My son is named after St. Thomas Aquinas. We had expected his baptismal name to get abbreviated in short order to “Tom” or “Tommy” like most other American Thomases, but it never happened. One thing he shares with his namesake is an aptitude for asking the right questions. He asks, you answer, he changes the subject, and you wonder if he’s understood — until, days, weeks, or months later, he says “Remember when you said…?” and asks the followup question.
Recently it’s been (along with biology, math, and death) the eucharist. I’ve been answering eucharistic questions for 13 months, since the day he realized he didn’t receive. He seemed to come to his own understanding of things this week, and I’m working to keep up with him.
It began in the car on the way home from school, Friday. “How can Jesus be there in the bread at church?” After I try to translate Thomas, Rahner, Schillebeeckx, and Kilmartin into three-year-old, he is silent for a moment. “That sounds like it would hurt,” he says reflectively.
“Not exactly,” I answer. “You see, after Jesus came back to life he lives in a different kind of body than we do, and can’t get hurt…” After a couple of minutes, Thomas falls silent and changes the subject.
Today, he comes home wailing that he hates church, then wants to “play church” in the playroom. We give the sign of peace first (his favorite part). We sing songs, and in his church we can play musical instruments (“instumebentes”) ALL through the mass. “And NOW it’s time for the bread and wine,” he announces. Even babies can receive in his church, he decides. When he’s done, he perches on the bean bag chair. “I’m going to tell them I know.”
“Know about the bread and the wine!”
“What are you going to tell them?”
He considers. “I’m going to tell the priest, ‘I know that God is in your bread, and I want some.'”
“You do that, kiddo.”
“What will happen?”
“I don’t know, but it will be interesting to find out.”