As a little Lutheran girl raised in the 80s, I once stood on a pew, pointed at our balding, rotund pastor as he processed past us wearing white, and exclaimed, “Look, mom! It’s Boss Hog.” So I’m no stranger to the keen religious sensibilities of children.
But as a convert, I’m continually surprised by how much the Catholic Faith resonates with my toddler. Maybe it’s because of all the bells and whistles: the incense, candles, veils, statues, icons, relics, saints, feast days—all of which give her something to capture her attention, senses, and imagination. Maybe it’s the gestures: dipping her fingers into holy water, genuflecting, making the sign of the cross. But she is enamored with all things Catholic, and happy to share this joy with others.
At the library, she picks up a book with a princess fairy on the cover, bedecked in glittery pink wings, and says, “Oh look! My guardian angel!” and begins to recite the Guardian Angel Prayer. She walks around the neighborhood declaring, “And now the Gospel according to Luke,” and traces a cross on her forehead, lips, and chest, with an extra couple thrown in around knee-level.
I am both proud and protective of my little Catholic girl. Because in her mind, every good thing is associated with the Church. She tastes banana bread batter and declares it “good like the rosary.” She describes her Lite Brite as “fun and spiritual and so Catholic.” And she has invented a patron saint: Boy Saint Maylor of the Lunches. She believes that good things comes from God.
Which is true. but that’s not at all the way the world sees it.
This is the beginning of her long, arduous task of living the faith in a culture that rejects it. We’re a minority in our area, the only Catholics in our extended families, and we live in a post-Christian culture. So as her parents, we’re constantly realizing just how different we are. And that makes it both sweet and heart-wrenching to watch a three-year-old who is only aware of how awesome the Church is, and proud of our Faith.
Her enthusiasm reminds me of saints who sustained their sense of wonder and willingness to proclaim the Truth, no matter who was listening. She will talk about Jesus and the Church no matter who is listening—whether that person is our gay neighbor, the pro-choice librarian, or the couple unloading a Buddha head from their Land Rover. The message remains the same, and the zeal with which she delivers it is not diminished in the least.
Watching this little toddler evangelist is a great reminder of the power of Truth. Who knows what good may come of someone hearing me pray the rosary on our walk, or asking about the 20+C+M+B+16 written in chalk on our door frame (it’s not a notice that our electricity is being shut off). In anticipating the conflict and preparing a defense we sometimes forget our own love for God and His Church instead of being like the toddler evangelist, joyful, smiling, confident in the Truth.
It is better to be the child of God than king of the whole world.
—St. Aloysius Gonzaga