June 25, 2010

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

What I learned through the eyes of a child

Debra TomaselliI’m new at this grandparent role, and it’s been awhile since I have jiggled a baby on my hip and helped a toddler scuttle out of a car seat, but having the grandkids to myself one afternoon delivered a humbling message that I’ll long remember.

We arrived home after noon, and my stomach was growling. Avé scrambled into the high chair and I slipped Matthew, fussy and sleepy, into the infant seat. Keeping an eye on each of them, I yanked the refrigerator door open.

I grabbed a handful of cheese cubes and tossed them onto the high chair tray, hoping to satisfy the clamoring toddler. I handed the pacifier to Matthew and tapped his bouncy seat with my foot, anticipating the infant would drift off to sleep.

At the same time, I slapped some tuna together for myself, and sat down at the table. While rocking the baby and feeding the toddler, I took a quick bite of my sandwich.

As I did, I felt the heat of someone staring at me. I turned towards Avé to find her big round toddler eyes fixed on me. She didn’t break her gaze when our eyes met, but remained motionless, intently staring. In fact, the toddler’s big blue eyes widened when I looked at her as though she had something important to communicate.

“What,” I asked, half-expecting an answer from a child who couldn’t even talk yet.

Head tilted slightly forward, Avé continued the prolonged, passionate stare from her high chair. Suddenly there appeared a flicker of movement as her little right hand reached up, and her chubby fingers brushed across her forehead. The intensity of her expression remained unchanged, but the action awakened something deep within me.

“Oh,” I said, “I get it. I forgot to pray!”

As I began to bless myself, Avé leaned back in the high chair and kicked her feet, eyes sparkling with delight. She smiled and started sucking her fingers. She couldn’t utter a word, but I could almost hear her say, “Yes, you finally get it!”

It was then, and only then, that I began to marvel at the power of the sign of the cross; the blessing we receive in blessing ourselves. It’s a simple action, one that I have performed numerous times, but one that delivers a message so potent that even a tiny toddler grasps it.

In his book, The Sign of the Cross—Recovering the Power of the Ancient Prayer, author Bert Ghezzi explains: “In the past few years, I had taken the sign of the cross more seriously. I signed myself more frequently and with more reverence and faith. I sensed that in crossing myself I was tapping into a powerful divine energy that had many practical consequences for my life. It released graces that strengthened me to face the challenges that arose each day.”

What a gift. It took the eyes of a child to awaken me to the power of this simple, everyday prayer.

Avé smiled as I began, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit …”

(Debra Tomaselli lives in Altamonte Springs, Fla. Her column appears in several diocesan newspapers. Her e-mail address is dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.) †

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