The living room was dark, with the exception of one candle burning lonely on the mantle.
"Why are you setting up all these altars in here, Mom?"
"John Paul, I would hardly call lighting one candle 'setting up an altar.' But I do like to light candles for our prayer time."
All the boys and Emily hustle in, some trying to lounge, some saving a space for Mom, some settling quietly...
We begin our Rosary. I have always wanted to say a family Rosary, but when all the children were little, it was just too overwhelming.
Now most of the children are old enough to pray with me, and we recently started praying the Rosary for their father, who is away much of the time. Away in dangerous places that we don't know about, and praying is something we can do.
As we are praying, the voices of each of my children penetrate my being. "Blessed is THE FRUIT OF THY WOMB, Jesus." Jesus was flesh of Mary's flesh, bone of her bones, 'knitted' in her womb.
I hear their voices praying the Angel's prayer, "Hail, Mary, Full of Grace!" and remember all these treasures, flesh of MY flesh, bone of MY bones.We are gathered in one voice, one uplifting, and their hearts are beating.
Momentarily, time dissolves, and I am flooded with emotion. I remember hearing each of these precious hearts beat in newness of life; "There is a heartbeat," the midwife smiles. I feel the sweetness and the hope and security of having this little one's heartbeat snug inside of me.
And as I pray, tonight, I feel the vulnerability, and precariousness , and fragility of all these little hearts beating outside of mine, no longer shrouded in mother-form. Their hearts can break now, and I don't treasure them like I always should, and life sometimes moves at such a furious pace that I no longer hear their heartbeats...
DO I EVEN LISTEN FOR THEIR HEARTBEATS, ANY MORE?
It is a painful question. With so much anticipation, we await to hear the beating of our baby's heart, and then sometimes, we just stop listening. When ?
Mary "pondered all these things and kept them in her heart." She was a listening mother. She listened for Jesus' heartbeat, long after his birth, and even to the point of his still heart on the cross. She listened, she heard, and she was FULL OF GRACE.
We pray in unison, and for one moment all my children's hearts are beating together, nestled in the womb of prayer. I want to listen again...to anticpate..to be hopeful in the hearts of my children.
We finish praying. The children are ready to fly!
"Wait." I say. "There is something I need to tell all of you... I have treasured each of you from the moment of hearing your very first heartbeat, and no matter WHAT happens, you will always be precious to Dad and me."
I get several strange, 'what's come over Mom' sort of glances, then lots of smiles and "O.K.!s", and then they all file out of the living room like a herd of water Buffalo. They all go to their various activities, and I leave the room with a vow to listen to those heartbeats more, EVERY DAY!