Today was a good day.
We try to have a sort of family catechism regularly and today was all about Adoration. I read a little booklet about this child who asks his mother what Adoration is and she explains, among other things, that sometimes, outside of the normal Mass hour, Catholics come to adore Christ present in the Eucharist. A Catholic will talk to Christ quietly there, or just sit and… adore Him. My children – 5, 3, and 2 – couldn’t grasp everything in the booklet, I think. I mean, the greatest theologians don’t fully grasp it, let alone me and my kids. But I decided, on the spur of the moment, that we might as well keep the momentum going and actually do this whole Adoration thing. So we went three blocks down to our local parish, and there, kneeling, Izzy thanked Jesus personally for dinosaurs, while Jack thanked Him for dragons – big dragons. The kind you can ride on.
After that we went down to the American River – a river that winds through Sacramento. It was the first time any of us (“us” being the kids and me) had been there. It was a wild success. People create play structures and theme parks to attract and entertain children as young as mine, but at their age, nothing will compare to finding seemingly magical insects in the mud, being allowed to throw hard objects as far as you can into a river, and splashing around. It was a hit with me, too, but for a different reason. Moving out here from the San Francisco Bay Area, two of the things I miss the most are the bay and the ocean. Looking out from the bank across the quiet river, I realized I had just made what would seem to some like an unfair trade: the ocean for a river. But rivers have their merits, too. I have a lot of wonderful memories and emotions attached to rivers, and I pulled them out like coins I’ve collected but haven’t looked at in awhile. I forgot how much I liked them.
There are so many stressful days in our lives – and especially as parents and spouses. And for us it’s been a more wild ride than I think it is for the average American family. There are the fights, the worries, the sleepless nights, and so much more that can make a person so exhausted. And I can easily come to define my life, my relationships, my parenting, everything about me by the fights, worries, and sleepless nights. I can feel like a failure. I can feel that the grand story of my subplot of a life is summed up in the number of days I’ve spent wondering where God is or fretting or getting so angry I’m ready to burst. All is a vast black universe with only pinpricks of light.
But on days like today, I feel like I get a foretaste of Heaven. And I wonder if maybe I can define my life by days like this where I realize how privileged I am to hear some of my children’s first prayers. I can define my life by the moments I spend skipping rocks with them, reluctantly letting them play in the mud, and discovering mundane things that, through their fresh eyes, are amazing. I can define my life by the moments my wife and I share a knowing glance or laugh at the same book at Barnes & Noble. And however slight a foretaste it is, if Heaven is ultimately my eternal home, that taste is still worth something. I can define my life, and perhaps all of life, by these foretastes of Heaven. All is day where the clouds only serve to temporarily block out the consistent and unchanging sunlight.
Nobody knows, ultimately, whether their lives will end up a tragedy where everything falls apart in the end (whether with a bang or whimper, as T.S. Elliot puts it) or a comedy, where through the craziness of the plot twists everything comes out fine. I guess part of what it means to be a Catholic is to believe that our difficult days do not define us and the days we are lifted above our worries and fears by what can only be called the sheer grace of God do. And some days it’s hard to believe that.
But not today. Today was a good day.
(Yeah, I know it’s not the best image. I took it off a flip phone)