Husband & Wife Articles


 

In God’s Eyes

A special father writes about his special girl

By Christian Basi

“How does Jesus get inside the bread?”

“Is that real blood?”

“What is co - moon - yun?”

These are common questions from eager second graders ready to receive their first Communion. But how do we know when they are “ready?” How do we know what they understand? Throw in a developmental delay and things get more interesting very quickly.

Forty-five minutes after our second child was born, my world fell apart, or so I thought. The doctor had just informed us that our daughter had Down syndrome. What I thought was going to be a joyous weekend in early February was quickly turning in the opposite direction. It took a lot of time, tears, worry and acceptance, but I’ve found that the view from a different angle is quite beautiful.

Raising a child with special needs is challenging, but it has opened a new perspective to my wife and me, including how we pass our faith on to our kids and how to manage our expectations.

By the time our oldest, Alex, had finished his preparation for first Communion, he was ready. He knew as much as any second grader could know, or what we adults expected him to know about Communion before he received it on a warm spring day.

Enter Julianna. She can grasp some subjects, such as reading and music, better than many kids her age. But math and, alas, religion are a bit more difficult. Because of difficulties with the latter, we decided to wait an extra year before enrolling her in first Communion preparation.

There was a problem though. Julianna had decided she’s ready for Communion, even “hijacking” it at one point. She has been fully engaged at Mass, singing loud enough to drown out the choir, and being excited enough about Communion to want it with every fiber of her being. Isn’t that ready enough? Does she really need to understand foundational theology before she receives Communion? That’s a question that we had to answer, and goes much farther than a simple yes or no.

Thinking about Julianna made us ask – Do we try to put God in a box for our kids?

For example, is learning the Ten Commandments, understanding what the sacrament of Reconciliation means, and memorizing the seven sacraments the only way to teach our kids about our faith, or the only way to measure when they are ready for certain sacraments?

Obviously, that’s a very simplistic view, but Julianna has taught my wife and me that we must be flexible. She doesn’t grasp religious concepts in the same way her peers do. Then again, how do we know exactly how her peers are grasping these concepts? Every kid – typically developing or not – learns about the faith through their own very personal experiences. We all meet God on terms only we understand. And while guidelines and fundamentals are good, sometimes we need to make room for his grace to show us the way.

So this year, shortly after she turns 9 years old, Julianna will, officially, receive her first Communion. Will she have all the knowledge her older brother or her parents had when they received their first Communion? Certainly not the way we remember. However, Julianna has come to teach us that she understands in a different way, and that’s OK.

As we raise our children and teach them our faith, instead of forcing a particular train of thought on them, we know we will have to adjust our expectations and how each child learns about God. We hope this flexibility will allow them to understand what the Church teaches and enjoy the blessings they have.

Christian Basi is a father of three rambunctious boys and one very special girl. He and his wife, Kathleen, are writing the Husband and Wife column this month. They live in Columbia, Mo., where they are part of a very vibrant and supportive Catholic community.