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In the first trimester of my at-risk pregnancy, I was sick in bed for the better part of two months. I was off the medications that have helped me manage a chronic condition. The relentless fatigue and insidious pain that accompany a fibromyalgia flare-up made those first three months unbearable. For 12 consecutive weeks and with no respite, my head ached with the force of 10 migraines. The withdrawal symptoms were compounded by nausea and vomiting.
If my body was weak, my spirit was dying. Ever-present in my mind were the two miscarriages I had experienced the year before. I wept often in despair, terrified that death would overcome my womb again. I barely had enough energy to get through the day and rarely enough energy to leave the house.
“She ran to me with her little cupped fingers. Then, she gently anointed my hand with the oil in her hand.”
On Sundays, I stayed home to rest while my husband, Gabe, and our 5-year-old daughter, Belén, went to church. One Sunday morning, desperate for my church community to have faith for me when I lacked it, I asked Gabe to request a prayer for me from our priest, Father Will. Attentive as always, Belén overheard the conversation and must have sensed the urgency of my request.
As Gabe approached Father Will that morning during mass to intercede for me, Belén followed close behind. Father Will anointed Gabe with oil, and then he took Belén’s little hand and anointed it with oil, too. Gabe told me that Belén kept the hand with the oil cupped and immediately placed her other hand on top of the anointed hand to protect the oil. Gabe’s oil had dried by the time he got home, but Belén vigilantly kept the oil in her hand intact during and after the service.
As they were getting into the car after church, Belén asked Gabe to lift her into her car seat so that she could keep the oil pure. He helped her up and buckled her in. All the way home, she kept the anointed hand cupped and used the other hand as a shield to protect the oil. When they arrived, Belén asked her Papa to help her out of the car, and she ran to me with her little cupped fingers. Then, she gently anointed my hand with the oil in her hand.
“Belén believed, and after hearing her prayers, we too could not but trust in God’s faithfulness.”
She believed the oil would heal me, declaring with the faith of a thousand mustard seeds, “Mama, now you feel better!” She knew, at the tender age of 5, that God would restore me. Unlike my mind, hers did not grasp doubt – her cup runneth over with the certainty of a child’s faith.
With that same unwavering faith, Belén was the first to name the baby a few months later after we told her we were going to have a boy. And she claimed the baby, too. “My baby’s name is Lego, Mama.” (Her favorite toys are Legos.) And from that moment on, she would call him by name from outside the womb: “Lego! Lego! I love you, Lego!” He’d kick every time he heard her voice.
Although she is a shy child, Belén eagerly shared her joy with the world. She’d spontaneously announce to teachers, friends and strangers, “I’m having a baby. His name is Lego.” And when she prayed for Lego, she would declare: “Thank you, God, that baby Lego comes out of Mami’s panza.” Belén believed, and after hearing her prayers, we too could not but trust in God’s faithfulness.
My pregnancy was physically and spiritually strenuous and often excruciatingly painful until the day I gave birth. But I was never alone and never without faith. Faith is as communal as it is personal, and Belén’s faith helped sustain me. As one of the littlest members of my spiritual community, she possessed a faith I rarely, if ever, witness in adults. For the littlest ones are often the biggest prophets.
I clung to Belén’s faith, un día a la vez, and God was faithful. Belén’s beloved baby was born two months ago. Orlando looks just like his sister, both unmistakably created in the image of the Divine. Belén loves him fiercely.
I’ve learned from my 5-year-old daughter that the Kindom of God belongs to the least of these, in whom the Spirit dwells. I hear Belén’s prayers daily. I listen intently, for through the mouths of babes God ordains strength for Her people. Empowered by the Divine, I then pray:
“Thank you, Spirit, for delivering blessed assurance through the holy heart of my little one. Give me the faith of the fruit of my womb, that I too, might inherit your glory. Lord, help me be more like your beloved child, Belén. Amén.”