Today is Tim’s birthday. I did the usual things. Baked a cake, made pizza, went to Mass and had the family over for dinner. We always light the candles and sing even though the guest of honor isn’t there around the table. Physically, anyway. It was a happy day and I enjoyed seeing the sweet faces of our grandchildren and watching their smiles as they opened the little dollar store presents I had wrapped for them. The happiness broadens out upon reflection and brings to mind a large measure of gratitude that Tim had a birthday and that he was such an integral part of our family for his 15 years.
For the past several weeks I have been thinking about Tim’s approaching birthday and the significance of the day on which he was born. In the Church calendar November 18th is the memorial of the Dedication of the Churches of Peter and Paul. At first it seems unlikely that I could make any sort of a connection with Tim and this memorial. What could he have in common with two churches in Rome or the great apostles?
Really, though, each of us, Tim included, has a great dignity through our baptism into the Body of Christ and also a purpose that is involved in building up that body for the universal church. In each individual person that purpose differs according to their particular gifts and to the place they occupy in time and location. I think of Tim’s gifts of love and wonder and enthusiasm, of his simple faith that is now working in the apostolic realm as he becomes known to people far and wide. We each have a gift for the universal church simply by our being. I can make layers upon layers of connections if I but take the time to consider the question from one angle or another.
I have also been connecting Tim with another little one he never met; a baby on the other side of the world who just had time to be baptized, loved and hugged and held by his family for a few days and then quietly returned his spirit to the God who brought him into being. This little Thomas was born on November 9th, the feast of the Dedication of St. John Lateran, the mother church of Rome and of all Christendom. Two children, two days recalling church dedications, but what connections are there beyond that?
Thomas, by his baptism, becomes just as important a member of the Body as Tim, though perhaps his purpose for the universal church is shrouded in mystery for the moment. Two boys, loved by two families, proclaim to the world that life is important, is valued, is precious. Two families, by remembering the birthdays give dignity to the lives that have ended this side of heaven and bring hope that a life well-lived can bring a restoration of all the family within the embrace of Jesus. There is more of a connection between Tim and Thomas and their building up of the universal church. Someday I will know it.