Arriving at, during, and departing from Mass, Marcy and I will make the sign of the cross on ourselves, and then on our girls. Amelia (almost 2) is particularly interested in the holy water, and will sometimes bless her baby doll as well. Or, you know, whatever that gesture can mean to a little child.
In the process of all of this, onlookers will sometimes watch steadily, and some will smile approvingly. When Amelia wants to rush into the baptismal font at St. Julie, this usually draws laughter.
This of course, is all fitting. It can be…hmm…adorable, or even “cute” to watch children doing as their parents do, to see the faith tangibly being passed along. Those serious observers, too, may be on to something.
This sign is not like a sticker you get at the doctor’s office, or learning manners when you greet someone, or even something idiosyncratic that the child mimics after watching her parents do it a dozen times or so. It is cute to see your daughter talking to her uncle on the phone, and walking around the house because that’s what her parents do when they’re on the phone.
We are, in fact, marking them for death, of one kind or another. In another age, it would be marking them for persecution, and possibly torture and martyrdom. In some ages it would perhaps be fashionable; better, it may have been triumphant. It may yet be triumphant.
In this age, martyrdom is not likely. But ridicule, derision, calumniation? Being passed over, judged, misled, and maltreated? Having to hold conversations with the upside-down-man and speak as though he is not upside down?
We are, of course, also marking them with faith, hope, and love. It is, in fact, these virtues which require a death so that, ultimately, new life may be a possibility. I hope those more serious onlookers are offering their prayers as they consider – whatever it is they’re considering.