Monday, January 16, 2012

Everyday Holiness

"Teaching is good if the teacher also acts." Ignatius of Antioch (1)

In the Rite of Baptism, there are two passages that remind parents that they must be the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. The Rite also challenges them to be the best of teachers, not so much by what they say, but how they live the gospel. It may seem obvious, but it is easy to forget this powerful lesson. While it is important for parents to learn how to articulate our faith for their children in an age appropriate manner, it is even more important to act on their beliefs. Of course this is also true for all adults.

When we think about the people who have most influenced our faith lives, almost always we remember those who lived their faith, authentically, integrally and fully. Last Saturday, I had the privilege of baptizing the fifth child of young friends. The mother is a gentle woman who suffered serious complications after the birth of this last child, but carried on with the help of her kind husband and family. Still, it was and is a struggle to nurture and nourish five children under twelve.

As fate would have it, the week before the baptism was not easy. The children got sick and so did she. Arriving at the baptism she could only whisper, having lost her voice with upper respiratory problems. Trying to be understanding, I suggested that perhaps she could enjoy the quiet of not being able to speak. She smiled and said, "Have you ever tried to get five children ready for church without a voice?"

Gently chastised, I said nothing. Of course, my young friend was right, but there are two lessons for us in her experience. While we should never underestimate the everyday holiness of parents in caring for and forming their children, we might also remember that most of their teaching and ours is done not with words, but with lives committed to justice and charity in action.

Today, ask God to help you say less and do more.

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