Saturday, February 4, 2012

Keeping Up Appearances

John 7:24
"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.

Bridget knows.

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.

Psalms 75, 76 or 23, 27
Genesis 24:28-38, 49-51
Hebrews 12:12-29
John 7:14-36


  1. Oh how beautiful Martha :) I was talking about this to my mom just in case...

    I'm so glad that God has another way of looking at us. He never judge by appearance the way He chose David as His servant.

    I also pray that we may touch children's lives by taking them in our own homes.I truly pray Martha... I do...

    1. I love how you mention David here - yes, the lowly shepherd boy - God chose him not for his looks, but for his heart. I know my great-grandmother looked in Edwin's eyes and saw his beautiful heart.
      Thanks so much for your sweet comment here.

  2. What a beautiful story of love and faith Martha... Thank you for sharing it. :-)

    Have a Blessed Weekend!

    1. Hi, Phather Phil, thanks so much for dropping in today!
      Glad you enjoyed this story . . . I loved hearing this when I was a child. I never met my great-grandmother, but I know she had a heart of gold.
      Blessings to you!

  3. So beautiful Martha...your granny has a heart of gold. so compassionate. I am very much interested in adopting, but my kids are totally against it...even after reasoning it gave up the idea.

    1. Wow! Neat to know you have thought about adopting. That's such a typical reaction for biological children - they really love mom and don't want any more of her attention divided away from them. Take it as a compliment!:)
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  4. That was beautiful, Martha. I shivered reading it.

    1. Thank you for stopping by, J.R.!
      Wow! Thanks for this amazing compliment, especially special when coming from a fellow writer.
      Blessings to you!

  5. Great story! Very well told!! I have thought that perhaps I will adopt some day. :)

    1. Thanks so much, Rachel, for dropping in today!
      What a kind compliment - so much appreciated . . .
      So, you have thought about adoption? What a gift for a child in need of love and affection his or her own parents were unable to give.
      Blessings to you!


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