By Elizabeth Kelly
If a good man is hard to find, maybe you’re not looking in the right places.
Case in point: A few years ago, my brother married a lovely woman who was widowed when her husband was killed in a car crash – a crash that two of her young girls survived. My brother is now in the process of adopting the girls along with an older sister.
Last month, while my brother and sister-in-law went out for the evening, I babysat my new nieces and their newborn sister. We had a wonderful evening getting to know one another better and after endless games of Crazy 8’s and an impromptu performance by the girls of Amazing Grace, they went to bed without the least fuss. But a few minutes later, I heard footsteps coming through the kitchen – they reappeared in their jammies.
“Would you bless us?” they asked. My brother always blesses them before bed and they didn’t want to go to sleep without it. He uses the prayer of Aaron – May God bless you and keep you, let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God look upon you kindly and give you peace. I didn’t remember it off of the top of my head, so I suggested they bless one another and I would witness. I watched as these two precious souls offered a benediction, making the sign of the cross on her sister’s forehead as she did so, first one and then the other, followed by a big hug. And back to bed they went, with their father’s blessing.
Case in point 2: There’s a parish near work where I often attend daily Mass in the late afternoon. Arriving early one day, I sat in my car to return phone calls and while there, this scene unfolded before me. A colleague and friend of mine, father to seven, approached the playground adjacent to the church with his happy, rambunctious brood in tow. As they passed by the front entrance to the church, my friend and each of his young children paused to genuflect and make the sign of the cross – the boys dutifully removing their caps as they did so. Then off to the playground they went, following their father’s blessing.
I know, the cultural moment is all about hashtags and “me too,” and bringing into the light too many terrible abuses kept in the dark. Every day it seems, the news uncover some long-hidden, grotesque offense by someone unexpected. A senator from my home state resigned this winter under a cloud of photographed impropriety. My own archdiocese recently settled a lawsuit involving decades of child abuse committed by priests.
And good: these things are all important and necessary and ultimately, I hope, healing – as far as they go. I was relieved myself, when years ago, police went to arrest a man that had assaulted me and found that he had institutionalized himself. I get it. By all means, bring it into the light. Name your abuse and your abuser. But don’t stop there.
I wonder if the greater opportunity here is to be reminded of millennia-old church teaching on the dignity of the human person and what it means to flourish as a man or woman; to remember the price the Church has paid to continue to teach about the value of all life and the proper ordering of human sexuality; and the importance of a radical and real forgiveness to be offered to all who will sincerely ask for it. That’s where lasting healing and restoration truly lives.
Heavenly Father, let me celebrate goodness and blessing, virtue and innocence, and the genius of a good man when it approaches and kneels before you before my very eyes.