Highway to Heaven

Jiron_Keith_2014boxLast spring, on April 25, my wife and I experienced one of the saddest moments of our lives together. Thirty seven weeks into pregnancy, we discovered that our baby’s heart was no longer beating, that our unborn son had died inside his mother’s womb.

On rare occasions over the years, I remembered hearing about this sort of thing happening to others and thinking to myself, “I just can’t imagine. A still birth. That would be excruciatingly painful.” The grief that I felt during this time of sadness was nothing in comparison with that of my wife. She is the one who felt the baby’s kicks and movements, feeling so connected to this beautiful life inside her womb, loving him for nearly nine months in ways that only a mother knows.

It turns out that one of the things I dreaded most was delivering the tragic news to my four beautiful living sons, Andrew, Michael, Nathan, and Peter. From the very first moment when we told them that Kate was pregnant, they had been so excited to meet this baby.

My wife and I discussed how we were going to tell them, and when the time came, Kate wonderfully and lovingly explained to the boys that this was a teachable moment, for how can we talk of the resurrection if we don’t face death. She also explained that, as parents, our goal is to get our children to heaven. She said, “John wins. He got there before us.”

The next day at supper, Andrew, our oldest, lifted his glass and said, “Cheers to John’s victory.” Kate and I just stared at him, stunned amidst our grief. So, he explained further and said, “John is heaven. He won the race.”

While I believe this is true, it doesn’t erase the sadness I feel when I think about how I will not get to know my son, how I won’t get to teach him to catch and throw a ball or how it feels to go fly-fishing for trout in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, or how I don’t get to tuck him in at night and smell his warm soft, head.

In light of all of this, I find myself reflecting differently this year on the meaning of Advent. One year ago at this time, my wife and I resonated with how Joseph and Mary must have felt, trusting in God who entrusted to them this baby yet to be born and all that meant for the world. This year, however, the mystery of God taking flesh inside Mary’s womb offers another perspective.

After years of oppression and suffering, God’s chosen people received a word of consolation announcing Salvation’s coming from the prophecy of Isaiah, which says, “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God…In the desert prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God.” (Isa 40: 1, 3) With eyes of faith we have the hope of eternity which gives us comfort in our desert experiences, in our times of trial.

My wife recently heard about a woman who, many decades ago, had lost a baby at childbirth as well. In her old age and nearing the moment of death, she uttered to her family, “Now I will finally get to hold my baby.” Knowing that we have an eternal soul waiting for us in heaven consoles us in the midst of our sadness.

The Scriptures also remind us that “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise as some regard ‘delay.’” (2 Pet 3: 8 – 9) Once we enter into eternity, our time on earth will seem like the blink of an eye. If we pay close enough attention, we can catch glimpses of eternity even in this life. I catch them daily in the bright, loving, and hopeful faces of our four young sons.

These same sons are the ones who named our baby. Months before he was due to be born, they were somehow convinced that he was to be called John. Even though my wife and I were not so sure, in the end, they won out. For his middle name, we chose Paul Miki, after the Japanese martyr who died along with his faithful companions during the persecution of Christians in sixteenth century Japan.

The funeral home allowed our boys to place gifts in baby John’s coffin. Michael, our second oldest, gave him a little cross constructed of Legos along with a note which read, “Dear John, Please take this cross as a present. We hope that you have a good life in heaven with all the saints…”

Baby John Paul Miki, please tell your new friends about us and help make straight our highway into eternal life.

 

Keith Jiron, former director of the office of vocations, is currently director of the School of Faith’s Omaha branch.

 

Daily Scripture Readings

For complete daily Scripture texts, click here. http://www.usccb.org

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
Monday, December 8
Genesis 3:9-15, 20
Psalms 98:1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4
Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12
Luke 1:26-38

Tuesday, December 9
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalms 96:1-2, 3 & 10ac, 11-13
Matthew 18:12-14

Wednesday, December 10
Isaiah 40:25-31
Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10
Matthew 11:28-30

Thursday, December 11
Isaiah 41:13-20
Psalms 145:1 & 9, 10-11, 12-13ab
Matthew 11:11-15

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Friday, December 12
Zechariah 2:14-17 or
Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab
Judith 13:18bcde, 19
Luke 1:26-38

