Of Many Things

I have some exciting news to share: My nephew is getting married. Matthew made his announcement around Christmas, and since then he hasn’t stopped talking about his upcoming nuptials. By the way, he’s four years old.

Matthew’s wedding was originally scheduled for 2090, when he would be 85. “That way I can save up a lot of money,” he explained. “But how old will Mommy be?” I asked him. “One hundred and twenty-six!” he said gleefully. My nephew had also chosen the venue: China. Specifically, the Great Wall. “Is there a church there?” he asked. We consulted Google Earth to investigate.


As Matthew outlined it, he and his fiancée, Rachel (whom he met at the Blue Kangaroo day-care center, that dating hotbed), would be married at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York (or, as he called it, “the big church”). Afterward the wedding party, including his 126-year old parents and his 159-year-old grandmother, would fly to China for the “second part” of the wedding Mass. When I asked what would be served at the reception, he replied, quite sensibly, “Chinese food, Uncle Jim!” After the reception would come fireworks. “Everybody likes fireworks,” he said. Hard to disagree with that.

“Do you wanna hear my speech for the end of the wedding?” he asked one night on the phone. Sure, I said. “Thank you for coming to my wedding,” he said. “Have a nice day.”

Last week Matthew realized that our superannuation might make it difficult to attend the wedding, so he moved the date up to 2025. And China is out. Disneyworld is in. And a honeymoon? “Mexico!” he said. “Because I’ve never been there.”

Young children often get excited about very specific things. Matthew’s earlier passions were, in order: his guitar, Bruce Springsteen and Big Ben. His older brother, Charles, now 11, also went through what parents call (with fingers crossed) “phases.” As he matured, he moved from Thomas the Tank Engine to dinosaurs to “Star Wars” to Legos to James Bond and, currently, video games. And while I don’t encourage adults to spend too much time with Thomas and his train friends James and Percy, a child’s enthusiasm can be instructive for all of us. When was the last time you thought about your faith, for example, with similar enthusiasm?

“Enthusiasm” derives from the Greek en and theos, to have “God placed in you.” It’s similar to inspire, having “the Spirit in you.” The enthusiast is filled with the Spirit. I wonder if Catholics need to be better acquainted with this way of participating in the Spirit. Whenever I meet young evangelicals talking excitedly about Jesus, I wonder, “Am I that enthusiastic?” I feel that I am, but do I convey that passion? In short, is Matthew more enthusiastic about his wedding than I am about my faith?

Of course, we don’t want to approach our faith like children. Oh wait; yes we do, as Jesus recommended. So can we be joyful, excited and, above all, single-minded about the Gospel? “Purity of heart is to will one thing,” as Søren Kierkegaard wrote. Perhaps this is something of what he meant—not the seen-it-all, world-weary jadedness that pervades some Catholic quarters, much less the deadly seriousness that sometimes accompanies preaching and teaching, but rather the joyous enthusiasm prevalent in some evangelical circles, which was probably characteristic of the early Christians.

So these days I look to children to remind me about enthusiasm. Christ is risen after all, and if we can’t be enthusiastic about that, then we have no business calling ourselves Christians. Just ask Matthew. Oh wait, you can’t. He’s too busy planning his wedding, now set for June 12, 2025. Save the date.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
7 years 11 months ago
Matthew is certainly showing the spirit of God placed in him! As we all should, but our own age often keeps us from. I am reminded of the words of my pastor and others that Jesus taught the adults and blessed the children. We've done it backwards ourselves, haven't we? (Disclaimer: This is a blog; lest there be any misinterprertation and for clarity's sake, no I am *not* saying that we should not teach children faith!)

You see - my own enthusiasm got itself into a juridical fit of sorts there. We may be in the desert during Lent, but that is no reason to frown. In fact, it is a call for that very enthusiasm shown by Matthew and others.

Thanks for this!

William Hays
7 years 11 months ago

I couldn't agree more with your comments on enthusiasm for our faith.  Funny thing about enthusiasm, it's contageous!

William McGarvey
7 years 11 months ago

Thanks, Father Jim.


7 years 10 months ago
Thanks for changing your wedding from China in 2090 to Disneyland in 2025, Matthew. Since you're going to have everybody going to be invited, add my nme to your list. I'm sure you know that June 12, 2025 is a Thursday. My calendar is OK for June 12, but keep things short, Matthew, 'cause I'll be 102 in 2025.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Supporters of opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla clash with military police in the Policarpo Paz Garcia neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Jan. 20, 2018. Following a disputed election marred by irregularities, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez was declared the victor and will be inaugurated on Jan. 27. The opposition does not recognize Hernandez's victory and are protesting against the result. (AP Photo/Fernando Antonio)
“You will see many protests during his mandate...because Honduras hasn’t fixed its age-old problems of inequality, exclusion, poor educational and health system, corruption and impunity.”
Melissa VidaJanuary 23, 2018
I want to be able to serve the state better. I want to be able to serve more of the state.
Nathan SchneiderJanuary 23, 2018
Formed in 2011, The Oh Hellos' Christianity is one of their foundational inspirations, evident in lines like "the only God I should have loved."
Colleen DulleJanuary 23, 2018
People gather at a June 14 candlelight vigil in Manila, Philippines, in memory of the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Philippine Catholic bishops called for vigilance against bullying, ostracism and harassment of gay people in the wake of the incident in which police said a lone gunman killed 49 people early June 12 at the club. (CNS photo/Mark R. Cristino, EPA)
“We are losing three generations of people, and we need to hear why,” said Bishop Mark O’Connell.
Michael J. O’LoughlinJanuary 23, 2018