“…4…5… what’s next to five dear?” Maybelle asked her daughter.
“Six!!!” Mara confidently answered.
“Goood! Now, go on… The shape of the animal is slowly coming out.”
Mara continued drawing lines to connect the numbers consecutively. Then she paused and asked, “Mama, what’s after ten?”
“Now, think dear…we studied that before, remember? Try to recall.”
Mara propped her chin on the eraser end of her pencil. Her eyebrows crumpled together as she tried to remember.
“Well, what is the answer, dear?”
Mara’s eyes widened with excitement as an answer suddenly materialized in her head. She exclaimed, “THIRTEEN!!!”
“You just said that because you like the way ‘een’ sounds,” Maybelle controlled herself from frowning and drew her best smile. “Honey, look again at the numbers you’ve just connected.”
Mara stared at the numbered dots but she got distracted in trying to figure out what shape she was drawing.
“Concentrate dear…,” Maybelle said and pointed at the numbers. “If it’s thirteen then you’re skipping two numbers, right?”
“Yeh, I know. It’s at the tip of my nose,” Mara said.
“You mean your tongue, dear,” she pinched her daughter’s nose.
“Then it must be one and one,” Mara was trying to mischievously get the answer from her mother.
“Alright dear, it’s called ELEVEN!”
“Mommy’s correct, yahoo!!!” Mara dove into the math exercise to continue drawing the hidden picture.
* * *
We have all enjoyed, sometime in our lives –maybe even at the present as you tutor your kids–, such an entertaining exercise as connecting dots. I’ve never got around to liking math, but I had quite a number of these exercise books because I enjoyed drawing.
Our faith is drawn out for us in a similar way but not through a mathematical method. As we grow up, we too have to learn how to connect the dots of the contents of our faith so that we can slowly learn to love and live it.
We were taught how to pray the grace before meals, to offer sacrifices during the seasons of Advent and Lent, to visit Churches and walk with processions during town feasts, etc. All these were literally many ‘points’ that were gradually completing the picture of our faith.
Without wanting to stretch the analogy too much, we can however see that our faith also works with numbers. For example, there are 10 Commandments and their order must be properly memorized because this points to how we observe the proper order of love: which begins with God, then our neighbor and finally with ourselves.
The liturgical calendar also is like a series of days, with dates, that are linked with one another to finally complete a beautiful and living reality, which the Church offers to God unceasingly. There are solemnities of our Lord and our Lady, feasts of apostles and martyrs, memorials of the saints and other celebrations depending on the pastoral needs of every place and faithful. One cannot deny that this rich spiritual kaleidoscope does not fail to enrich and nourish our own faith as well as attract others to truly experience the presence of God in the Church.
Still there are many examples where we literally connect spiritual dots to express our faith and deepen it. There is the recitation of the Rosary, which is made up of small ‘rose beads’ offered to our Lady and to our Lord in varying intensity. We have novenas that span throughout the entire year, and depending on each person’s devotion somehow, add color to the collective piety of the faithful.
The list of this ‘connectivity of our acts of faith’ is endless because love is creative. Striving to keep this attitude alive throughout the day is also called ‘presence of God.’ St. Josemaría expressed his faith in little things. In fact, he once said, “Do everything for Love. Thus there will be no little things: everything will be big. Perseverance in little things for Love is heroism. (The Way, no. 813)” He was always fond of talking about this ascetical reality and gave many wonderful and practical suggestions for people to apply to their different circumstances.
For example, he writes: “Make use of those holy ‘human reminders that I suggested to help you keep presence of God: aspirations, acts of love and reparation, spiritual communions, ‘glances’ at a picture of our Lady. (Ibid., no. 272)” These human reminders, he would say can be a door gently opened or closed for of love God. The image of a donkey can be a reminder of serving God without complaining. And frequent glances at images of our Lady or the Crucifix accompanied with an affectionate phrase or greeting can express our immense love and devotion.
* * *
Maybelle tucked Mara into bed and kissed her goodnight.
“Yes, dear. Need anything else.”
“No, I just wanted to say that my favorite number is four.”
“Really, why is that so?”
“Want me to show you why?”
“Sure,” Maybelle sat by her daughter’s bedside.
Mara closed her eyes, then slowly made a sign of the cross as she whispered, “One…two…three…four!”
“There are only Three of them, honey. What’s number four?”
Mara smiled and whispered, “Number four is for Mama Mary!”