The other night, while my husband and older two sons, ages 10 and 12, prepared for D.C.’s March for Life, our home became as crazy and cacophonic as my Facebook feed. An electric saw echoed up from the basement as it sliced through a cast off wood pile, again and again, searching for the perfect length – a pole for the banner my boys would wave in their first ever March for Life.
Excited requests for “warm gloves – not mittens – you know, the ones with blue stripes down the middle” and “please, no mayonnaise on my packed sandwich, please…yuck, is that mayonnaise?” These sounds swirled with the ordinary clanking of pots and pans in suppertime cleanup, baby-bathing, and bedtime routines in an already boisterous home, where six sons under the age of 12 regularly run relay races through the halls.
A shout from the basement for “rope or wire!” turned into two floppy sets of feet pounding every creaking floorboard in the house on a pilgrimage to the attic, where twine tied to Christmas ornaments saved the day. The discovery of this twine, the one missing element needed in the creation of this mysterious banner – one I was barred from seeing until its completion – catapulted the home’s noise and energy levels to true chaos.
And yet, while all these cymbals of human activity were crashing and smashing all around me, my mind was stuck focusing on a different kind of chaos – back there on that computer screen, back on that Facebook feed. Here I was, depressed about the Women’s March, confused by things my president said, upset by things said about him.
“My King!” my heart cried. In a single glance, I was reminded to whom my true allegiance lies: the Keeper of my heart, my Eternal King.
One of my spiritual heroes, Father Walter Ciszek (1904-1984), a Jesuit priest whose cause for canonization opened in 1985 and whose missionary work led him to Russia, where he was imprisoned for 23 years as a “Vatican Spy,” experienced firsthand the pain of social and political upheaval. He writes of our Eternal Kingdom in his exposition of the Sermon on the Mount in his book, He Leadeth Me:
“Do not be anxious about what you shall eat, or what you shall wear, or where you shall sleep, but seek first the kingdom of God and his justice.”
So it was with the people of Israel, who must learn not to put their trust in princes or in kingdoms but to be faithful only to Yahweh as he was ever faithful to them, and to put all their trust in him. So it has been throughout the history of the New Testament. There have been changes and upheavals in the Church herself, there have been persecutions. It is not princes or rulers, structures or organizations, that sustain the Church. It is God who sustains her.
My boys carried their banner of the Child in the March for Life. When they returned home, they hung it on our living room wall in a spot that competes with the computer screen. It’s a breathtaking painting. I researched the artist but could only find “Italian / Unknown.” And now this “Italian / Unknown” is among a handful of sojourners I hope to meet in heaven. Will he be skinny and slumped with the strong smell of oil paint on his skin? Will he tell me his model was his grandson, who had the face of an angel?
Maybe “Italian / Unknown” will share a story about how he painted his King because his earthly leaders had left him dismayed. This is what I think about when I stand there, staring up at those knowing brown eyes and that soft, sweet brow. Sometimes I pass the painting in a rush, without giving it a second thought. But sometimes that reaching hand, that dimpled chin slow me down, leading me to pray. And when I do, I often use the ancient words I’m sure “Italian / Unknown” uttered between brushstrokes: Thy Kingdom Come.
Sarah Johnson is a Catholic Convert and home schooling mother of six strapping sons. She lives with her family in the Coal Regions of Pennsylvania, where they stomp through creek beds and wooded glens, seeking out the wonder. Sarah often writes fiction late into the night to the golden sound of so many children fast asleep. She also shares occasional thoughts on Catholic living at Aleteia.org, Catholic Digest and Shalom Tidings.