Two Sundays ago, I received a holy fist bump. Yes, I am serious, a holy fist bump. It was given to me by a nervous 8-year-old new altar boy. It is a story of raising our children in trust that the Lord will supplement our feeble efforts with his grace that overflows all that we can do or imagine.
My Archbishop has asked me to go every other week to a small mission parish. This past Sunday, there were 35 people and that was a good Sunday. The parish is five hours away, which means that I cannot be there save on my assigned Sundays. I have been training two boys to be altar servers. That is a small exaggeration because last Sunday was only the second Sunday in which they have served.
When a priest hands a censer back to an altar server, he hands it back with the chain held in his fist, palm down and the back of his hand up so that the altar server can kiss his hand as he takes the censer back. But, this was only the second Sunday that this 8-year-old had served, and the very first time that he was receiving the censer back from the priest. He froze; he did not remember what to do. So, he improvised.
He looked at my fist and gave me a fist bump. I thought it was an extremely creative response and had trouble maintaining my composure so that I would not break out laughing. However, I did share the episode during the sermon. The whole congregation burst out into spontaneous and strong laughter.
You might think that afterward the child would never come back. But, I made sure to keep giving positive instructions to the boy during the rest of the Divine Liturgy. Afterward the congregation came up—as he held the antidoron—and kept congratulating him on his fine service. The boy wants to continue serving at the altar.
Raising our children in the light of Our Lord is not an exact science. Rather, it is a mixture of the fear that one might make a serious mistake and the love that commits us to our children even to our very own death if that is what is required in order to defend our children. It is a love that is but a reflection of God’s love, “who gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Raising our children includes giving them the freedom to make mistakes without fear of punishment, unless they deliberately disobey and/or sin. Raising our children means teaching them that laughter is not always negative, even when it is somewhat at our expense. Raising our children means being ready for the unexpected and not rushing to judgment when it happens. Raising our children means having a sure trust that our God will speak to us, guide us, and maybe even cover for us as we stumble on our path.
Raising our children is a holy calling and a calling full of grace. “The steadfast love of the Lord never changes …”