“Hola ¿Como te llamas?”
“Hola...” Still no answer… Just a timid half-glance shot my way.
I was kneeling next to a little boy from a mountain village who was waiting in the pre-op area of our Medical Center. He was dressed in a surgical gown and his wet hair told me he had just come out of the shower. He seemed somewhat out of place sitting in this grown-up world next to the adults who awaited their surgeries. This child suffered with a severe cleft lip and palate and came to SBJ for reparative surgery.
North of the border cleft lips and palates are normally treated in the first months of a baby’s life. It would be rare to see this condition untreated in a child. In Central America, where health care is not so readily available, it is possible to live into old age without ever having a these conditions repaired. This little patient was probably eight years old.
I thought I’d try a different approach. I saw he was holding a stuffed animal one of the nurses had given him. “What’s your friend’s name?” I asked, poking his toy.
“Leo,” he answered. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” I thought.
After further small talk and some joking I thought best to try to offer some words of comfort and encouragement, so I asked, “Are you afraid?”
His answer was wordless but emphatic. He shook his head from side to side, telling me, “no, uh-un.”
One of the older women who sat beside him, a stranger to both he and I, was nevertheless eager to join our conversation. She said, “You see Padre, this little man is not afraid, because he is courageous … he is courageous and humble.”
So many years ago, in the Temple of Jerusalem the prophetess Ana spoke words of holy insight to our blessed Mother. To me, the words of this woman were like this. They revealed something hidden, something true and profound, and in that moment I prayed not for him, but for myself: “Lord, grant me the heart of a child, courageous and humble.”
The humble are the first to accept the word of God and to courageously live it out. Of this truth Sacred Scripture is replete with examples: the shepherds; Simeon and Anna; the bride and groom at Cana; the first disciples; and above all Mary of Nazareth.
On the wall of a chapel which stands in the Canadian wilderness there hangs a plaque, engraved with the words of the Servant of God Catherine DeHuek Doherty. Her words are her prayer. “Lord,” she begs, “Give me the heart of a child, and the awesome courage to live it out.”
Grant us Lord the grace to see and love you in the humble and poor. Give us, Lord, hearts both humble and courageous, so that having hearts of children, we might enter into your kingdom. Amen.