I'm sorry to have to say it, but I'm afraid I'm a bit late putting this post to print. Our family has ended our summer vacation as we usually do, by spending some time at the ocean. We've gone nearly every summer since our children were infants. Here, we love to rest and contemplate the massive and wondrous creation of God in a new way. It is easy to find yourself instantly intimidated by the power and size of the ocean, and it is definitely a test of fortitude and strength that my children learned exercise when they battled the powerful waves each day as small children. Needless to say, this was not our usual daily environment, so there was much to observe and much to learn. Yet as we parents observed our children learning and experimenting with their new surroundings, the vastness and might of the ocean tended to become very, very real to us and we became nearly obsessed with their safety. At the same time, we were conflicted because as much as we wanted them to enjoy, to overcome, to triumph, and to take their rightful place as masters of God's creation, we hovered. We reminded, incessantly. We prayed a lot, as all parents do; then we agonized. Did we frighten them needlessly? Did we teach them enough? Will they forever fear the ocean because we panicked?
Our saints of the day did all of the above during their parenthood, only their child was the greatest man who was ever born, according to Christ. What an intimidating job! His arrival was miraculous, so much so that St. Zacchariah didn't even believe the prophetic words of the angel who was sent to tell him! He needed a sign, so God gave him one. The sign was his own silence. Perhaps he needed to "be still and know". Sometimes we all need this as parents. The constant internal chatter from my own frightened mind easily keeps me from hearing the voice of God as He calmly calls my children to work toward their spiritual destination. I do need to be still more often so I can hear Him too, and trust that He will hold them fast, even when I can't. John's mother hid her pregnancy because she feared possible reproach from society because of her " advanced maternal age". Does that sound familiar to any of us?...makes me chuckle a bit. She would make a great patron. They knew beyond all doubt that their child would become a great man, an integral part of God's plan, and that the enemy would surely have him in his sights. Yet, when we contemplate this, how can we feel any differently when it comes to parenting our own offspring?
King Herod had heard of the miraculous conception and birth of St. John, and not knowing who was Whom, calculated to swallow up this child as well. Parental instinct must have surely kicked in at this point. His mother fled with him out of immediate danger and into the desert. A cave hid them from the soldiers. There, she taught him the skills necessary for survival while her husband stayed behind to keep watch on the enemy. How often my husband and I have to strategize this way in parenting our own little saints.. you go this way and I'll go that! They interrogated Zacchariah, and since he refused to disclose where his wife and child had gone, he was murdered, scripture says, between the temple and the altar. St. Elizabeth, it is said, died 40 days after her husband, leaving the child behind to learn and grow, alone with God's angel, in the desert until the time would come for him to complete his mission.
What brave and dedicated parents! I wonder, as I remind, shield, worry and correct my own children, if these parents of John felt very much the same as my husband and I do. How can we protect them from the waves? Will we have time to teach them how to survive? How will they go on alone when we are gone?
Today I will tell my little saints about the wonderful parents of the greatest man who was ever born. I will remind them that these parents are a great example to me and to their father as we raise them to be great saints. In order to teach them to be silent and listen for the voice of God, as St. Zacchariah did, we will make these little "reminders". See if you can speak with one of these in your mouth!
St. Zacchariah's Sticky Peanut Butter Treats
1 c peanut butter, chunky or smooth is fine; also, any other nut butter may serve as a substitute, like almond, cashew or sunflower butter.
1/2 c powdered sugar
½ c sweetened condensed milk
1 c. chocolate chips
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Shape into balls and enjoy!