Giorgi (officially Pier Giorgio) roughly pronounced like Georgy but with a softer G, like Shzorgy. We’re making up the pronunciation part as we go, but we like it.
Filippo (officially Filippo Neri) Pronounced Fill eee poe with the accent on eee (I think I should get a job with a dictionary pronunciation guide)
These two little lads were the Easter surprise, which couldn’t arrive until after Easter but are here now! We named them after two men whose individual stories we loved, both of whom happen to be saints and both of whom happen to be Italian. This was the Catholic heroes naming go round. Someday we’ll get ourselves a little John Wesley or an Amy Carmichael. Then again, a writing theme awaits some day. I think I could use a C.S. Lewis and a George MacDonald around here.
When I was a teacher, I would tell my students that it was important to dream. That really no one, including you, knows who you might become. At the same time, I would tell them, we are only human. We have limits. There is something called reality. If you are two feet tall, you are not going to star in the NBA. Accepting your limits is ok. It doesn’t mean you stop dreaming.
I have a child who wants to become a saint. Let’s just say, it’s a long shot.
It hurts to watch her struggles. Her dream is painful to me. Part of me wants to tell her to give it up until she can at least listen to her mother, but something tells me to keep my mouth shut. There are worse things to dream about.
I want some comfort. I want cold hard facts. Tell me that Mother Teresa once had a thing for stealing chocolate milks, and I’m there. Mostly. Maybe add in that Mother Teresa lied like a cheap rug. Was a master storyteller, practicing her art at a tender age, before she taught us how to live.
If sainthood requires compliance, this mother superior sees trouble ahead. Things like, do not go into my room without permission, are routinely ignored despite consequences. Nail polish, scissors, or a button are deemed worth suffering for. I went through the boots last week and found something to fit everybody. Young saint deemed her grey boots unsuitable. She hides sneakers in her bag because they are boy boots and she would rather have her toes frozen than inside them.
Give it up, child! I want to scream. It is hopeless even without your dream.
She frustrates me , confounds me. Her dream to be a saint is beautiful, but it hurts to think about. Her teachers couldn’t possibly do anything but laugh at the idea.
This summer at the bus shelter, I discovered chaos. My recycling had been raided. Plastic bottles filled with this and that were on the floor. The benches were covered with piles of papers, disheveled, some also on the floor. I clenched my teeth, sick of the messes and picked up a few of the pictures. They had little money signs taped on them. 25 cents. 1$. A sign said, “Art sale.” Beside it was a labelled jar. “Money for the poor,” it said.
Sitting in a parking lot yesterday, I realized that I was being asked to give more than clear re-direction, and considered consequences. Against the odds, in the face of everything that laughs, I need to believe in her dream.
I didn’t arrive home to angels dancing. I arrived home to stories that didn’t add up. Today I will drive her to school and stand with her while she makes amends. Others may rightly shake their heads in frustration. I am sad at her choices, but I will hold her hand today and believe that this little girl will someday be a saint.
(Fasting from all things masculine as prayer for the sick? Stolen art for the needy? anybody? anybody?)
No, really, I’m going to believe it. We both need me to.
I like the idea of reaching for something beautiful like the stars, but it takes work to keep my eye on something so far away. When not overcome with passionate optimism, I am a person given to weary sadness. Sometimes it translates as hopelessness, sometimes as an inability to forgive the inordinate number of trespasses from those who surround me, and sometimes as kind of general malaise. During the impassioned phase, it is not difficult to look up.
I am not in that phase at the moment. I am in the phase where my Pollyanna self would be shot on sight. It is called highly critical, general malaise mode. Inside that place, it is very difficult to look up. Ironically, when I could most use a steady gaze on something higher, my neck prefers to stretch sideways to inspect the shortcomings of my fellow travellers.
In nature, my children, unexpected things, I am sometimes given the needed adjustment for my view finder. When those fail, I flounder. More often than you would think, Mrs. Auchter comes to mind. When I knew her, she was in her eighties, blind and living alone. She had three people in her weekly life, Alice, who did her hair, Marion Fisher who got her groceries, and me.
I thought she had good reasons to be depressed, bitter, and resentful. But if she was these things, I couldn’t see them through her delight at seeing me every Sunday afternoon. She saved up all kinds of things to tell and show my high school self. A piece from Mozart played properly. Warnings from the radio about drugs. The state of her toenails. The good work of prunes. I picture her curly white head with marks from where she slept, her hunched up shoulders, the thick glasses she couldn’t see out of, covered in finger prints.
Recently I read about Josephine Bakhita. She was a very poorly treated slave for many years. Her enslavement was eventually pronounced illegal by the French courts of the day. No longer a slave, Josephine chose to live at a convent. She was assigned as doorkeeper and subsequently was familiar with the local people. She became beloved and very well known for her kindness and generosity of spirit. Literally thousands came to her funeral.
I need to know how this woman was dealt such an ugly hand and ended up a dealer in tender humanity. I have never been a slave, and I think what I do is at least as pleasant an occupation as doorkeeper. I notice the cupboard doors left open, the shoes kicked across the floor, and the dirty Tupperware from the lunches not returned and I am not a happy camper. Josephine Bakhita puts a serious wrench in my ideas about payback for such indignities.
But maybe she is giving me something better to aim for. Something to keep my head up looking at the stars.