(For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. ~~ 2 Timothy 1:6
Last year, we attended a Confirmation (the same young lady who gave me the brilliant Zoo Pals idea) and three years ago, we attended her sister's Confirmation. What struck me each and every time was the combination of the mundane and the sublime.
Although sacraments are spiritually powerful gifts, amazing delivery methods for God's divine grace to make its way into our souls, they are always mixed up with the very real, the earthly stuff. A sacrament is itself a visible sign -- the use of an earthly thing, a tangible, sensible bit of the material world -- that somehow, by God's choosing, contributes to our sanctification.
The classic definition sums it up this way:
"Sacraments are outward signs of inward grace, instituted by Christ for our sanctification."
God works, in other words, through things. Through stuff, through people. And no matter how sublime the work, it is always intertwined with the weight of human existence.
The day before Anne's Confirmation, we were down to the final preparations before our out-of-town company was scheduled to arrive. Atticus had volunteered to do the last of the grocery shopping, and he planned to take all three girls with him, leaving me with a quiet house for an hour or so before the weekend plans kicked in. But, Anne suddenly didn't feel well enough to go shopping. She was hit with a monster headache, and lay down on the couch just as Atticus and the other two girls left.
I thought she probably just needed a short nap, but the next thing I knew she was feeling sick to her stomach. So, there I was, sitting on the bathroom floor with my poor sick daughter, and I wanted her to know that I was doing everything I could for her. But, what can you do for someone who's feeling sick? Other than a cool cloth for the forehead, and simply being there, there isn't always a lot to do. But, Anne turns to the Rosary in times of trouble, and so do I. So I emailed a quick prayer request to some friends, grabbed my Rosary, sat down on the bathroom floor with my daughter, and simply kept her company while I prayed for her.
I was reminded of someone else who prayed the Rosary in a bathroom, but Immaculee Ilibagiza prayed her Rosary for three months straight, while crammed into a tiny, hidden bathroom with seven other women, praying for her life, her family, her country and her would-be killers. And though just moments before I'd been worried about how a million little details of the weekend would play out, I was reminded of the thought I had just after I read Immaculee's wrenching book, Left to Tell: "Who am I to whine when I could be praying?"
So, I simply prayed. On a cold, bathroom floor, next to my daughter, I prayed the Rosary.
And when Anne felt well enough to go lie down, she did. She slept for over an hour, and when she got up, she felt much, much better, and the details of the weekend played out beautifully. All was well that night, and into the next day. Our friends arrived, we went to the Confirmation Mass and I watched the Archbishop lay his hands on my daughter's head. She was sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit. And I was moved, exhilarated, thrilled, joyful ... so full of love for my daughter, my family, our dear friends, and our Lord.
Then we went out to eat.
Sounds silly, doesn't it? Proclaiming God's majesty and then talking about food? But it's not silly. It's all over Scripture, really. It comes straight from Him.
Jesus heals a little girl and then says, in His practical way, "Get her something to eat."
He rises from the dead, and while His apostles are still incredulous with joy, He basically says, "Hey, do you have anything around here a guy could eat?"
Sublime and mundane.
Divine and earthly.
We can't escape the mix on this earth. God comes down to us, wherever we are, and though we can feel His love, and catch glimpses of His power, we can't yet escape the shackles of the world. And so, He does the next best thing for us: He can make even a cold bathroom floor a sacramental, offering strength to get us through everything from our setbacks and inconveniences to terribly heavy crosses.
And so it goes. Incredulous joy is always followed by some food. Beauty is mixed with messiness and whine turns to prayer in all circumstances because, really, what else do we have?
And that's the story of my eldest daughter's Confirmation weekend. My beautiful, beloved daughter experienced the power and the glory of our beloved God:
For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. ~~ 2 Timothy 1:6
And then we ate pancakes.