha, St. Francis, Father Damian of Molokai, to Rose of Lima. I can recall many a night having three or four of the kids crammed into our bed as we read these inspiring stories on the lives of our spiritual heroes.

As the children grew, we graduated from simple picture books, to short stories, to the young reader Vision books published by Ignatius Press. I highly recommend this series as they fleshed out much more detail on the saint’s background and early years and what drew them to live a life of holiness. Finally, when they were old enough, we ventured into J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, and ultimately the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now that was quite a long-term project! It took us months to complete, perhaps reading a chapter each night once all their school homework was completed. Many nights they would plead for me to read just a few more pages, which would then easily turn into another whole chapter. As any fan of Tolkien knows, you readily get caught up in the story and feel like you come to intimately know each of the characters. The plot of good versus evil, and the innocence and simple purity of heart of the hobbits, can touch a deep chord in us all. I recall how some of the girls cried when we finally finished the last pages of The Return of the King. It was like a close friend had moved away and you knew you may never see each other again. I admit that I also shed a few tears along with the kids.

I would encourage parents today to take the time to read to their children. I promise you will not regret a single minute spent sharing a good book together like this and you may be surprised of what you learn in the process.

Children naturally love stories. We all love them. Jesus taught his followers by stories, the parables he used to bring the gospel message to life. Just turn off the TV or iPad and sit with your child as you read the great stories from the Bible or lives of the saints. Let their minds soar to things of beauty. Let them imagine a world where good triumphs and God reigns over all of heaven and earth.

If you can’t do this as a child, you may never be capable on envisioning such a world as an adult.