You know that feeling when unexpected people show up at the door? The, “Oh my gosh, there’s unfolded laundry on the couch, the floors are dirty, and Tommy’s underwear somehow made it from the dryer to the curtains!”
So, last night the house is quiet because three kids are in bed and one is out with friends. The other two are reading, and it’s nearly 10 o’clock. Perfect time for a bath, right?
Suddenly I hear one son laughing. “Oh, Nicolas is home,” I think.
A few minutes go by, I read a bit longer. Then I hear some more voices. “That’s weird,” I think, “Why does one of those voices sound like a woman?”
So, for about 10 minutes, a group of kids and their mom are standing in the unfinished entryway of our house, where the busted laundry hamper is tacked up against the wall and the recycling bits are falling out of the bin. I unplug the bath and try to nonchalantly walk out to greet them in my pyjamas, hoping my mascara is still in place.
This family is a part of the kids’ theatre group. They are an awesome family – fun and I really would like to know them more. But it doesn’t change the fact that I’m still in my pyjamas with Tommy’s underwear on the curtains. And one more thing, they’re Protestants. So, of course, other than the underwear, there are also crucifixes in every room, a handful of Mary statues (always a favourite with non-Catholics), and off-centred icons here and there.
I don’t really feel overly self-conscious about this kind of stuff. But I do find myself wondering what they are thinking when they look around. Do they get into their car after a nice visit and start talking about the idol-worshipping Roys and “I told you they worshipped Mary” kind of stuff? Or did they even notice or care?
Well, this morning I take out Isaac’s catechism and see that our new chapter is, “The Saints, Holy Images, and Relics.”
Isaac, who’s 7, and I have some really great conversations. He asks a lot of good, to-the-point questions that take us deeper into all sorts of topics. But we’ve just read a chapter on the first commandment of God, “Thou shalt have no false gods before me,” and now we’re talking about relics and images.
Our conversation was what you would expect. “We have pictures of Jesus and the saints in almost every room of our house. Sometimes we look at them when we pray. Are we worshipping them?”
“No,” he grins at me, like that would be wrong. And stupid.
“Right,” I respond, “ Do I also have pictures of you in a bunch of rooms? And pictures of Daddy, and the rest of the kids? Why?”
“Because you love us,” he says.
“Yeah, and because I like to think of you. And sometimes I look at your picture and I smile, or think how great you are. Jesus said that God is the God of the living, not the dead. Are the saints alive then? Are they with God? Are they our brothers and sisters in the faith? Do they love us? Can they still pray for us? (duh.) We have pictures up to remind us that there are people who already conquered temptation, and when we see them we remember that we can do it too. We also remember that there are real people in heaven who love us, and are praying for us.”
I pointed out the crucifix on the wall. “Look, I don’t worship that crucifix, but when I see it I know just how much Jesus loves me. When I look at those wounds on his body ...” Then our conversation turned to Star Wars. Obviously.
“You know that part when Han Solo is looking for Luke out in the cold? He finds him but knows they probably will both freeze to death. They find that dead animal in the snow, and Han slits its body open and stuffs Luke inside. Kind of gross, but the dead body of that animal saved them from death.”
Then it got cool, because Isaac and I often pray the Anima Christi together after Holy Communion. My favourite part is, “Within thy wounds hide me.” It kind of makes me swoon.
It’s weird if you aren’t used to that kind of language, I guess, but to have the love of Someone, so completely, that you can actually become one with them? That the wounds of Christ open to let me in next to his heart, not just like a pretty Valentine’s Day card, but really and truly, into his wounds and covered by the blood of his heart!
The dead body of Christ has been ripped open, and we are saved from death by hiding within. The saints who have gone before me testify to this. This is our faith, this is why I swoon. This is why I could never be anything but Catholic.
And this is why I have crucifixes and pictures of the saints in every room.