The same weekend Alfie Evans passed from this life to the next, I spent the weekend at my sister’s house, babysitting my niece. My weekend was filled to the brim with all things childhood. As a single woman with no children, I found the entire weekend both utterly exhausting and spectacular. While I spent the weekend buying huge milkshakes, glow-in-the-dark punch balloons and jewelry that had strawberry scented lip-gloss hidden somewhere in its form, my thoughts occasionally returned to poor little Alfie and his parents.
Like many others, I had followed the Alfie Evans story with great concern and prayers. I couldn’t help but to keep juxtaposing the facts of his case with the trappings of the culture of death in which we currently live.
In our culture, the prevailing argument is that a woman has complete control over her body as well as any life that takes root in her womb. However, that argument — which is held up as almost divinely inspired — didn’t apply in the case of Alfie Evans. Alfie’s parents had no control over his body. Fight, pray, argue and plead as they might, the government was the decision-maker when it came to what was to be done with and to little Alfie’s body.
Although they received assistance from the Italian government, the Vatican, and the pope himself, in the end, there was nothing Alfie’s parents could do for him. Alfie’s life support was turned off on April 23, after a final legal plea by his parents was rejected. Alfie died five days later on April 28. His death was a striking reminder that, young or old, we are only here temporarily. We are God’s children, and He will call us home in His own time.
My niece is a bit of a precocious child, is exceedingly well-behaved and is deeply Catholic. Anyone who knows me knows I adore her. As her aunt, I make sure to always have pens, small bills and gum in my purse. As her godmother, I make sure to ask God for her protection, for her growth in the faith, and that, along with her parents, I will be a good example that will help her one day enter into the kingdom of heaven.
On Sunday, we went to Mass. My niece was, as usual, very well-behaved and participated appropriately. Twice she tugged at my arm to ask me a question about something. I kept my answers brief, indicating that, while I appreciated her questions about the faith, the middle of Mass wasn’t be the best time to ask them.
During the consecration of the host, I felt a tug, I shook my head no, but undeterred, she tugged again, “Are all the angels up there right now?” she whispered. I nodded my head in the affirmative, paraphrasing for her what St. Gregory said, “The heavens open and multitudes of angels come to assist at the Holy Sacrifice.” A sweet smile was her response. Her question, her 8-year-old faith, was an indescribably beautiful gift to me on that Sunday morning.
Since Alfie’s death, there have been many posts on social media stating that “Heaven has a new angel.” While a well-meaning sentiment, it’s untrue because humans don’t turn into angels when we die. I presume; however, that heaven does have the soul of 2-year-old Alfie Evans and that he, along with the choirs of angels, are now sharing in the Beatific Vision. I pray that the angels and Alfie will intercede on my behalf and that someday, my niece and I will share in seeing the angels she so lovingly thought of at Mass when she had the faith of a child.
Westhoff is director of communications for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.