Jean Vanier, founder of L’Arche, felt everyone, regardless of ability, should be given an opportunity for spiritual growth and expression. Out of that conviction came a retreat and small group experience called Faith and Sharing. In many cities in which … Continue reading
When we say our evening prayers, each person in the family says what they are thankful for that day. We are always thankful for each other and a roof over our heads and food on the table. Sometimes we get bogged down with other concerns and forget how much there is to be happy about. If you listen to the news items today, it could all seem so sad. Physician-assisted suicide, abortion, challenges to marriage and family, quality of life debating, corruption in public figures are all serious concerns. Listening to Monica’s nighttime gratefulness puts everything where it should be. Yesterday was Monica’s birthday, so she had extra items to be thankful for, but nearly every day her list is this long.
Last night Monica said:
“I am thankful that I was born. I am thankful that I went to Mass. I am thankful that the waitresses sang Happy Birthday and brought me cake. I am thankful that I took muffins to my co-workers. I am thankful that I got to give the blanket to Hillary. I am thankful that Danny came to dinner. I am thankful for the balloons and everyone texting me and calling me and emailing me to say Happy Birthday.”
I don’t think anyone in the family receives the kind of attention that Monica receives on her birthday, but it is clearly because it is reciprocal! The rest of us are so much more reserved in our own expressions of kindness. Monica really does remember to send cards and call and text other people, not just for their birthdays, but if they are sick or to express sympathy for a loss or to congratulate for an accomplishment. She is always making gifts and going out of her way to show love to others.
In the book, Cheaper By The Dozen, it is explained how Frank Gilbreth would control the mealtime conversation by announcing “Not of general interest” if anyone began a topic he deemed inappropriate. So I am warning you now, this post might not be of general interest.
Our family’s faith life is very important to us. When Monica was young, we sometimes wondered about her capacity to have a relationship with God. We taught her prayers and encouraged the same participation in all the traditions of our Catholic faith as our other children. She has shown us again and again her love for God and the people around her even if she can’t always put it into words.
Recently, she let us know that it was unfair that she never had a turn announcing the mysteries when we said a family rosary and she never got to lead the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But there are a lot of hard words! We realized that she really wanted to do this, so we gave printouts to her speech therapist and asked her to help Monica with the words. She is so pleased now to take her turn and reads the mysteries with such expression it melts our hearts.
One family tradition we have is to acknowledge our children’s Baptism anniversary. We sometimes let them request their favorite dinner or light their candle, but usually we just remember to tell them Happy Anniversary. Monica never lets us forget her anniversary.
This year Tim was on a business trip to the Far East, so we were only communicating by email. He sent Monica the email below to let her know he was thinking about her anniversary.
My dearest Monica,
Happy anniversary of your beautiful baptism!
I think you know that you were so weak when you were born, because your heart was not working all the way, that we asked the priest to baptize you in the hospital. And he did baptize you in the hospital. And then we knew that you were a child of God. And if you died then, you would go to heaven, because God had adopted you as his own daughter Monica.
That is why sometimes I say that you are God’s daughter and I am very lucky to be allowed to share your house and to raise you with Mary Ellen and to go through life with you.
Certainly you know that your mother and I are very glad that you were sent by God to be in this house and be our daughter to be raised by us. But before we met you God knew you, because he made you first and he knew you first. God loved you first, because God thought of you first, and because he thought of you, you became real, you were a person at his having thought of you.
When God made you with his thoughtfulness he placed you in your mother’s womb where you would grow until you were born as a little girl. So when we saw you we knew you were made to be his daughter.
After you were home a little while we knew that you were strong enough to go to the church and there we showed everyone that you were his daughter and the priest came again and told everybody that he had baptized you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit while you were in the hospital. Everyone was very happy, and everybody prayed for you then that you would grow up to be a lovely young lady who would be a good friend to God and that you would know him and love him every day like he loves you.
Then, we came home from the church and had a party to celebrate what had happened in your life. It was a great beginning of a little baby girl who would grow up to become a very wonderful young lady that we all know, God’s daughter Monica, our friend Monica.
It is a good day to remember and celebrate. We are thankful for everything that God has done!
And here is the email that Monica sent in reply:
Thank you for the email.
How is your trip? We miss you.
We went to St. Stephen church this morning.
My brother John was server. It was so nice. We saw Mr. Monroe at mass this morning. My brother John goes to scout meeting without you tonight.
Thank you for remember my baptism anniversary.
Thank you for praying for me. I really love your heart always love my life. You are so be a father being with you and left the hospital and you are working different place with out with your wife. I prayed the rosary and my prayer. I learned to talk now. It really helps me to practice my piano every day. And you are so sweet of you be a father in my world gave me a toy and walk with me in the hike with my family when I was a little child.
Sometimes I correct her emails, adding the punctuation, etc., but I just couldn’t change this one when I could see her pouring out her heart.
I’ll try to lighten up a bit by sharing one more story. She loves getting her turn to light the candles during Advent. Tim loves encouraging this challenge, but he also sometimes closes his eyes during the prayers. Thankfully I was watching when Monica’s hair began to go up in flames! No harm done. She now knows to light the furthest candle first.
An excerpt from the Christmas Letter 2001
Monica loved the routine of summer school every morning and the boys rode bikes to swimming lessons. We also learned a little more time management with Gabe cutting three lawns and Rebecca babysitting 2 mornings a week and doing yardwork/housework for another woman unable to do it herself. Gabe and Dan attended Boy Scout Camp for a week and Dan attended a leadership camp in Pennsylvania. Rebecca was a counselor this year at the one-week girls camp she had attended in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay. I did laundry.
Second grade is an important year for preparation to receive the sacraments and we are so pleased with the special-ed religion classes offered for Monica. We’ve been working on Examination of Conscience with her and just like our older kids did, she reports first the faults of the next youngest sibling! Monica may not always be able to express it, but we can tell she has a wonderful relationship with God and we are so happy she’ll be celebrating First Holy Communion in May with her class. We’re very happy with her regular schoolwork too. Her teacher makes modifications to the classwork so that Monica is challenged to work hard and yet the work is within reach. Monica gets along great with her classmates.