Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut
Friday, August 18, 2017

Allen R. Hunt

Babies inspire hope. Our first grandchild just arrived in the world today. A new generation appearing right before our very eyes. Little Allen Joseph. His birth has opened a dimension of my heart I did not even know existed. So I write to him now of my hope for his life and for his faith.Babies inspire hope. Our first grandchild just arrived in the world today. A new generation appearing right before our very eyes. Little Allen Joseph. His birth has opened a dimension of my heart I did not even know existed. So I write to him now of my hope for his life and for his faith.

Dear Allen Joseph:

I have deep hopes for you. These are my ABCs of hope for you. 

A good priest – Is there anything better for a boy or a man to have in his life? May your life be filled with many fine priests.

Baptism – My eyes will fill with tears when my daughter holds you to receive the waters of baptism. What a gift! May you not only know who you are, but also whose you are.

Caring teachers – The greatest gift we can give you is the gift of faith. I pray for caring teachers throughout your life to show you the way and to help you embrace it.

parenting hunt baby july aug17 webDeep love for people – Jesus teaches us to do two things: 1) love God; and 2) love people. May you be known most of all for your deep, deep love.

Easter people – May you know that we are Easter people. With that knowledge, you will have a hope that the world does not.

Funerals – May you be inspired by funerals because we are Easter people.

Great education – I hope you have a fine mind. Even more, I hope for an education that truly prepares you for life. To think fully. To have the “mind of Christ.”

Heart for God – I pray you will be like King David — A man after God’s own heart.

Inspiring music – May your ear be filled with the melody of God. Whether it be “In Christ Alone” or “Be Thou My Vision” or a tune I have not yet heard.

Jesus on the crucifix – When I sit and listen to my friend as he musters every ounce of courage to endure chemo treatments, he and I look at the crucifix, to our suffering Lord. I pray that you experience that same hope in your own times of confusion, pain or despair.

Knowing where you are headed – An old Hebrew name for God is The Place. I want you to know you are destined to be in him, our Place.

Love – It has always defined the Church and God’s people. Love separates us from the world. We love. May that make you different.

Monastery of the Holy Spirit – I spend a retreat day there each month. I hope to share it with you very soon.

Not alone – You are never alone. We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, people of mission who lived life well. May you know we shall meet them face to face when we, too, reach The Place.

Outstanding sense of vocation and purpose – Whether you are called to be a priest or to single or married life, I pray for you to embrace a life filled with divine purpose.

Parents – When I see parents sitting with their children at Mass who are investing in their kids’ souls, I sense the deepest hope. May God bless your parents as they seek to do the same for you.

Quests – St. John Fisher was willing to lose everything, even his life, in his quest to love God and to be obedient. I hope quests will remind you that you can be better and better. And you will be.

Reception into the Church – Who can be at the Easter Vigil Mass and witness a person affirming a faithful desire to become a part of the Easter people and not feel hope? I look forward to the day you fully enter the Church.

St. Gertrude the Great – I hope you get to know her a bit in your life. The only female saint to be called “the Great.” She is a lady of great hope. 

The Eucharist – The Eucharist changed my life and my soul. I hope it will feed and nourish you every day of your life.

Unconditional love – For just a moment, meeting you, my grandson, drew me into the heart of God, a heart filled with unconditional love. If I, as a flawed earthly grandfather, can love you like that, I hope you will realize how much God’s unconditional love abounds for you.

Very generous people – People who give are the hope-iest people I know. May you become one of them.

Work ethic – Everyone in your family seems to have a great one. I hope you get one, too.

X – The first letter for Christ in the original Greek, X is a symbol for Christ in the early Church. I pray that your hope will lie in Jesus. 

You – Because you remind me I am not alone, I pray I will help you discover that we are on this journey of hope together with many good people.

Zephyr – A fresh wind — there is one blowing in the Church. May it inspire your life today, tomorrow and forever. Amen. Love, Your Hope-full Grandpa

Allen R. Hunt is senior advisor for the Dynamic Catholic Institute.

hunt first communion web(Getty Images)Do you remember your first Communion? I bet you remember where you were and the name of the parish. Did your mother get you a special outfit? Who else was there? Can you envision the look on the priest’s face as he handed you the body of Christ for the first time? And maybe even a celebration meal or party afterward with family and friends? First Communion is a special moment.

In fact, it may just be the most important moment of all. Research from people as diverse as psychologist Jean Piaget to the evangelical polling firm Barna Group has shown that by the age of 13, your spiritual identity is largely set in place. What you believe about God when you are 13 is a remarkable predictor of what you will believe when you are 23, 43 and 63. In other words, research shows that if people do not embrace the Catholic faith before they reach their teenage years, the chance of their doing so at all becomes very slim.

This idea matters tremendously. First, it means that our parishes’ focus on sharing the faith with children will be the most fruitful thing we can do. Love kids. Teach them the beauty of the Catholic faith. Introduce them to Jesus. Pour the foundation for life. That foundation can only be poured once. If we do not form children well before the age of 13, the chances of their being practicing Catholics as adults decrease dramatically.

And that means that first Communion may be one of the most important things any parish, school, volunteer, teacher, parent, grandparent or priest can be a part of. In preparing kids to receive the body and blood of Christ, we are not merely checking one box on a long list of stuff to do. We are ensuring that children have a life-giving encounter with the very heart of our faith, the Eucharist. And we are doing so at the time in that child’s life, before the age of 13, when he or she is most likely to be open to experiencing the grace and love of God. These key moments will shape the rest of children’s lives.

Do you remember your first Communion? Chances are, you do. How can you help children in your life have such a marvelous experience in first Communion that they still remember that moment at the age of 30, 60 and 90?

— PRAY. As they prepare. On the day itself. Afterward. Pray with gratitude for the gift of Jesus and the gift of his body and blood.

— TALK. Share memories of your own first Communion. Discuss why the Eucharist is important to you. Listen to children tell you what they are learning and expecting. The more you talk, the more it will mean — and the more they will remember.

— ATTEND. Smile. Celebrate the special moment with the child. Your being there and your joyful reaction will be etched in the child’s memory for the rest of his or her life.

— GIVE THE CHILD A SPECIAL GIFT. Perhaps a photo in a frame of him or her receiving the first Eucharist. Or maybe a special Bible with the child’s name on it that you sign on the inside to celebrate the day.

— THEN GO TO MASS WITH THE CHILD in the weeks and months afterward. Help the child to make the connection between the special moment of first Communion and what happens every time we share the Blessed Sacrament. Help build a Mass habit.

What a joy it is to be Catholic — to share in the beauty and genius that God has placed in his Church. And what a greater joy to share that beauty with a child who will benefit from the faith for decades to come. Change the life of one child and you begin to change the world.

Allen R. Hunt is senior advisor for the Dynamic Catholic Institute.