Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Contemplating the Baby

Here's a confession: I haven't been to a Holy Hour or sat in Eucharistic Adoration for a long time. I know that we have Adoration at our parish, but I've never looked into the times or dropped by. And when I have gone in the past, I've been the fidgety sort of person who needs a rosary or a devotional booklet or the missalette or something to keep my mind engaged, or I start wandering off into the most banal inanities. To be honest, I haven't taken part in much adoration because I thought that I wasn't much good at it.

But lately I've found myself spending many hours engaged in contemplation of the new baby. As we lay together I'll watch her nursing or sleeping and find myself gazing at her perfectly round little head or her cheeks (just like her sisters'!) or her sweet pointy little chin. Or I'll think of how she might behave when she's older and wonder if she'll be like the bigger girls in various aspects of her personality. I can even get all worked up about how one day she'll be all grown up and getting married, and I'll watch her walking down the aisle (snuff!). And before I know it, half an hour has passed.

So it's obvious that I can contemplate. I just need to extrapolate what I'm doing with the baby to contemplation of our Lord or of religious subjects.

One of the first aids that comes to mind is having a large stock of images to pull from. I can gaze at the baby and simply enjoy her beauty, but I also have memories of her sisters at that age, of my own siblings, hopes for her future, and a daily knowledge of her health and activities. So when I'm looking at her I don't just stare blankly, but I'm interacting with her not just physically, but also mentally with the idea of her. In the same fashion, having a large store of devotional material, whether it be hymns, Bible verses, religious art, or ideas from the vast body of Christian thought, won't mean that I'll be fortified against any distraction. If my mind does wander, however, it will be much more likely to wander toward something worth incorporating into my contemplation rather than something stupid and unedifying.

I also engage with Baby. I talk to her about whatever pops into my mind, although since I'm focused on her it tends to be something regarding her. I tell her how sweet she is, how much I love her, that she has bright eyes, that her sisters better stop jumping on the bed... Even though I could say anything to her because she doesn't understand any of it, she holds my attention. There's my next aid to contemplation. When I love something, everything relates back to what I love. So actively working to strengthen my love for God means that when I sit in contemplation of him every thought or distraction will automatically lead me deeper into meditation about Him and interaction with Him.

Sometimes Baby and I just lay quietly together. She doesn't do much more than eat and then sleep as of yet, and since I'm her source of food I have to take the time to sit or lay still for as long as it takes to feed her and then get her settled. It's very pleasant and relaxing to have this peaceful time with her, time in which I'm not required to do anything but be. Darwin and I (before we had children) used to just sit quietly with each other in the evenings. (Now that we have toddlers, we can rarely sit still, or sit quietly. When we do, it's usually out of sheer exhaustion.) And it's not always necessary, when in prayer, to be actively thinking about something. I recall hearing once that Bishop Sheen always spent an hour every day in front of the Eucharist. "I wasn't always awake," he said, "but I was always there." Sometimes just being in the presence of the beloved is enough. God told Moses that his name is I AM -- the eternal now. To be with God, existing only in this present moment for Him, is of greater worth than carefully crafted devotions or elaborate prayer routines, and far more refreshing.

Unfortunately, it's harder for me to sit quietly with God than to read a spiritual book or do something that keeps my mind engaged. Still, I have a lifetime to work on it, and a good spiritual companion in Baby.


Christine the Soccer Mom said...

I have to say that I am so happy to hear that someone else is this way. I have only twice been able to devote a whole hour to adoration (I can't sign up for a regular slot because my husband travels sometimes, usually in big spurts), but I feel like my mind wanders SO much that I can't concentrate. Then I feel guilty ("Couldn't you spend one hour with me?"), and I feel the desire to go.

You have given me some food for thought, and hopefully I can work on having a large deposit of God stuff in my mind so that I can wander through it in the presence of my Lord.

Thanks, and God bless.

(BTW, I found you through a link from Donegal Express' B-Team post.)

Dorian Speed said...

What Christine said.

Also - now I really want another baby.


Anonymous said...

Very sweet post. So happy for all of you.

Kiwi Nomad said...

It seems to me that gazing at your newborn baby must be one of the most 'religious' things you can do. The love of God is surely reflected there.

Foxfier said...


I love listening to moms....

Now, as ingrated by my mom, I've got to ask: you do speak to her using proper english, right? (Or the proper form of any other language you want her to learn.)
Right now, she's learning all the "right" sounds that she'll build her vocabulary off of. (Even knowing this, I can't always avoid the wordless "aaaaawwwwww" response all of the time.)

mrsdarwin said...

I do use proper English in speaking to her -- it's just that some of the things I say to her are absolutely silly. But grammatically correct!

Kiwi Nomad said...

Where I teach we had a teacher going off on maternity leave recently and had a baby shower for her. The (male) principal quickly learned that the correct form of reply for every present opened was "awwwwwwww".

Julie D. said...

This is a beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing it with us.

On the adoration thing, I always have a few pieces of reading material with me. I think of the old farmer who used to come and just sit in front of the Eucharist every afternoon. Finally, St. John Vianney asked him curiously, "What are you doing while you are sitting there?" The farmer said, "I look at Him and He looks at me. That's all."

Made me think of you and the baby. :-)

Anonymous said...

How lovely!
Babies, from the moment of their creation, are a miraculous wonder.
I shudder to think how the human race so callously discards them, at every
stage of their being.
Thanks for the insightful and delightful post.

Anonymous said...

Reading this post reminded me of something...After I had my first child, I was lamenting to a friend that I don't pray enough, he responded, "Motherhood IS a prayer!"