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GUEST COLUMNIST | See you in the story

My son stands in the center of his bedroom, wailing to the heavens while his sleepy brothers tuck into bunk beds. Tonight, there has been no time for stories since the family party ran late. But I hadn’t expected bedtime tears, so I scramble for a consolation prize.

A quick idea explodes like a starburst.

“What if we did morning stories instead?” I suggest. “You pick one out and set it by the door. As soon as you wake up, bring it to me and we’ll snuggle and read.”

Slowly he comes around, setting a slim paperback by the bedroom door. But when I kiss my teary son’s forehead, the real magic happens.

“See you in the story,” he whispers.

Delighted, he explains with a sparkle. “Usually, we say ‘see you in the morning.’ But this time the morning means stories.”

“So tonight we say ‘see you in the story!’” He smiles in the dark, burrowing under blankets, his salty tears now nothing but a memory.

I close the door quietly as his joy echoes, but I carry his refrain with me as I go.

“See you in the story.” This is the promise of literature and liturgy. The familiar tales we tell to children over generations and generations. The living Word we proclaim as a Church, pulsing and breathing whenever we speak it aloud and share it together.

Every time we hear the ancient words, in the quiet of the nursery or the hush of the sanctuary, the soul shivers with recognition. We see and we are seen. We listen with the ear of our heart, again and anew.

Story time is sacred space: the eternal always. Tales we heard as children spark to life inside us once more. Truths that carried our ancestors through centuries of struggle stir within us again.

This is why theologians speak of the Eucharist with words like “anamnesis,” a Greek term that describes how we enter into the paschal mystery of Jesus’ dying and rising when we call to mind God’s works of salvation within the liturgy. More than a memory of the past, the Mass is our present participation in the living gift Christ gives us of Himself.

Every time we return to the promise of a beautiful story, opening a book we have read a thousand times before, but especially each time we gather in worship, feasting on Christ’s full presence in the liturgy of words, we are reminded that stories are food and drink, bread and wine, spirit and life, filling us always.

We see God in our sacred stories. We see each other, too, learning and relearning what it means to be human, the perennial problems of our sinfulness and the promise of our salvation. This is why it matters that we read to children, introducing them to the wonder and diversity of stories that make us human. But this is also why it matters that we bring children to church, inviting them into a world of truth far deeper than even the best stories written by human hands.

In his book “Spirit of the Liturgy,” Pope Benedict XVI wrote that liturgy should be “the rediscovering within us of true childhood, of openness to a greatness still to come, which is still unfulfilled in adult life.”

Whenever we hear Scripture, and whenever we gather in worship, we remember together that God’s promise to us is even more powerful than our promises to each other. The liturgy welcomes us into our holy home.

My son’s whispered words that night echoed God’s call and our response.

See you in the story. Find you in the story. Know you in the story.

Laura Kelly Fanucci is an author, speaker, and founder of Mothering Spirit, an online gathering place on parenting and spirituality.

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