National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

The Plunge


August 6-12, 2006 Issue | Posted 7/17/06 at 10:00 AM


Time for a deep breath before taking the plunge: Swimming lessons are about to begin for another season.

Being responsible for seven small bodies near a large body of water is no exercise in relaxation. The good news is that the kids aren’t the only ones who learn from our trips to the lake. In fact, just a couple of summers ago, Ambrose, when he was 6, taught his mother a little something about the glorious gift — and daunting challenge — of faith.

“I don’t know if I can do it,” he told me that sultry summer morning as I slathered his back with sunscreen.

“Hmmm, do what?” I asked.

I was distracted, and not just by the sunscreen. A few days earlier, I had taken a pregnancy test. It was positive, but I was feeling less so. Theoretically, I believed that God would reward our marriage’s openness to new life, but on a more practical level I remained unconvinced. Because we are both carriers for cystic fibrosis, each pregnancy brings new worries and uncertainty for my husband and me. Additionally, with the six children we already had, our living space was cramped and money was tight.

“We’re jumping from the raft today,” my exasperated son reminded me. I had forgotten. Today was the day his class was to swim to the raft in the middle of the lake where each child would have a turn jumping into the open water. He was terrified.

“I just don’t think I can,” he repeated before running to join his classmates on the beach. When at last his turn came around, I heard his teacher call to him from the water.

With small, hesitant steps, quaking in his skin, Ambrose made his way to the edge of the raft. For a long moment he just stood shivering.

No one can do this for him, I thought to myself. As I drew a quick breath and held it, Ambrose took a step backwards and lunged forward.

To my great surprise, he leaped from the wooden raft with fervor and force. For just a moment, all the world fell silent around me and my son’s small body seemed suspended in mid air, twisting and thrashing. Silhouetted against the radiant sun, his arms waved wildly and his legs kicked a shimmering spray of water in all directions.

When at last he hit the water with a satisfying splash, I sighed and smiled. He had done it. Despite not knowing the outcome and despite some reasonable reservations, ultimately Ambrose had believed he would be safe. And then, holding hard to that belief, he had leapt forward with abandon.

I understood then that being open to having the children God wills for us, despite what our conservative instincts might tell us, is also a leap of faith. It requires an uncomfortable abandonment to God’s divine love and providence. But, in the end, it’s our trusting faith that frees us.

As St. Therese of Lisieux once said: “Oh how glorious our faith is! Instead of restricting hearts as the world fancies, it uplifts them and enlarges their capacity to love.”

When we go to the lake these days, Ambrose still swims to the raft. He gets a running start, lets out a whoop, and springs toward the water with a laugh.

Watching from the shore as baby No. 8 twists and turns within my swollen belly, I can’t help but feel that I am taking a plunge, too.

Danielle Bean writes from

Belknap, New Hampshire.