Bella found a pink pen this morning. She’s not supposed to use ink since I found her hands covered with it one day. She brought it to me and asked if I would write with it so she could see the pink ink. I picked up an envelope from near where I sat and drew her a flower. As I’d started, she seemed to think it was alright to use it herself. A few minutes later she found her dad and I in the next room and came to show us her drawing. My first reaction was to confiscate the pens and wash her hands, then I looked at what she’d drawn. I asked her to explain it to me.
‘There’s a flower for John the Baptist and for everyone, and that’s the party in the ciel!’

And what’s this on the bottom?

‘That’s me after I died and Jesus is come to take me to the party.’

I could hardly speak. A moment passed while she chattered on about other things. I set her on my knee and hugged her.

Bella has been building an understanding of heaven for a while now. On feast days we speak about friends of Jesus who are with Him in heaven. I can’t remember quite how it all began, but one day we were talking about how God made us to love always, and that even when our life is finished He wants us to live with Him in heaven forever. Her eyes lit up when I explained that the angels and saints are already there and she asked whether Sts Theresa, Joseph, and other favourites are there too and what they are doing. I’ll never forget what followed my description of Mary and all the angels and saints loving God and singing to Him at a great big party. ‘Will there be something to eat?’ Such a natural conclusion from a three-year-old’s experience of a party. I couldn’t help laughing as I asserted that yes, there will be lots of lovely things to eat. ‘But where?’ Ask Jesus I said, He’ll know where the food is.

The following Sunday’s Gospel was the parable of the wedding feast. I repeated a few phrases from the readings into her ear, she asked more questions as we whispered quietly together during the homily. Why didn’t the people want to go to the wedding? Why didn’t the man put on his special wedding clothes? How can we dress our hearts to go to the banquet? Another layer.

Last week I logged into facebook and saw that Fr Bob Bedard had passed away. He founded the Companions of the Cross, where several friends have been to seminary over the years. I gave an involuntary little gasp and Bella came over to see what was the matter. I told her that my friend Fr Bob had died and gone to be with Jesus. ‘To the party?’ Yes. We spoke about being sad because we miss people when they die, but being happy for them too since they’ve gone to be with Jesus. She was satisfied with this, but brought it up periodically during the day. As we sat down to our evening meal, she looked puzzled. She turned to me and said, ‘Mum, Fr Bob can’t jump to the sky.’ I speak french with her and encourage her to respond likewise, but she reverts to english when she’s not sure of the words. In french the word ciel is used both of the sky and of heaven. I explained that when we die Jesus comes to meet us. ‘And He takes us to heaven?’ Yes.

A week later she’s drawing her own body laying still and happily showing how Jesus is coming to take her to the party in heaven.

I don’t think I’ve ever understood what it means to be brought up in the faith until now.