Saturday, December 13
Sirach 48:1-4, 9-11
Psalms 80:2ac & 3b, 15-16, 18-19
Matthew 17:9a, 10-13

Third Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 14
Isaiah 61:1-2a, 10-11
Luke 1:46-48, 49-50, 53-54
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

Monday, December 15
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17a
Psalms 25:4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9
Matthew 21:23-27

Tuesday, December 16
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13
Psalms 34:2-3, 6-7, 17-18, 19 & 23
Matthew 21:28-32

Wednesday, December 17
Genesis 49:2, 8-10
Psalms 72:1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17
Matthew 1:1-17

Thursday, December 18
Jeremiah 23:5-8
Psalms 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19
Matthew 1:18-25

Friday, December 19
Judges 13:2-7, 24-25a
Psalm 71:3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17
Luke 1:5-25

Saturday, December 20
Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6
Luke 1:26-38

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Sunday, December 21
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27-29
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38
The full text of the Scripture readings for this week and next week can be found here: http://www.usccb.org/
Click on the “Daily Readings” tab on the right hand side of the page.

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  • A Grieving Father

    JMJa
    Dear Keith,
    I’m so sorry to hear of the loss of your son. As a father who also has lost a son, I sympathize with you and your family. My wife and I lost our son at 40 weeks, two days before our scheduled C-section delivery. Needless to say, we were devastated. My first-born son was 2 1/2 years old at the time. As the head of my family, it was very important for me to communicate clearly the perennial Catholic teaching on children who die without Baptism to my wife and son so we could heal and process through it all. I taught them about the Limbo of the Infants.
    For one reason or another, this teaching seems to have fallen out of favor with the majority of the Faithful. It seems distasteful for a loving God to allow so many millions of babies to die at the hands of abortionists and not see His Face. After all, they were innocent, right? I have heard this from many well meaning pro-life Catholics. It’s important to remember, however, that we are all born “children of wrath” (Eph ii.3) and that it is only through the Sacrament of Baptism that we become members of Christ’s Church and that outside the Church there is no salvation.
    Learning about the Limbo of the Infants strengthened my faith and the faith of my family. It helped me to be grateful that my son (who died) can never lose his soul. He is secure – not in Heaven, but certainly not in Hell! It helped me to be grateful that God has allowed me, my wife, and our two other sons to be born and baptized in His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I have access to the Sacraments and a chance of meriting Heaven.
    St. Alphonsus commenting on St. Thomas Aquinas’ teaching on the Limbo of the Infants and on the pain of loss of not seeing God after death states the following, “no one feels pain for the want of that good of which he is not capable; so that as no man grieves that he cannot fly, or no private person that he is not an emperor, so these children feel no pain at being deprived of the glory of which they were never capable; since they could never pretend to it either by the principles of nature, or by their own merits.” (p. 91, Prayer: The Great Means of Salvation and of Perfection, St. Alphonsus Liguori).
    There is so much more I could say about this subject, but I will leave it at this. It is important we understand the Church’s teaching on death, judgment, heaven, and hell. It is especially important that as fathers we communicate this teaching clearly to our children. Without a clear understanding of the Church’s teaching, our children can be at risk of losing their faith when they reflect on these things as they get older if they don’t add up. If children can die and go to Heaven without Baptism, wouldn’t we all pray for our children to die before the age of reason? The fact of the matter is death is not a Sacrament, nor should we pretend that it is, even when it hurts to consider a loved one not experiencing the beatific vision for all eternity.
    May Almighty God bless and heal you and your family during this Advent season.
    Yours in Christ through Mary,
    A Grieving Father

    • Keith Jiron

      Dear Grieving Father,
      I, too, find great consolation in the official teaching of the Catholic Church, especially in reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church numbers 1257 – 1261, especially the last line of CCC 1257 and all of CCC 1261.
      Peace!

      • A Grieving Father

        Dear Keith,

        Thank you for the references. I found some references I thought you might find helpful as well.

        From the Catechism of the Council of Trent: “Baptism Of Infants Should Not Be Delayed – The faithful are earnestly to be exhorted to take care that their children be brought to the church, as soon as it can be done with safety, to receive solemn Baptism. Since infant children have no other means of salvation except Baptism, we may easily understand how grievously those persons sin who permit them to remain without the grace of the Sacrament longer than necessity may require, particularly at an age so tender as to be exposed to numberless dangers of death.”

