I’m having trouble thinking of myself as a grandfather. It happened so fast that everything is a blur, so when someone calls me “Grandpa,” I stop, look around and wonder, “Who could they be talking about?”
I keep hearing it’s one of the true joys in life, but here’s my jaundiced view: It’s not easy being a grandfather, especially a first-time grandfather, because I look at the headlines, shake my head in dismay and wonder what kind of world my little granddaughter will inherit.
As Nobel Prize-winning author Alexander Solzhenitsyn said, it’s a world that “has forgotten God.” It’s a world where people worship celebrities, money, sex, pleasure, possessions, power, prestige – everything but God. In the olden days, that was called “idolatry.”
It’s a world where Christ is scoffed at by the media and entertainment industry and where displays of faith are met with derision, if not outright hostility. It’s the kind of world where you want desperately to protect your grandchild.
However, for believers there’s still joy, a joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, who can overwhelm you when you least expect it. I had that experience recently, and it was one of the happiest days in the life of this newly minted grandfather.
My granddaughter, Lennox Anne (named in honor of St. Anne, although I don’t know where the name “Lennox” came from) was being baptized in a Capuchin Franciscan monastery and about to become a bona fide young Christian, have her Original Sin forgiven and turn into a new person in Christ – with all the spiritual benefits that membership confers, including an infusion of sanctifying grace, seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and three virtues. (I learned all that from reading the Catechism the night before.)
My wife Sandy spent weeks preparing for the event, ordering a cake, buying patent leather shoes for the baby and cleaning my baptismal gown, which my two younger sisters had worn, along with my four daughters.
Lennox Anne was born on the same day as St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and named in honor of St. Anne, the mother of the Blessed Virgin. When I walked up the aisle in the church, I saw two beautiful stained glass windows, side by side – one of the Little Flower and the other of St. Anne, which I interpreted as a holy sign.
Earlier that week, the Pew Research Center released a report titled “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.” It said the Christian population is decreasing, while atheists and agnostics are increasing, along with the so-called “Nones,” those who say they have no religious affiliation.
The headlines proclaimed, “Christians drop, ‘nones’ soar in new religion portrait” and “Americans becoming less Christian, more secular.”
As one story said, “Atheists and agnostics have nearly doubled their share of the religious marketplace, and overall indifference to religion of any kind is rising.”
Sadly, some 56 million Americans have no religious affiliation, and they are the second largest group behind evangelicals. Thirteen percent of United States adults are former Catholics, and in the last seven years, the population of Catholics dropped 3 percent to 51 million adults, Pew said.
The pollsters concluded that each generation is less connected religiously than their parents. Almost 86 percent of Americans say they were raised as Christians, but 20 percent aren’t anymore.
Consequently, this baptism was significant to me, and I prayed this little girl would grow up firm in her faith. We have to pray for our children and grandchildren because this much is certain – despite what the pollsters conclude and despite what trends the media projects, the power of the Holy Spirit is infinitely greater than the power of secularists and atheists. Nothing is impossible with God.
After the baptism, Sandy brought a bouquet of roses to the Blessed Mother’s statue near the baptismal font and read a consecration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which said in part:
“Jesus and Mary, we kneel before you today to consecrate and entrust our new baby to you. We pray that this child may be always united to you through an unbreakable heavenly bond of love. ... We humbly ask Jesus to pour out his most precious Blood upon our new child and upon all of our family, that we may be cleansed of all of our sins and protected from all evil. May our Blessed Mother cover all of us under her heavenly mantle, draw us close to her and lead us ever closer to her Divine Son.”
Every day we have to pray for our children and grandchildren. Pray for their protection. Pray for their growth in Christ and pray they are held securely in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It’s the most important thing you can do as a parent.
I believe the next generation of young men and women will raise up the church and spread the Gospel message. They will be committed to bringing Christ to a faithless world that believes more in governments and political causes than in God. All that will change, and they will change it.
J.F. Pisani is a writer who lives with his family in the New Haven area.