Baby Steps in Combat Boots
This was her first attempt to play a song on the piano for others since the lady who teaches toddlers to play began working with her. She was confident and not afraid to be less than perfect. G. K. Chesterton said, “A thing worth doing is worth doing badly.” He wasn’t advocating careless indifference, but rather, he was encouraging amateur enthusiasm. He thought people were becoming so specialized and narrow that one day no one would whistle because the professional whistler did it best.
The notes of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star sounded out softly but surely on the old second-hand piano. She had a couple starts and stops, and a few missed notes, but she had learned an entire song and had played it for others. We hope one day soon that our niece will be inspired by her mother’s example and will do the same. You see, the performer wasn’t our three-year-old niece – it was her mother who has been studying along with her.
I recently came across the little prayer book they gave us when I made my First Communion. It was on the same bookshelf where we keep a copy of our Wedding Mass program. These discoveries got me thinking about beginnings. I’m taller than I was on my First Communion day and I’m wider than I was on our wedding day, but have I grown in holiness? I turned back to that prayer book and wedding program and re-read both. But, history doesn’t begin on our birthdays. So, in order to move further forward I’ll have to go farther back. Catholic Christians have a Faith with the wisdom and memories of millennia.
My First Communion was celebrated by the entire community. We processed down the streets around the church and were greeted by neighbors along the way. That is a beautiful memory, but I also remember reading about the English Martyrs. Perhaps my next Communion will be less routine by recalling the courage of those who risked their lives to distribute and receive the Eucharist in a hostile environment. St. Therese of Lisieux’s parents, Louis and Zelie Martin, recently were canonized. Perhaps they could give us some lessons on strong marriages and healthy families. We could return to the wedding of Cana and be reminded to re-invite Christ back into our marriages, as well. One of the paradoxes of the Catholic Church is that it is never more timely than when it is timeless.
Donna and I had the opportunity to speak with a priest from Africa who was helping out at our parish a few Sundays ago. So many American parishes are short-handed, so it is becoming more common to see priests from Africa and Asia saying Mass. Fr. “Kilimanjaro” mentioned that he was grateful to be able to give to the West what Africa had received years before from the courageous missionaries who brought with them the Gospel and Body of Christ. The thought crossed both our minds after speaking with Father that we were living in mission territory again! Ironically, this conversation occurred shortly after Junípero Serra, the California missionary, was canonized! What a great chance for American Catholics to begin again in humility with the basics.
Beginning again often includes moving on. Donna and I were blessed with the opportunity to write for the USCCB initiative For Your Marriage these past two years. God will not be outdone in generosity, so of course, we received much more from writing than we were asked to give. We are often asked: “What would Jesus do?” Well, rather than speculate, why not ask: “What did Jesus do?” He didn’t write a book. He founded a Church and gave it the authority to write and compile the Book. He instituted Sacraments in order to strengthen and empower us with grace. One of those Sacraments is Holy Matrimony. Marriage is a rank in the Church Militant. We will keep all of you who are fighting the good fight in our prayers; please do the same for us.