These children dressed up as saints for Halloween. The older girl is Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, her younger sister is the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the baby is Mother Teresa. When I come across something like this, I am amazed at how faith makes our world so much bigger, and so much smaller at the same time. Faith reaches out across the barriers of time and place, so that we can become friends and even family with people who lived a thousand years ago. These people have nothing in common with us, except that they were human just like we are and God was the center of their life. When God is the center of our life, the little things are not a barrier for us, and our world embraces all of history, and all of history is not a very long time.
I have also seen that when a family does not live in faith, their world is too large but at the same time it is far too small. The house, school, work, shopping, the gym, the coffee shop: these are the boundary markers of the known world. What happens within these comfortable boundaries? Earning and spending money, enjoying yourself, until you’ve tried everything on the menu at the coffee shop, and life begins to feel too cramped. Yet you cannot break out of the bounds, because the more you travel, whether through the pages of history or through the cities of the world, you discover only more houses and schools and coffee shops, filled with people just as broken as you are, and places just as delightful and imperfect as home. And whether you stay in the cramped boundaries of life or wander the big empty world, the same lonely sadness creeps around behind you. Is this really all there is?
A life of faith lets us look beyond the edges of the planet to see that this world is a puddle of water and mud in the middle of eternity. The eyes of faith see beyond the sky, and notice that there are myriads of saints and angels praising God. These saints and angels are calling us to finish our work on earth so we can join them in this unending hymn. Faith tells us that the tension we feel and our lonely sadness is part of an epic struggle between good and evil. We are asked to put on the helmet of faith and play our part in that struggle. By accepting Jesus Christ and the power of His cross, you have the strength to battle against your sinful habits, and in this battle saints and angels and the parish priest are there to help you. By fighting the good fight, you allow God to push back the darkness from the corner of the world that is your heart. This might not seem like much, but as Mother Teresa showed the whole world, one single heart on fire with love draws hundreds to its warmth and light, which is the light that comes from God, and the glow of hope.
When parents bring their children into the world of faith, children begin to live in the middle of a great adventure that is true. They might be living like peasants, but that does not matter very much because their parents have found a secret treasure, and they are going to inherit a kingdom. Faith is perfectly compatible with childhood, and as St. Thérèse of Lisieux teaches us, faith is nothing more complicated than becoming children in the hands of our Heavenly Father. Both childhood and faith are able to find wonder and delight in every new day and in the simple things, and neither of them takes life very seriously. Neither faith nor childhood plan very far ahead, and both of them live in the moment. Even when that moment is snowing or raining, they make the most of it. Like childhood, faith makes friends, not just with the neighbor or the librarian, but with Blessed Pope John Paul and the Native American girl who lived three hundred years ago. Childhood enjoys every friendship and wants everyone to live together in a great big house so we can all have dinner together and always keep playing together. Which is, of course, exactly what faith is looking forward to. Even when you have faith, life is still quite a journey, but it is surprising how much shorter the journey seems when you have eternity ahead of you, and how much easier it is to get up every day and walk another mile, when you are walking with saints and other odd friends.
Does anyone else see the resemblance?