Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Age of Reason

My stepson has so many questions!  He has no fear of saying or asking anything of my husband or me, and his insights are deep.  More so than both of his older sisters.  He instinctively connects complex moral concepts with everyday tasks, unlike the girls who have a few basic approaches ("Is this selfish or generous?" "Will it make someone happy or sad?" In the younger girl's case: "What have I heard before that I can rattle off now to get the right answer?")

It's no wonder that my nine-year-old stepson also shares our love of reading, and is already perusing literature such as Around the World in 80 Days. As another way to connect, he and my husband are reading The Portrait of Dorian Gray at the same time.  They're not too impressed and are both dragging through pages 49-52, so their bonding is more about commisery than excitement.  I'm sure they'll get through it...and maybe move on to The Lord of the Rings?  No?  They don't share my love of fantasy I guess!

I can now say with confidence that my stepson has reached the age of reason:  he understands right & wrong for their own sakes, not just for the sake of the consequences.  He's a brave kid, and he was very young when his parents divorced.  I know he was given answers at the time, but those childish answers don't suffice in his growing awareness of the world, so here the questions come again!

Friday, March 12, 2010

It was right in front of me!

I sometimes feel lonely or lost, like an outsider.  At those times I have felt as if there is so little prayer support around me.  Then I remember when my middle step-daughter asked me about St. Joseph:  "Why is he Jesus's 'foster' father and not his 'step' father?  What's the difference?".  Or when she excitedly realized that she can relate anew to Jesus:  "Jesus was a 'step'?!"

She's right!  We refer to St. Joseph as Jesus's foster father because he was responsible for Jesus's physical upbringing, unlike a step-father who takes second place to the child's real father, and because the foster situation is temporary.  Jesus was always intended to one day return to heaven with His true Father.

But in truth, St. Joseph was married to Jesus' real mother, so he is both Jesus's stepfather and foster father.  I have a real role model!  I can't tell you what a relief it is to know that there is a place for me in Catholic/Christian Tradition.

Here is an ancient prayer to St. Joseph, likely used by Jesus's followers while Jesus was still alive (and ever since).  We don't know exactly when it was written, only that it was found in 50 A.D., roughly 17 years after Christ's death and resurrection.  This prayer asks St. Joseph, who holds an important place in heaven close to Jesus, to join his voice to ours as we ask Jesus to protect the vulnerable and dying, and to mercifully welcome the dead into heaven.  At the time that it was originally found, this prayer was likely used as a plea to God to protect the new Christian people from martyrdom and torture.  This particular prayer has little to do with step-parenting (unless you consider step-parenting torture! I don't), but it's close to my heart because it is a direct link back to Jesus.

An Ancient Prayer to Saint Joseph

O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in thee all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, assist me by thy powerful intercession and obtain for me all spiritual blessings through thy foster Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, so that, having engaged here below thy heavenly power, I may offer thee my thanksgiving and homage.

O St. Joseph, I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms. I dare not approach while He reposes near thy heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me, and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.  Amen.

Now that I see a kindred spirit in St. Joseph, the line "I never weary contemplating thee and Jesus asleep in thine arms" touches my heart so deeply.

In gathering this sketch for the blog, I realized that the feast of St. Joseph is exactly one week from today, March 19.

Head of Saint Joseph looking down,
with a subsidiary study of his features (recto);
Two studies of legs (verso)
Andrea d'Angiolo, called Andrea del Sarto
(Florence 1486-1530)
Purchased by a private collector in July 2005,
Christie's, London, King Street

Monday, March 8, 2010

Burden vs. Consolation

When people find out that I have stepkids, usually I get some sort of negative or sympathetic reaction.  The first comment is usually something about the extra challenges we'll have.  That's not the reaction I had when I first learned that Raul has kids--I love kids and I was glad to have the opportunity to have a bigger family!  And I was nervous to meet them.  I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear my best friend Alison have the same reaction that I did (her excitement is the title of another post below!). 

It's true that the step-parenting situation is always the result of something off-kilter that happened in the past--be it a divorce, untimely death, abandonment, or unmarried parenthood.  Even in the case of an adoption, "something off-kilter" is related to the biological parents.  It's important though, to assign rights and wrongs to the correct column!  Perhaps there was never a sin at all, or perhaps there was a sin somewhere in the past.  But the presence of children is never wrong.  On the contrary, it shows that the parents made the right choice in bringing a child into the world.

The step-parenting situation, where an increasing number of us find ourselves, is the embodiment of an important consolation for past wrongs, and an even more important hope for the future. Out of every bad situation, God offers an opportunity for joy: the kids.