Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
A mommy reader sends along this little moment of joy:
Additional - a reflection
Sisters playing sight word smackdown
The game ends and one runs off to play
The other, focusing on the homework she still thrills to do
Looking at the assignment together
Silently reading instructions that were written in parent-ese
And not expecting you to read them aloud
But your little voice glides over the syllables
And I follow along but read ahead, Thinking there are words you don't know,
Words too hard for a new reader,
Words that cause even seasoned bookworms to trip up sometimes.
But you never falter
You read fluently and then you reach the one,
The one word I am sure will stump your fledgling skills
Such a big word and complex phonemically
My eyes flick over it, reading ahead
And you don't stumble.
You read it and keep going
It takes a moment for my brain to catch up to my ears.
I stop you, ask you to read it again
You happily oblige
I sit for the briefest of moments
Stunned by your achievement
As the reality of what you've just done hits me
I pull you into a big hug
Kiss your cheek and tell you
How incredibly proud I am of your hard work
Explain to you how excited I am
That you conquered such a big, complex word.
My pride in your accomplishment
Swells within me
And I cannot wait to tell your daddy
To share my excitement with him.
Somehow, I reign in my elation
And help you finish what we began with your homework,
But as I do, I know this is only the beginning.
There are many joys to parenting and most of them are, as is typical with the things of God, small ones that don't make the evening news or capture the attention of the world. Too much Cecil B. DeMille and outsized language about the Power of God can give the false impression that when seas aren't being parted or the dead raised, God is taking a nap on the couch. But the reality is that the overwhelming bulk of God's most intensely powerful moments in our lives are intimate, not spectacular and cinematic. For every Miracle of the Sun there are billions and billions of moments in which some small nudge (the inspired writer calls it a "still, small voice") is what touches the heart and can turn lives (or the fate of nations) for the good. Anybody who thinks that a parent spending time with a child is small beans but striding the corridors of power is where it's really at simply has no idea how God works. When the Son of Man comes and separates the sheep from the goats, it's not going to be done on the basis of how may times you worked a miracle, healed the sick, or spoke in tongues. Those gifts do get doled out by the Holy Spirit sometimes to various people, depending on what equipment God knows they will need to fulfill their vocation. But the main event is the pursuit of virtue and living the works of mercy. Special effects, while fun, are easy to turn into idols, which is why God keeps them rare and out of the way. Far better to help a child learn to read or give her a snuggle than to command armies or walk on water. Love is the main thing. Signs and wonders are entirely on an "as God wills" basis.