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DEAR FATHER | Hope is virtue that transforms our understanding of unbaptized babies, heaven

I love my mother. She is a great, holy woman. But whenever she calls me, her first question is, "Where are you?"

When I was a bit younger, this question could make me a bit nervous. But now I understand her question had two meanings. First, it's the natural curiosity of a mother. Second, she wanted to be present with me in her thoughts and prayers in whatever I was doing at that moment.

This deeper understanding over the years now informs this pained question. Parents and families don't ask this question solely to know where their child is, but they want to be with their child in this place in their thoughts and prayers.

The frustrating fact with which the Church is confronted is that Our Lord has chosen not to reveal to us the exact details of where these beloved family members of ours are. However, He has given enough details for us to be with them in prayer before Him.

Parents in particular and the family as a whole grieves the death of a child. The joy and expectation of new life is suddenly transformed into inexpressible grief. In the midst of this grief, God offers the opportunity for all to grow in the virtue of hope.

Hope transforms the way we look at ourselves and the world around us. We rightly see that the goal of life is happiness. But we generally see our happiness is found solely here in the world. Hope re-orients our view that while we can indeed experience happiness on this earth, true happiness is to be found in God's promises made to us in heaven. In the midst of the grief parents and families experience in these moments, they're called to exercise the virtue of hope. In this choice the unfulfilled desires they had for their child will be realized and fulfilled by God.

Making this choice toward the virtue of hope involves us bringing this child to Jesus. In Matthew 19:14, Our Lord tells His disciples, "'Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.'" Here, we hear of Jesus' great love and desire to share heaven with children. But the children didn't come to Jesus alone; they traveled with their parents and family to see Jesus.

When their child passes away before baptism, parents and families are called to do the same thing. In hope, they bring their child to the Church in the rite of naming and commending the child to God. Outside of this formal rite, pray for this child individually and as a family by name, offering them to the Lord and asking God to fulfill the virtue of hope for their child.

At the Annunciation, Gabriel tells Mary, "'...nothing will be impossible for God'" (Luke 1:37). As we have seen recently in the Baptism of Blood and Desire, God gives the graces of Baptism outside of the formal rite of Baptism. In the case of an unbaptized child, God may do this same thing. I can say definitively that when we choose the virtue of hope when confronted with grief and bring our child before the Lord constantly in prayer, we will not only experience healing, but when we see God face to face, we will understand where our beloved child is and give thanks to God for His providence for them.

Father Mayo is pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton. 

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