There is such joy and hopefulness in the birth of every child. God delights in creating immediately and directly a new image and likeness of the Divine Self through a woman and man, especially those who have celebrated the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony which gives the greatest advantage to the child and society.
Of course, no matter how a child is conceived, everyone is a precious gift from God. For every human soul comes from the loving heart and hand of God. That soul receives life from God and vivifies and guides the physical growth of the little baby in the mother’s womb. The baby’s heart be-gins to beat near his mother’s heart about 35 days after being conceived. It is no wonder that we as Catholics have such a love for every child and family life, despite its imperfections.
Even St. Augustine (354 – 430 AD), who had a child out of wedlock before his conversion, named his son “Adeodatus”, which means “gift of God.” When Augustine went to Rome and then to Milan, his young lover and their child went with him. His mother, St. Monica wanted them to marry, but they never did. Augustine and the mother of this child were both filled with awe and pride of his extraordinary mental endowment leading them closer to God and true conversion.
St. Monica’s prayers finally reached the point that a deluge of grace came down upon this young woman who separated from Augustine and joined a monastery back in Carthage, Africa.
There she atoned for her sins that occurred during this illicit union, and she served the Lord with great devotion. She left the boy with Augustine.
St. Augustine writes about their separation from sin and one another: “She was stronger than I and made her sacrifice with a courage and a generosity which I was not strong enough to imitate.”
St. Monica’s prayers continued to win over the Lord, for at age thirty-two her son Augustine finally received the Sacrament of Baptism from the hands of a saintly Bishop, St. Ambrose of Milan, who had be-friended both Monica and Augustine. To add to the delight of God entering the soul and washing Augustine completely clean of sin in order to breathe the divine life into his grow-ing virtues, the Lord also gave that baptismal grace to Augustine’s life-long friend, Alypus, and his son, Adeodatus, who was fifteen.
St. Monica and these three men lived near Milan where they investigated the holy questions of life and truth, turning their home into a Christian Academy where they pursued philosophy and the Catholic faith. Adeodatus contributed to some of the early writings of St. Augustine, but then the Lord took him to his reward in his sixteenth year.
In today’s Gospel reading, the Apostles were arguing about who was the greatest among them. Jesus took a child, wrapped in his arms, and placed the child in their midst and said, “Whoever receives one child
such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
It is no wonder that the Church prays in the Name of Jesus Christ at each celebration of baptism these petitions: “Make them faithful disciples and witnesses to your Gospel through Baptism and Confirmation. We pray to the Lord.” “Lord, hear our prayer.”
“Make their parents and godparents a shining example of the faith to these children. We pray to the Lord.” “Lord, hear our prayer.”
“Renew the grace of Baptism in each of us. We pray to the Lord.”“Lord, hear our prayer.”
May our prayers and sacrifices in Jesus’ holy Name bring down many graces to win the hearts of everyone in our human family, that all might recognize the sacred gift of every human life, and the call to receive the grace of God – the gift of Eternal Life – through the Sacrament of Baptism, and sealed at Confirmation.
Peace in Christ,
Fr. Thomas McCabe