"Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly."
My great-grandmother, Bridget, emigrates from Ireland to America with her husband, John, in the late 1800s. They have three children: John, Jr., Henry (my grandfather), and Alice.
Like most Irish immigrants, they are practicing Catholics.
Bridget is particularly devout. She never misses mass on Sunday.
And, this Sunday is no exception.
She attends the early mass alone. John and the children are recovering from colds. She urges them to stay home and stay warm. Assures them she'll come straight back after service. Fix them a hearty chicken soup for lunch.
Bridget arrives early. Slips into a pew. Kneels to pray before the mass begins.
That's when she notices.
In the first pew. On the left. Unfamiliar heads. Children.
Sitting, oh, so still. Only the backs of their heads faintly visible in the dim, candle-lit sanctuary.
Pigtails. Tousled locks. Curls. A carrot-top?
Maybe. But, until the sun streams through the stained glass, it will be impossible to discern . . .
Mass begins. The mysterious words. The heavenly incense. The hymns and prayers. The genuflecting.
Bridget is drawn, with every passing moment, closer to God.
Closer to an epiphany.
Before celebrating the Holy Eucharist, the priest invites the children sitting in the front pew to take front and center stage.
Orphans. In the care of the Catholic Church. They need a home. Who will open their homes to them? Their hearts?
Bridget can't take her eyes off him.
Bright red hair glowing in the spotlight of the sun's dawning rays. Face riddled with freckles. Eyelashes almost as pale as his meek, green eyes. Ears to rival Dumbo's.
Homely. Oh, so homely!
This lanky, gawky testimony to human flesh. Human need.
Love . . .
Adoption arrangements can be made after mass.
She partakes of the Eucharist with deeper prayers in her heart. She slips out of the church hastily and rushes home.
To tell John. Who is reluctant at first. But, finally concedes.
On one condition.
If no one else speaks up for the boy.
Without a moment's delay, Bridget is out the door, racing back to church.
It is the last mass this Sunday morning.
Will he be there? Surely, she thinks, it is God's will that we adopt him . . .
Out of breath, she enters the sanctuary. Scans the first pew.
Where only one head, bowed and dejected, is revealed.
Shock of hair blazing like fire.
And, my great-uncle, Edwin, is never again without a home . . .
Can you see past appearances and seek the inner beauty in another?
Will you pray with me?
Just as we can't judge a book by its cover, Father, we must not judge others by the way they look. Help us to see and love Christ in each and every person we meet. We pray today that You would especially bless all parents who have adopted children. Amen.
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