June 29, 2007

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Let Christ live through your uniqueness

My son, Raphael, whom my family affectionately calls “Raphy,” recently went with me to the grocery store.

As we walked across the parking lot back to our car, Raphael jabbered quite a bit, and a bit loudly, too. I smiled at him and said, “You’re a loudmouth.”

Raphael paused a moment, looked me in the face and then said, “I not loudmouth … I Raphy!”

I couldn’t help but chuckle.

At the tender age of 2, Raphael is already starting to establish his own identity.

And that’s a good thing. This planet is filled with around 6 billion people, give or take 100 million or so.

Each one of those people, from each strand of their DNA to each quirk of their personality, is a one-of-a-kind creation of our amazing God.

In my own humble home—population five—there are certainly differences galore. Raphael is different in many ways from his older brother, Michael. And, as the months and years roll along, it will be interesting to see how little Victor will set himself apart.

Isn’t that what it means to be an American, a citizen of a country founded by rugged individualists?

There is some irony here, though. For as much as we idolize individualism, we also have a driving desire to fit in, to be just like everyone else.

Raphael tries to do this as he enthusiastically emulates—for good or ill—much of what he sees Michael doing and hears Michael saying. I ought to get him a T-shirt I saw on a toddler a while back that read: “Monkey See, Monkey Do, Monkey Get in Trouble.”

From our earliest days, we learn that being ourselves is the law of the land. Yet it is also ingrained in us that being part of the “in crowd” is a sign of success.

But we’re also citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. In that reality, being a unique individual and living in communion with others isn’t so much a thorny contradiction as it is a paradox to be pondered, a mystery to be embraced.

From that first band of Apostles that followed Jesus along the roads of Galilee to the saints of our own day, including our own beloved St. Theodora Guérin, the diversity among those who have born the name of Christian has been nothing less than stunning.

And yet, in the midst of all the differences in the holy ones that make up that great cloud of witnesses, we can quickly discern that all of them, in their own particular way, were able to echo St. Paul’s words to the Galatians:

“It is not I who live, it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

So as my young sons grow up, I’m sure I’ll watch in wonder as each of their own distinct characters emerge.

But, with the aid of God’s grace, I also hope to guide them more and more into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

And then the real awe will unfold when I, like looking through a kaleidoscope, will start to ponder the face of Christ in each of my sons’ uniqueness. †

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