Last Saturday I walked through the door of my apartment and tripped over a collection of baby toys. Entering the kitchen I was amused to find my roommate Danielle, who is usually an iPhone-using, sushi-eating, kids-aren’t-really-my-thing hipster babbling away to a two-year-old I had never seen before.
“We’ve acquired a child?” I asked her.
“Only for a few hours,” she explained. “This is Alex. He’s helping me pack the kitchen.”
The little guy gave me a big smile and said, “Yeah.”
Packing the kitchen for our upcoming move was a big kick for the tyke. Danielle was allowing him to play with items we were discarding, such as straws and an old coffee maker. We started making plans for dinner while Alex dissected the Mr. Coffee.
While we debated whether the Mexican or Italian place would be more child-friendly, Alex disappeared. I went to the living room and discovered him sitting cross-legged under a desk next to the coffee maker, pleased as punch that he had successfully plugged it in and turned it on.
He looked up at me from under the table, smiled and said, “Yeah,” apparently the only word he knew.
I laughed until I realized that a toddler next to a hot appliance is not very safe. He survived the evening with us, but Danielle and I continued to wonder about the right things to let him eat, what was safe for him to play with, and how to say no to him yet keep him happy. At one point, he ate soap while playing with the bubbles in the sink.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the church’s care for us as “with a mother’s foresight,” explaining that the church “lavishes on us day after day in her liturgy the nourishment of the Word and the Eucharist of the Lord” (No. 2040).
Even as a young adult who hasn’t lived at home in years, I need my mother. Mom knows when to bring banana bread to an empty kitchen or what to say on a bad day. She still takes care of me and because she knows me, can remind me who I am and of what I’m capable.
We just celebrated the mystery of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. However, when we celebrate the ascension in a few weeks, we know that Christ didn’t leave us to wander about aimlessly.
When he gave St. Peter the keys to the kingdom, declaring, “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt 16:18) and later instructed him to “Tend my sheep” (Jn 21:16), Christ gave us a church that would provide us with a mother’s care until we were safely reunited in heaven.
Danielle and I couldn’t replace Alex’s mother because we lacked her wisdom and experience. Similarly, many ecclesial communities suffer when they seek to replace the institution they see as the Catholic Church.
We all know people who think that we’ve really missed the boat by sticking with a church that in their minds is overbearing and irrelevant.
What we who are nourished by the sacraments know, especially in the Eucharist, is that as a good mother, the church gives us not what we think we want, but what she knows we need.
Alison Griswold is the youth director at St. Francis by the Sea Church on Hilton Head Island. She writes her column “Team Catholic” for The Miscellany.