Common Wisdom: Like No Other Gift

Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness,” St. Paul tells us in Colossians 3:15. In this one terse, simple direction to be grateful, St. Paul sums up the fundamental attitude required of a Christian. Gratitude is our proper response to God’s gifts. Giving thanks is our first principle of worship. Gratitude comes easily at our house these days, as we are expecting in our family that wonder of wonders, a baby.

This child will be born to our son David and his wife Chris, and with the birth of this little boy or girl my husband and I will take on a new life as grandparents. As our friends who have already reached this station report, being a grandparent is cause for more rejoicing than nearly anything else in life. Not only is the baby himself a delight, they say, but also seeing one’s children become parents is a double joy.

This Baby Burleigh is the answer to the prayers of all of us. Our Lady of Knock interceded, we are sure, in his coming to be. She was the recipient on our trip to Ireland of an envelope of petitions so thick it barely fit through the slot of the petition box at Our Lady’s altar. Very close to this time, near the Feast of the Annunciation, the Lord chose to bless Chris and David with new life. The baby is due at Christmas, giving Chris the special privilege of accompanying through pregnancy the Blessed Mother herself. That Chris, who so fervently prayed for this baby, has spent these months of waiting in parallel with Mary’s own waiting can only mean that Chris’s child will enter the world much blessed with love. Though Chris and David will have more children, we hope, none of us will forget our gratitude for this first child who was conceived when the angel announced to Mary that she would become the mother of the Lord and was born when Mary gave birth to Christ. No wonder Our Lady of Knock heard our prayers, especially those of Chris. Our Lady must have wanted Chris’ baby to be born along with her own Son.

When Chris leaves the hospital with her newborn infant, David will bring mother and child to rest for awhile at our house, where they will be doted on by two sets of grandparents, two gleeful young aunts, and three great-grandparents. The house to which they will come is another cause for gratitude, our newly-completed, long-awaited house at Turkey Ridge Farm. The cradle in which Chris will lay her child is a simple oaken one occupied at one time or other by me, my children, my brother, my nieces and nephews, my cousins, my mother, my uncle, and my grandfather.

Baby Burleigh will be the first member of the fifth generation to sleep in the oak cradle. Our gratitude for him will stem not only from our joy in his being, but also from our comfort and solace that he begins another generation, that his presence is a sign of God’s providence, a sign that God is faithfully carrying out his plan of salvation.

Most of us love babies because they are dear and sweet and cuddly. We also love babies because they are God’s signs of life and hope, teaching us that each generation is linked by the Lord’s design to every other generation. Babies teach us that we do not live for ourselves alone; nor do we live solely for our own generation. An infant in our arms requires us to be responsible to someone who will outlive us. If we must be responsible to someone who will outlive us, then we need to put aside ephemeral concerns and instead concentrate on what we want this child to know when we are no longer here to take care of him. A baby forces us to think about permanent things.

The mother and father of the new baby are of all people naturally the most grateful for his conception and birth. A baby cements and completes their marriage. He is a visible sign of their love for each other. As the fruit of the union of his parents, he is the most obvious, unmistakable sign that God loves this couple. Thus it is only proper that the mother and father should rejoice.

The coming of a baby is a private affair for his parents. He is God’s singular gift to them. At the same time that he belongs especially to his parents, however, he belongs as well to his larger family and to the church. When a baby is born, we are all renewed. Grandparents, then, have an excuse for being delighted beyond all telling.

A baby is coming. Happy Thanks-

  • Anne Husted Burleigh

    Mrs. Anne Husted Burleigh is a free-lance writer, mother, and grandmother who lives on a farm overlooking the Ohio River in Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, near Cincinnati. She has written two books: John Adams, a Biography, and Journey up the River: a Midwesterner’s Spiritual Pilgrimage. She has contributed to many publications, including Crisis and Catholic Dossier, and now writes for Magnificat.

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