"As for the little ferret, I do not know how she will turn out; she is so little, so thoughtless, she has an intelligence superior to (her sister's), but she is less gentle and has an almost invincible stubbornness."
Those words were spoken by Zélie Martin – the mother of Thérèse Martin, who would grow up and be canonized as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower, one of the most beloved of all Catholic saints and a doctor of the Church. Now it has been announced that Pope Francis has opened the way for Zélie and her husband, Louis, also to be canonized as saints in October.
Parents and children becoming saints together. That is what it's all about.
I will think of the above quote the next time I notice a young parent taking a crying baby out of Mass. At the risk of coming across as a cad, I delight in hearing babies cry at Mass – especially during the Eucharistic Prayer.
On one level, it's just inspiring to know that the faith is being passed on to another generation and that the parents are bringing their children to Jesus. But on another level, the sound of the babies' cries enhance for me the liturgy.
Babies freely and beautifully express out loud what we all feel at times. I unite the baby’s cry with the varied and subtle cries and longings of my own heart – and with the silent cries of all of you. I incorporate the baby’s cry, together with the corresponding parents' concern and the longings of other people in the pews, and the groaning of the whole world, into the prayer. I pray that the grain that has been broken and the grapes that have been crushed would be transformed and raised up. When I do that it makes the consecration and the sacrifice of the Mass seem more real and impassioned.
Sometimes I even feel a little envious of that baby – wishing that I too could wail out full-throated at Mass. I get it, baby. I am with you in that moment. I feel it too.
I'd like to help the young families of the parish. For many and obvious reasons I won't offer to babysit. But maybe we could find some space in the parish or school if anybody wants to start a mothers' group. I will do my part and bless the children. I will lift their cries, and yours, as I lift the Host and Chalice. All of that crying and moaning will be offered to the Lord. It will be purged from ourselves and taken up into Someone else. It will be redeemed and glorified. It is acceptable and beautiful in God’s eyes.
And God will help us to become saints together. Zélie, Louis, Thérèse, and the whole holy Martin family, pray for us.