Earlier this winter, as I tucked my daughter into bed, she abruptly asked about the crucifix on her bedroom wall.
Catherine, who had just turned 7, wondered if Jesus had died. Yes, I said. Then she wanted to know how he could remain upright on the cross. I hesitated before answering.
"Through his feet?"
"Yes, and his hands."
"Why did he have to die like that?"
"So we could all be in heaven with him."
Our bedtime chat was certainly advancing far beyond the typical "Can I stay up late this weekend" or "Why can’t I have potato chips for breakfast." Was Catherine ready to talk about this? Since she was the one who brought it up, the obvious answer to me was yes.
Still, I found myself squirming. Was I ready? Even her two older brothers, ages 8 and 10, had never addressed Jesus’ death with me in such point-blank fashion.
Generally, my wife and I prefer that Catherine’s exposure to violence be minimal. Yet the crucifix is within her view every night. She sees additional images of Jesus’ passion at church. She hears his death referenced many times during Mass. Christ’s dying and rising are central to our Catholic faith, no matter what your age.
So I’ve concluded that I have to be ready — to not only answer my kids’ questions, but also be a better initiator. It’s a sacred responsibility and although I’m a bit fearful of giving insufficient answers, I’ve also found that these talks help to define my own beliefs and convictions.
This much I’m sure of: When we as a family attend the upcoming Palm Sunday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday liturgies, Daddy will have a newfound appreciation for what might be going on inside his kids’ heads, hearts and souls.