        From the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X: ”

        11 Q: When should infants be brought to the Church to be baptized?

        A: Infants should be brought to the Church to be baptized as soon as possible.

        12 Q: Why such anxiety to have infants receive Baptism?

        A: There should be the greatest anxiety to have infants baptized because, on account of their tender age, they are exposed to many dangers of death, and cannot be saved without Baptism.”

        From the Baltimore Catechism: ”

        154. Q. Is Baptism necessary to salvation?

        A. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of Heaven.

        Those who through no fault of theirs die without Baptism, though they have never committed sin, cannot enter Heaven neither will they go to Hell. After the Last Judgment there will be no Purgatory. Where, then, will they go? God in His goodness will provide a place of rest for them, where they will not suffer and will be in a state of natural peace; but they will never see God or Heaven. God might have created us for a purely natural and material end, so that we would live forever upon the earth and be naturally happy with the good things God would give us. But then we would never have known of Heaven or God as we do now. Such happiness on earth would be nothing compared to the delights of Heaven and the presence of God; so that, now, since God has given us, through His holy revelations, a knowledge of Himself and Heaven, we would be miserable if left always upon the earth. Those, then, who die without Baptism do not know what they have lost, and are naturally happy; but we who know all they have lost for want of Baptism know how very unfortunate they are.

        Think, then, what a terrible crime it is to willfully allow anyone to die without Baptism, or to deprive a little child of life before it can be baptized! Suppose all the members of a family but one little infant have been baptized; when the Day of Judgment comes, while all the other members of a family-father, mother, and children-may go into Heaven, that little one will have to remain out; that little brother or sister will be separated from its family forever, and never, never see God or Heaven. How heartless and cruel, then, must a person be who would deprive that little infant of happiness for all eternity-just that its mother or someone else might have a little less trouble or suffering here upon earth.”

        God Bless,

        Grieving Father

        • Keith Jiron

          Dear Grieving Father,

          I am responding to you for the sake of any mothers (and fathers
          like myself) who might be reading this dialogue and who will likely be disturbed by these quotes from Trent.

          Below I am pasting in quotes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church so as to give them a more fully developed approach as seen in light of the the many footnoted documents from varied Church Councils and scripture references, which I’m typing in. I’ll leave it up to the readers to pray about and find consolation in the Church’s consistent and beautiful teaching. If you would like to further our discussion, I think it would be best to email me directly at keith@schooloffaith.com

          1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation. (Jn 3:5) He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them. (Mt 28:19-20; cf. Council of Trent 1547 Denzinger Schonmetzer 1618; Lumen Gentium 14; Ad Gentes 5) Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament. (Mk 16:16) The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. (see also CCC paragraph #s 1129, 161, 846)

          1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (see also CCC # 2473)

          1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (see also CCC# 1249)

          1260 “Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery.”(Gaudium et Spes 5; Lumen Gentium 16; Ad Gentes 7) Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired
          Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity. (see also CCC #848)

          1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,”(Mk 10:14; 1 Tim 2:4) allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism. (see also CCC#s 1257, 1250)

          847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

          Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel
          of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. (Lumen Gentium 16; Denzinger-Schonmetzer 3866-3872)

  • Karen Edmisten

    Beautiful. We lost five children through miscarriage, and the pain seemed unbearable, but over the years I grew into the firm and beautiful belief that I will see my large family in Heaven when, God willing, I get there, too.

    • Keith Jiron

      Hi Karen,
      I was telling my wife about your comment and she suggested I mention to you Kimberly Hahn’s chapter on miscarriage in her book, “Life giving love.” My wife has read it three times. Thank you for your comment. Sorry for your loss. Peace, Keith

      • Karen Edmisten

        How kind of you! Life Giving Love is indeed a beautiful book, and I am so glad you recommend it to people! Actually, Kimberly used my poem, “Fiat,” in the miscarriage chapter of that book, and I later wrote my own book on miscarriage, too. It’s called After Miscarriage: A Catholic Woman’s Companion to Healing and Hope. Thank you for taking the time to reply — I’m touched. God bless!

Saturday
December 10, 2016
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph