August 29, 2008

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Getting up again and again to climb God’s holy mountain

Sean GallagherI’m considering giving our youngest son, Victor, the nickname “Sir Edmund.”

Why? Because as much as this little

16-month-old boy likes to climb, he seems to have the heart of the late Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain.

He loves climbing on chairs and from chairs to tables. And he’s opportunistic, too.

Sometimes, our 3-year-old son, Raphael, will pull a chair over to a kitchen counter and stand on it to “help” my wife, Cindy, when she is preparing a meal.

As soon as Raphael gets down to do something else, Victor will race over and get up on the chair lickety split to have his own turn at “helping.”

Victor has taken a fall or two in his climbing forays, although Cindy and I do our best to keep him safe. (I’m considering going to an outfitting store and buying him a harness and some safety ropes.)

The thing is, when he falls, he might cry a little, but then he’ll get right back up and start climbing again.

If only it were that way with us adults. We fall in lots of ways. We might have failed to land that promotion that we were shooting for. Yet another diet might go down the drain.

Then there are those everyday falls we take that are usually rooted in good, old-fashioned human selfishness or laziness.

We want to be good spouses, good parents, good workers, but we don’t want to give up our precious time or put in the effort to make those dreams a reality.

When we fall in these and a myriad of other ways, we grown-ups usually don’t react like little Victor. We might stay on the floor and wallow in self-pity. We might get scared about the next fall and decide staying away from heights is safer.

Or, after getting various scrapes and bruises from our falls, we just might become self-satisfied, think we’ve grown enough and conclude that we don’t need to go any further, thank you very much.

That’s not Victor’s style. It wasn’t long after he started crawling that he started walking. And within weeks of walking, his climbing routine appeared on the scene. I’m just waiting for him to sprout wings and fly.

Little kids aren’t afraid of failure. They’ll start over again and again and again without blinking an eye.

One way that we adults can become more childlike in this way is to frequent the sacrament of reconciliation.

It’s easy to become discouraged in our efforts to improve ourselves and grow in holiness when our usual failings keep rearing their ugly heads. It can be hard after a while to find the motivation within ourselves to get up and try again.

But when you go to confession, God is right there forgiving you. He shows you his steadfast love for you. And he picks you back up and helps you begin again.

My grandfather, Victor’s namesake, was probably one of the holiest men I have had the privilege to know. And yet he went to confession every week.

All of us grandchildren knew how good a man he was. And so when one of us asked him why he went to confession, Grandpa paused, and said simply, “Because I’m a sinner.”

Sinning is bad. But wallowing in our sins and doing nothing about them is worse. Holiness is found in showing sorrow for our sins and allowing God to lovingly pick us up and help us to start climbing his holy mountain again. †

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