To My Daughter on Her First Day of School

Dear Aine,

You’re three-and-a-half years old now, which means you’re an expert at asking questions.

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“Why is the sky blue?”

“Why do we walk on the street on Halloween?”

“Does Jesus live in our bodies?”

That last question is one that I never thought I’d hear. You were born during my years in the wilderness and I never planned on raising you in the Church. A large part of me is sad that you would never know what it was like to grow up Catholic. My own childhood was marked by milestones in the Church and various moments that only cradle-Catholics understand. I lamented that my Unitarian church didn’t have altar servers or sacraments. None of the churches I visited ever felt like home as any good church should. Our family was always on the outside looking in, wanting something that would connect with our souls. We tried Saint Louis almost on a whim one rainy night and there was no looking back. Suddenly my soul could rest easier because our family was in the home that we always needed.

I’ve given you many important gifts over the last three-and-a-half years: life, milk, and most of my bed. As you start your first year of Montessori school, I can rest assured that I’m giving you the gifts of faith, sacraments, and the Catholic community. These were gifts that my own mom and stepdad gave me and they have made me the person I am today.

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You took to the Church like a fish to water. Once you were old enough you started asking us to hold you up so that you could see what was happening at the altar. When we first started coming to Mass, you would lean over the side of the pew so that you could watch the procession go by. Now you ask insightful questions that I don’t always have the answers to. I can hear your love for God when you raise your sweet voice to sing “Hallelujah,” “Lord of the Dance,” or “Religious Man.” You have no idea what a Jesuit is, yet you find God in all things and everyone you know. As a mother, there’s nothing more that I can ask for. Maybe it comes easily because you’re still an innocent child and that allows you to get close to Him. I remember when it was like to love God without the weight of the world on my shoulders. It serves as a reminder for me to listen to Him when He calls me. Hearing your prayers reminds me of Matthew 18: 3-5 “Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.”

It could be that you take your faith for granted one day and that you find that it grows stale. I hope not, but if it does know that Papa and I will be here to guide you through it. I also hope that you’re able to go to your teachers or priests when you have those questions about your faith. Questions can give you new areas to explore and exploration can only lead to a better understanding. Listen, learn, and keep an open mind. So many of us have found ourselves asking hard questions and that is okay! Ignoring those questions can only lead to doubt. That is a dark place that I never want you to find. As you grow, let your faith develop with you. Right now you love God in the way that only a child can, but your years at Saint Louis will mature your faith.

Sweet girl, you’re already so incredibly talented and charismatic. You have a way of making everyone feel as if they’re the most important person in the room. I’ve never met another child who loves music as you do. Not a moment goes by that you’re not singing or playing some kind of instrument, even when I’m trying to get you to bed. Use those gifts to glorify Him and your talents will never be wasted. You’ll find a way to do so and you’ll never look back. Your Papa and I are so proud of the big girl you’re becoming. It’s hard to believe that you’re the same child that came into this world struggling to breathe and hardly able to cry. Now you use that beautiful voice to speak nothing but kindness.

Good luck at school this year and I can’t wait to see how much you grow. Remember that I love you.