Happy birthday, Mary! May God bless you in abundant and and unexpected ways in this next year!
I bought you a gift – one gift in seven years! Not a great track record, I know. When it comes to remembering birthdays and even your baptismal day, I’m obviously a lousy godfather – sorry about that. It’s no excuse, but for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure your parents weren’t banking on a steady stream of goodies when they asked us to be your godparents so long ago.
Instead, you can bet they honored us with that grave responsibility because they knew we’d pray for you faithfully, and that we’d do our best to model the faith for you in our own lives. As I’ve told you many times, I do indeed pray for you every day, and God knows I strive hard to stay close to Jesus, so I’d say I’m keeping up OK with the more important parts of my job – and the same goes for your godmother, and then some!
Still, it’s such a privilege to serve as your godfather – and such a delight to see you growing up, even if it’s just glimpses from time to time at church – that I wanted to mark this birthday in a special, unprecedented way.
Your father tells me you’re a voracious reader, but I already knew that – ‘want to know how? When you run up to me after Mass on Sundays, and we talk about what you’re doing, I can tell that you’re world is full of books and stories and ideas – that’s so terrific! And I’m not surprised that your dad tells me that you’re reading chapter books already – that’s great! My own children – your “god-brothers and god-sisters,” as you call them – we’re the same way.
So, I decided I wanted to get you a book – two books, in fact, books that have been important to me, both when I was your age and more recently as a dad.
The first is called From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s about a brother and sister who go on a journey, stumble across a mystery, and then solve it together. The Phantom Tollbooth is also about a journey, but in this case the traveler, a boy named Milo, gets lost and he has to rely on others to help him find his way.
I won’t ruin the books by telling you much more about how the stories go, but I’ll tell you that they have three things in common. First, they’re about adventures that bring people back home again. Second, they’re about the magic of words and imagination. And third, they’re about accepting the wise counsel and guidance of those who care about you. These are all good things, and I think you’ll agree that they make for good reading.
What’s more, I think they’re good ideas to be thinking about as you get ready for your first Holy Communion next year. Like the saints, your own life of faith is already an adventure, and it will only become more so as you get older. Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist will be true Food for your journey, and he will be your constant companion as you make your way home to him. And receiving him in the Eucharist is not all that different from how you already receive him when you listen to God’s word at home and in church. Keep listening, keep opening your heart to him, and keep attentive to how he is speaking to you in your heart.
Finally, just as your mom and dad provide for your every physical need – a home, food to eat, clothes to wear, and stuff like that – God has given you the Church as a mother to provide for all your spiritual needs, including the Sacraments and Jesus himself in the Eucharist. Let your preparation for Holy Communion be a time for growing ever closer to the Church and let your love for her as a mother grow ever deeper. I know your mom won’t mind – in fact, I know she wouldn’t have it any other way.