A Family In Faith by Miss Rica Bolipata Santos

Miss Rica Bolipata Santos is the editor of my book Mom’s A Stewardess. Prior to working with her on the book, I did not know her personally and I just took a chance to e-mail her to ask if she did edit books. Prior to that, I was particularly touched by an essay that she wrote about “being rich” which appeared in the Philippine Star, so much so that even if I didn’t know her, I sent her e-mail just to let her know that her essay spoke to me.

Working with Ms. Rica for the book has been such a great joy. She is a brilliant, multi-awarded writer but very encouraging to a first-time book author like me. One of these days, I will write about how my meetings with her were but for today, I share with you a piece that she wrote. She has given me permission to share these with all of you.

Read on and realize that as parents, we hold great responsibility. But realize too, that we cannot do everything alone. The full text of Ms. Rica Bolipata Santos’ A Family in Faith follows:

This is how we pray at night:

We pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary and one Glory Be. After which I ask everyone to say what was the best part of the day. I think this is my favorite part of our prayer – this choosing of what was best. They choose the most touching of things, and the most concrete items of life: seeing fish in their grandmother’s pond, having warm pan de sal for breakfast, lolling around in bed with Daddy, reading books on the sofa with Mommy. After this part, we all then make a list of people to pray for. When they were smaller, this list was just as small – it contained only family members. Now that they are bigger other people have entered their prayer lists – friends in school, teachers, and other children they’ve met at the playground. And finally, our prayer ends when we recite Angel of God in unison. Right before the silence for sleep, I say I love you to them individually, just to make sure I get that across everyday.

I learned this process through my sister. This was how her husband’s family prayed, she said. I wanted our families to know how to pray together so I used it as well. I thought that the act of choosing the best part and the people to pray for was a wonderful way to anchor the utility of prayer. Children learn best through concrete things and it feels like in praying this way, the path to holiness seems simple and clear: to pray means to set aside time; it means an examination of the day, it is learning to see Someone’s loving hand in the way the day has been made, and it ultimately means gratefulness for all that we have.

This part of parenting, teaching faith and prayer and defining abstract things like faith, hope and love, has been a process that continually becomes more and more complex. I intentionally do not use the word difficult although it is an easier word. I prefer the word complex because it is more descriptive of how the process is something that does not ever become simple. The teaching, instructing and embracing of faith is part and parcel of parenting for all time, I believe. Although they will someday have to grapple with their faith, on their own terms, their sense of values, their morality, their backbone of being, is ultimately taught through me and their father, and the example that we set (especially our actions and attitudes about faith) while they are young.

I have three children and they are, in differing ages of belief. To teach them about Christmas, I’ve been reading to them this big book entitled Following A Star, for around three years now. It is a simple book that chronicles the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the innkeeper’s offering of a stable, and the different people who visit the Baby. When they were smaller, what attracted them most to the story were the pictures. The book is very big so the pictures are sumptuous to the eyes. They loved the animals! We would go through the different animals present at the stable and make their animal sounds.

As they got bigger, their interests began to change. They became interested in knowing the names of the characters. What were the Kings’ names? What was the name of the angel? What is a stable? Why can’t I tell them the name of the shepherds? It has become more and more challenging, especially since I am excited to give the whole story, to unfold salvation history, to underline concepts about my faith to them. But I cannot, for now the questions guide me carefully. I know they are signposts of what individually they are capable of understanding and digesting. Ironically enough, how I answer and what I answer is metaphorical as well, of me.

In one part of the book it says, “miracle of miracles did appear.” My daughter turns to me and asks what a miracle is? I am stumped. I do not know how to explain concretely what a miracle is. She tells me that in school, she was taught that Christ’s crucifixion is the saddest day in history. She says this matter-of-factly. My two year old tries to say the word crucifixion. I know she’s saying this to me because I need to explain it to her.

For a brief moment I am taken back in time and I wonder how I learned all this – the nitty-gritty of knowing what I truly believe in.

At the end of trick-or-treat, my firstborn reminds me it is time to take out the Christmas decorations. We put up the Christmas tree together as a family every year, while listening to Christmas carols and begin to make our Christmas lists. I learned this ritual from my own mother. As we did this two weeks ago, I thought to myself if I was doing this correctly. Surely I did not want them to think Christmas is just about presents? I watched them talk amongst themselves what to ask from Santa and I was able to find inspiration from the book of Christmas. I asked them to tell me what the three kings brought to Bethlehem. Their teeth got all mixed up trying to be the first to say gold, frankincense and myrrh. I told them that they too must find something they can bring to the stable. God gave us this child, what can we give back? They were frozen for a while and then my two year old suddenly screamed, “hay!” The answer was perfect, for the moment.

Last month, we added to our repertoire of Christmas books. Our new book is entitled The Christmas Star. It spins the story creatively. It talks about the different things that added to the light of the Christmas star. And so you have the wheat colored hay that reflected the light. And you have the shiny back of the spider silently spinning his web. Even the bell around the cow’s neck added to the shine of the Christmas morning. For now the new perspective of the same story enthralls them. Soon, maybe tonight, I will begin to talk about the difference between darkness and light. I will subtly begin to talk about how the birth of Christ pierced the darkness of humanity. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, or what words to use so it will make sense, but I am excited to figure it out.

This was something I never knew would be true about being a parent: that in having children I would understand the saints. I look at these three borne of me, and know what Mary and Joseph felt. I can understand the landscape of Joseph’s fear when Christ was lost in the temple. I can feel Mary’s anguish at Calvary. I wish I were more like them: Mary in her steadfastness and faith, Joseph in his strength and fortitude. I even understand why St. Augustine took so long falling in love with God. I know, with all my heart, why his mother, St. Monica, turned to Him for help. Because when faced with parenting, you instantly get it that you cannot do it alone.

These days, I talk to them about goodness and kindness and tell them about St. Therese’s Little Way. Yes I tell them, goodness is in washing your hands before dinner. Believe in this! As my children put their hands in prayer position at mealtime and bedtime, I sense my faith become even more alive, even better understood and loved. How I wish this were a gift I could easily bestow on them. We bow our heads in prayer together, a family in faith. Through my children, I truly know what it means to have been gifted with light.

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