April 28, 2006

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Make the Bible a bedtime storybook

On the evening of Holy Saturday, the bedtime routine of my two sons remained the same.

There was the baths, the putting on of pajamas, the brushing of teeth and the prayers.

The last step involved telling a story to our oldest son, Michael, as he lay in his bed.

However, on Holy Saturday evening, the story I told him was special. That night, he heard about Jesus’ resurrection.

This happened right around the same time that churches across the archdiocese were filled with the light of candles held by worshippers who listened to the Exultet, that beautiful chant that announces the good news of Christ’s rising from the dead.

And so, in our own small way, my family celebrated its own Easter Vigil.

In the fading glow of our daylight-savings-time extended evening, I sat on Michael’s bed and whispered to him the stories of Jesus’ burial and how the women discovered the empty tomb three days later.

Michael’s eyes lighted up and a smile came across his face when, with enthusiasm, I told him how the big rock had been rolled back, how the disciples rejoiced when they saw the risen Lord, and how the disciples who walked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus rushed back to Jerusalem when they realized that he had been with them all along the way.

I didn’t have a Bible in front of me. And I hadn’t memorized a particular translation of those stories.

Having heard them so many times at Mass over the years, I was recalling them from memory. And so I looked straight at Michael as I told him about the story of that first Easter.

In the days since then, my son has asked me several times to tell him the stories again. I happily agreed on each occasion.

All of this reminded me of Moses’ words to the Israelites recounted in the book of Deuteronomy:

“These words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Dt 6:6-7).

I hope and pray that the story of the Resurrection will be upon Michael’s heart as he grows up and that it will be a part of him in every moment of the day. I hope he is able to maintain in some way the childlike wonder that shone on his face that night when, as he grows up, he hears again the story of the empty tomb.

With the grace of God, I will do what I can to make that so. I will try to help him experience the Bible as it truly is: a story-book that tells about the ways that God has loved us and shown himself to us.

We Catholics know the Bible better than we think. Even if you haven’t participated in individual or group Scripture studies or simply read the Bible on your own on a regular basis, you’ve heard stories from the Bible told again and again at Mass.

Whether you know it consciously or not, those stories are an integral part of your Catholic identity.

So share those stories, in your own words, with your children. Tell them to your children or grandchildren with gusto. And watch with satisfaction as their eyes are trained on you, as they wait to hear the next turn in the tale.

You’ll be helping them to grow in their faith. And your faith will grow as well.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion.) †


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