The Gospel of Life–and a Picture Book That Came From It

 

I’m going to take a little different track than normal this time, but it’s for a good reason.

Now, I have to tell you—I’ve been putting this off a looooong time, and I’m sorta’ hoping my mom and her friends and my former schoolteachers won’t read this post…because I grew up in a small town in the South, and in small towns in the South, people just aren’t supposed to talk about their own stuff. See, there are rules down here about things like that. And I really like it that way. It’s a great way to live.

But my publisher has a different idea: they think I should actually be talking about my pro-life picture book (which came out nine years ago :)). They’ve been very good to me, and, when I think about it, I realize that they’re probably smarter than I am, so I should. But I don’t like pushy sales posts, and I’d rather tell stories, anyway, so I’m going to tell you the story behind it…

In 2002, I was far from all my family and childhood friends, in an abusive marriage, and away from my Faith. This was the darkest time in my life. There was a brief separation from the marriage, and then (because of many factors), I made the decision to reconcile. This was the start of some intensely difficult times.

In that dark place, though, my one Catholic friend here, who had nearly become a fully cloistered Benedictine nun in her younger days, directed me to the nearest Confessional.

In that Confessional just happened to be one of the most orthodox priests in our diocese, which was a good thing, because his unflinching commitment to the Truth did much to convince me that Catholicism was “the real thing” (sorry, Coke!) . St. John Paul II was the Holy Father at the time, and so the first encyclical I happened to pick up after my reversion was his Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life).

This little book grabbed me by the heart and wouldn’t let go. It convinced me so deeply of our Father’s love for each of us, so deeply of my own worth, my children’s, and my ex-husband’s, too, that I just was overwhelmed with the sense that I had to let the whole world know that if you’re here—if you’re breathing air—it’s because the God who gave each star its place in the sky, the God who carved out the Grand Canyon with the tip of His finger and built Mount Everest out of dust—He loved you so much that He wanted to create you, to call you the pinnacle of His creation, even (!), and to help you, to lead you to Himself in this life, and to have you with Him in Heaven forever.

I’m a teacher by vocation, and in our child development classes, we learned that most of a child’s personality and intelligence are formed by age 5, so I knew I wanted to reach out to the youngest children with this concept. So one day after my work at the family dairy, I started mulling over ideas for a children’s book. Beginnings was nearly completely written ten minutes later…which is how I know it wasn’t mostly me. (In the words of Bamax, “I…am…not…faaaaaast.” Yes, my children laughed out loud in the theater and pointed at me. :-))

It speaks to children, starting with examples from nature of how little, tiny, seemingly un-influential things develop into the grand and the mighty and the powerful: a tiny, sky-blue shell holds a baby robin’s new life inside; a quiet and decidedly uncaptivating caterpillar becomes a butterfly so beautiful it takes your breath away; harmless, nearly invisible water droplets gather in the clouds and form a thunderstorm powerful enough to shake the earth.

And then, you: “In your beginning—yes, in your beginning—God thought of you, and He loved you…He chose the perfect place for you, inside the safe, warm, shelter of your mother’s womb…”

And that’s it. That’s the thing I wanted every child to know: We’re here because God loves us. And, someday, I hope the whole world will “get it”—really comprehend God’s love for each human person,  and also understand that every Church teaching is rooted in that love (or at least comprehend it as much as a human person is capable of understanding something so infinite).

Until then, let’s all remember that wherever we are now, whatever we’re doing, whether big or small, really is just the beginning. God loves to take the tiny, the seemingly inconsequential, the “nothingness”, and turn it into something wonderful. Every human person, who started as only a thought and then began human life as two cells we couldn’t even see without a microscope, is proof of that.

Here’s the cover, by Shennen Bersani. Everything Shennen touches just turns out beautiful, and I still love looking at this work of hers, even nine years later:

In case you’re in the market for a gift for a child up through about age eight or so (or a baby’s parents), here’s the link to my $5.97 picture book for kids about how God works, how special they are, and why He created them.

https://store.pauline.org/catholic-religious-gifts/beginnings

Thank you so much! It’ll be a really long time before I blog about my own stuff again! (I have to let this one blow over with my former schoolteachers first. :-))

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